Of the New Healthcare Logos in Mergers, Which Ones Will Become Brands?
All across the nation, the healthcare delivery system is consolidating, producing organizations with larger geographic footprints and operating under new names and logos. As familiar names become subordinate or vanish entirely, will the new healthcare logos truly come to represent brands?
It’s worth remembering that logo and brand are not the same things. A logo is an empty vessel awaiting experiences, emotions and witnessed demonstrations of core values to slowly fill with the emotional qualities of a brand. Hospitals and physician practices, traditionally seen as local or regional enterprises, were places strongly associated with memories. As employers, these same sites created shared experiences among large numbers of employees and developed certain rhythms, traditions and culture.
Delivering on a brand promise in healthcare relies on people willingly contributing their discretionary energy. This type of morale is more easily built at a local level, as people come to know each other, their leaders and their “place in the world.” The mergers that lead to these scaled-up systems are driven by forces that are beyond any one person’s ability to control. As old signs come down and new ones go up, will employees, volunteers, physicians, and consumers feel slighted or remain connected? Will the intangible quality of team spirit transfer to the new entity?
Marketing teams are fully consumed during these transitions. The role of “logo cop” resurges to the forefront, as materials are retired and the new logo applied. The meaning behind the new name and logo design will permeate communications, seeking to build a bridge between the old and the new. And marketing leaders will have to refresh their marketing framework, and ensure that employee communications remain integral for an extended period.
From an employee perspective, this transition can contribute to feelings of cynicism and being diminished within a much larger organization. The transference of loyalty won’t truly begin until patients , and employees experience or witness some type of benefit from the larger enterprise.
Leaders navigating these situations can help their teams by preserving established traditions and practices and phasing in new ones that celebrate the local facility’s contributions into a larger framework. Competitions among newly affiliated facilities can take local pride to a new level and provide time for employees to adjust. Activities of the Auxiliary, Foundation, Human Resources, Philanthropy and even Department-level celebrations should remain visible — to avoid a perceived loss of mission. This juggling of past and future won’t be easy.
Have you experienced a merger recently? What would you say were the best aspects of how it was handled and what actions may have undermined employee morale or competitive positioning?
Michael Crawford became interested in healthcare listening to the conversations around the patio table as his parents and their colleagues talked about work. For the past 30 years he's used his marketing expertise to help medical groups, hospitals and health systems connect with consumers, physicians, employers, brokers and health plans. He advocates for a strategic approach to marketing, audience-based communications, coordination between marketing and customer service functions, and early inclusion of the marketing discipline when planning services. His work has earned more than a dozen awards over the past few years. He’s no stranger to healthcare reorganizations or healthcare reform, from the failed effort during the 90s to the implementation of the ACA to today’s efforts at repeal. His blog, Healthcare Marketing Survival Guide, offers advice for B2C and B2B healthcare marketers trying to chart their course during uncertain times. Connect with him via LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter @health_crawford.