To Stand Out in Healthcare, the Prescription Calls for an Emotional Appeal

June 14, 2017  |  Joel English


Your healthcare brand needs to be singular and multifaceted at the same time…try wrapping your head around that!

Brand parity in healthcare is often the result of rational, inside-out positioning and the desire to be all things to all people, which leads to brands that are distinctive to none. In an industry that birthed the Healthcare Advisory Board, whose primary purpose was to document what others were doing so members could imitate them, you can easily see how mediocrity and parity are the inevitable result.

However, providers whose brands meaningfully stand out have singular, consumer-responsive, emotionally rich brand value propositions specifically intended to distance them from—rather than imitate—the pack. Those that cut through the clutter with a relevant, emotionally compelling appeal are attractive, engaging, satisfying and memorable, which leads to more brand loyalty and market share.

The rapidly growing importance of the digital world as a vehicle for brand engagement prompted an international study to provide insight into the building of vibrant brands through the internet. The study, published in Fast Company’s Co. Design includes some enlightening insights: 

“We asked over 5,000 people around the world to tell us about the brands whose content they actively sought out, then analyzed what those brands did. The results were surprisingly consistent. Popular brands had multifaceted personalities. They could make you laugh, or cheer, or lean forward and take notes. They’d stopped hammering away at a share of mind, and were expanding to achieve a share of emotion.

What is it that makes the internet so compelling that countries have to pass laws to force us to tear ourselves away from it while driving? Our study showed that there were four kinds of emotionally compelling content: funny, useful, beautiful, and inspiring. When we checked back over the most successful online brands, yup, most of them did all four.”

The key takeaway was that digitally successful brands (and we believe, successful brands overall) do so through a range of emotionally engaging triggers. On the surface, this seems to contradict the time-tested notion that the best brands own a singular benefit in the minds of the consumer. We don’t believe this to be the case. The best brands still stand for a singular, valued and differentiating position…we simply need to embrace a broad range of emotions and desires in conveying the brand and orchestrating the brand experience to bring the brand fully to life.

This is exactly what we did for Moffitt Cancer Center. They had earned a high degree of recognition and respect for their clinical prowess. The challenge was converting that respect to brand loyalty and action during a time of need to increase brand engagement and market share. To extend the brand beyond the rational into the emotional realm, the human value of courage became the intersection point between our patients’ (and their families’) greatest aspirations when confronted with cancer, and also one of Moffitt’s greatest cultural qualities.

Courage provided a tremendous emotional landscape to work with through a diverse media approach, including traditional, direct response, digital and social channels. Our Community of Courage microsite provided the means to energize a community that was hungering to share laughter and tears, information and inspiration. Thus, Moffitt’s weekly social engagement leapfrogged other national cancer centers (trailing only multi-specialty powerhouses like the Mayo Clinic and The Cleveland Clinic), and use of other digital engagement vehicles also skyrocketed. The ultimate measures, new patient engagement and market share, have substantially exceeded goals.

It is important to reinforce a key point that in no way diminishes the power of the study’s insights: We fully believe that the more ways you can get people to engage with the brand, the better—provided that the diversity of expression doesn’t result in a dilution of the clarity and distinctiveness of the brand context and value proposition. The brand value proposition still needs to be singular, but the ways it comes to life should be diverse.

There is still truth to the advertising adage that the best ads have a single message compellingly conveyed. However, the entire suite of advertising and content assets can and should provide diversity of expression. And in healthcare, yes, that can include humor and parody…although both need to be carefully thought out and vetted.

We would love to hear your point of view: email me at [email protected]. And you can view a Moffitt case study video here.


is a Managing Partner, BVK Health

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