A rebranding initiative is a really big deal. It doesn’t matter whether your organization is a large regional healthcare system or a grassroots nonprofit agency, whether you have hundreds of stakeholders or a dozen. Updating your brand’s strategic foundation and its internal and external expression is no small undertaking.
If a rebrand is on the horizon for your marketing team in 2022, now’s the time to start planning and budgeting. So let’s address some key steps you should not overlook.
To clarify, we’re not talking about a logo refresh, but a holistic reshaping of the brand’s mission, messaging, and visual identity. The most obvious and disruptive situation that prompts an organization to rebrand is a merger or acquisition, or new leadership. But there are more subtle and cumulative reasons to undertake a brand overhaul.
More often than not, it’s a function of the passage of time: messaging has been diluted, the vision and mission need to be sharpened and honed, internal and external messaging is misaligned and teams or business units are not working together. This lack of alignment shows up in the bottom line, when the agency or network isn’t seeing the results leaders are striving for. While the first instinct might be to trim expenses or redirect resources, the real need is often to revisit the organization’s values and positioning.
Healthcare, nonprofit, and community organizations are constantly evolving as new leaders come onboard and a community’s changing needs prompt shifts to new practice areas or services. For example, we’re seeing some community hospitals pivot toward ambulatory care and referring more specialty care to larger regional health networks.
In other words, your brand isn’t etched in stone. It’s a living business asset that needs to grow and change in step with your organization.
That said, getting the brand right is more important in the healthcare field than in other categories. In consumer products, branding prompts people to buy more athletic shoes or expensive handbags; in healthcare, nonprofit and community organizations, it engenders trust. And we know that in this space, trust is everything.
Rebranding a healthcare organization or nonprofit or community agency is critically important — it defines and aligns goals and objectives, hones the positioning, differentiates your brand from its competitors, creates an identity that reflects an organization’s mission and values, and more. It can be a time-intensive and expensive process — emphasis on the word ‘process.’ There’s a fairly linear path to a rebranding effort, from up-front research and competitive analysis, to setting goals, to creative exploration and execution, to final analysis (and a lot of steps in between).
For a rebrand to be successful, it is important to follow the process as much as possible. Yet, for a variety of reasons (mainly money and time), organizations may want to take shortcuts. We think that’s unwise. Absolutely, there are always opportunities to tighten timelines and prioritize spending. But there are three key phases in the rebranding process that we never skip — they’re too important to the outcome.
Employee and stakeholder interviews. These conversations, conducted during the preliminary research phase, not only yield valuable information on the direction of the new brand, but also gain buy-in and build support for the project. Many of the marketers we work with are deeply embedded in their organizations and feel they already know the internal point of view. But it’s difficult to maintain perspective when you’re swimming in the fishbowl. What’s more, surveying patient- or client-facing staffers reveals amazing insight into your audience’s needs and impressions.
While they may seem like unnecessary and time-consuming work, these interviews are essential. And they can be done quickly and cheaply by phone, video chat, or online survey.
Competitive research. Identifying what makes your organization unique is only possible when you know what your competitors are offering. This is essentially a foraging project (one easily done by a junior staffer or office volunteer): Gather as much material as you can about other healthcare practitioners and nonprofits in your community that speak to the same patients and clients that you reach. At a minimum, collect web screenshots, social campaigns, and other online assets. These materials will help you define points of differentiation, reveal unmet needs in the community, and perhaps even offer some smart ideas for inspiration.
Roll-out. So your team and your marketing partner have finalized the new logo and brand language and applied them to a whole suite of brand touchpoints. Whew. Done, right? Not so fast.
In planning the rebrand, be certain to allocate time and dollars to introduce it to internal and external audiences. Develop a comprehensive launch campaign that splashes the new look and vision to the community, so that people who were familiar and comfortable with the old brand recognize and embrace the new one. Likewise, you need to present it internally through events or workshops to get employees fired up about the change. You don’t want staffers to grumble about it (change is hard) and resort to using outdated materials or language. A rebrand is too expensive an undertaking for internal and external folks to dismiss or ignore.
Done well, a rebrand provides a solid foundation on which your organization can grow, and it will last for five years or more. Following the process in a disciplined way — including the often-overlooked steps above — ensures that the new identity will be accurate and clear, supported by internal stakeholders, and welcomed by your audience.
We’ve guided large and small healthcare, nonprofit, and community organizations through the rebranding process, and we know how to invest wisely to maximize the return. If you anticipate a rebrand in 2022, let’s have a conversation now so you get off on the right foot.
Tenth Crow Creative is a brand marketing agency that creates, aligns, and promotes the external and internal messaging for organizations that support living healthier lives. Through insightful branding and compelling marketing campaigns, we help these essential organizations find their identities and effectively communicate to their stakeholders so they can fulfill their missions.
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