Living and Breathing: Leveraging the Power of Your Brand as a Business Strategy

December 12, 2019  |  Julia Brady, Paula Serios

Thinking Big

Living and Breathing is the second of a five-part series that shares a framework for brand activation and operationalization as a core differentiation strategy. Stay tuned for a deeper dive into external brand activation and its application to purpose-driven industries such as Healthcare and Higher Education. Read part one here

Inspire a shared reality

As shared in the first post, the term “Brand” is often misunderstood and frequently mischaracterized as being simply a symbol, a tagline, or a trendy style that helps an organization, product or service to be identified and stand out. However, the strongest brands create an emotional resonance that is both communicated and operationalized. Determining your Brand’s “north star” should signify something larger than business or profits, something that aspires to something greater – with the potential to change lives and make a positive impact on society. What results is a shared sense of purpose that aligns both your Brand and your workforce.

But, it’s not just a matter of lip service. Great organizations must, themselves, incorporate these ideals into their own decision-making functions. Brands must set the example for their workforce to follow. And, in turn, they must be willing to sacrifice short-term gains when they’re incompatible with these common ideals.

Activation Step 1: Education is the foundational step in creating a powerful brand launch and setting the stage for internal brand activation.  Clearly defining the brand and all it means to the organization must first be voiced by the top executive and Board Chair.  From an activation perspective, this hits on several key notes: commitment of the organization, validation that a brand is important in healthcare and connection to the senior most leadership. Executive Teams and Boards must also embrace the brand platform with a clear elevator pitch and personal story that exemplifies the brand shared throughout the organization. Finally, and importantly, departmental meetings to reach every corner of every entity.

Example in action: Renown Health is a Northern Nevada integrated health system covering over 100,000 miles of service area with unsurpassed clinical expertise. After a deep qualitative and quantitative dive into the essence of the brand and the needs of the community, a collaborative brand discernment process resulted in a brand value of Determination – Fighting the Good Fight for every person in their vast service area. After a comprehensive internal launch, this rally cry touched the head and heart of caregivers and staff members alike. With a challenge of ‘How would you fight the good fight?’, organic efforts have sparked internal brand activation throughout the organization and within the community.  Following the tragic death of a child in a cross walk, Renown coupled with the city of Reno to create a pedestrian safety campaign…to fight the good fight.

Re-imagine the holistic brand experience

In the early stages of your internal Brand activation, it’s important to get buy in from all levels of your organization. Doing so creates two key benefits. First, it provides a direct link to key functions that can impact your organization’s strategic plan. And it also offers vantage points from all angles of the organization, to inform the journey mapping process and help architect your internal Brand experience.

Operationalizing your brand is no easy feat, though, and it doesn’t just happen at random. It takes a concerted effort to design an internal Brand experience that can be delivered en masse and, more importantly, with consistency.

Activation Step 2: Establish a steering committee to serve as the keepers and advocates of the Brand and Stakeholder Hubs to drive action. Both entities facilitate discussion and debates across all touch points of the patient journey allowing a re-invention of the internal brand experience from the ground up. Then, help them find ways to infuse this experience into each of their areas of work.

Example in action: Dignity Health, an integrated health system spanning 21 states with over 60,000 care givers, stands for a singular idea: kindness as it impacts the human condition. With all caregiving focused on finding the humanity in healthcare that patients crave, human kindness was a natural brand expression. Through core team communication and ideation – Stakeholder Hubs – one physician felt empowered to connect with patients in pre-op by playing his guitar and creating a kind connection before performing surgery.

Then, energize your Brand champions

Engaging your internal audience is a fundamental step toward activating your internal Brand because, ultimately, your brand reflects their hard work and dedication. And by organizing ways to identify and showcase these efforts, you can create a self-perpetuating culture that can help galvanize your Brand.

Companies that understand the benefits of this concept must also find ways to systemize it because this is a long-term effort that takes re-enforcement over time. And, there’s no better way to energize your workforce than by activating a core group of Brand Champions (or Ambassadors) – those opinion leaders that seem to naturally influence group opinions, or your gregarious co-worker who’s always making you smile. These folks are the perfect messengers to help communicate and demonstrate your brand.

Activation Step 3: Empower Brand Champions to find ways to engage your workforce in unexpected ways. Your Brand shouldn’t be relegated to some poster in the conference room. It should be brought to life through storytelling, games and contests, team challenges, and meaningful events. But, there’s no one size fits all strategy to this. It’s really just a matter of gaining insight (through your Brand Ambassadors) into the amazing things already happening, then finding an engaging way to bring that to life.

Example in action:  Tufts Medical Center is a Boston-based academic medical center competing for attention in a very crowded market. Located in one of the most competitive healthcare markets in the country, it was important for Tufts MC to be differentiated in their communications and service delivery. The Boston market was craving a healthcare provide that would see them as people, not as “just a number.”   The size and empowering culture at Tufts MC presented an opportunity to create a brand reflecting their value of Thoughtful Anticipation that could be expressed externally and lived internally. The organization encourages Brand Champions to devise new ways to deliver services and meet the needs of patients.

As you embark down this path of creating a living brand, just remember that it all comes down to finding your brand’s essence and expressing it as a core human value then bringing that to life through your internal audience as a starting point.


is a Senior Vice President at BVK


Paula Serios is a Senior Vice President, BVK Health

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