Branding Is Healthy in Healthcare

Surprisingly, healthcare of all sectors came across as a very interesting area for me to study. And I am fascinated to see how trends in this have changed with years. To start with, healthcare industry is no more just about hospitals. A lot of private players like smaller diagnostic centers, pathological labs, pharmaceutical brands, health insurance brands all come under the realm of healthcare.

The Indian Healthcare Sector is expected to reach US$100 billion by 2015 from the current US$ 65 billion, growing at around 20% a year, according to rating agency Fitch. Some of the major factors driving the growth in the sector include increasing population, growing lifestyle related health issues, cheaper cost of treatment, thrust in medical tourism, improved health insurance penetration, increasing disposable income, government initiatives and focus on Public Private Partnership (PPP) models

A few fast facts:
  • Hospital and diagnostic centers FDI inflow was US$ 1.3 billion during April 2000 and March 2012, according to the latest Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP) data
  • Medical and surgical appliances FDI inflow stood at US$521.6 million during the same period, according to DIPP data
  • The drugs & pharmaceuticals sector has attracted FDI worth US$9.2 billion between April 2000 and March 2012
In this growing competition, big players are doing whatever they can to highlight their brand amongst the crowd. Let us discuss some new approaches that marketing executives in this sector are pursuing to make their brands successful.

Advent of Branding in Healthcare:
There was a time when ‘which hospital to visit’ was decided by its proximity and word-of-mouth factor. Is it the same case even today? Not really.  Subconsciously a customer has started to trust a hospital which has been talking about its high quality medical resources and its high end ambience. But on a conscious level, a common man still perceives advertising of a hospital to be unethical.
But with so many private players entering the market, healthcare in India like all other sectors has entered the world of branding. Their marketing hence, is no more dependent just on ‘word-of-mouth’. In fact renowned brands are hiring advertising agencies to ensure good health of their brands.

Brand Positioning
Today big brands in the sector of healthcare are following their brand vision statements and values to position their brands differently from all others.
A few examples include ‘Wockhardt hospitals’ whose brand mantra is to provide the best advanced super-specialty in healthcare while the brand mantra of ‘Aravind Eye Hospitals’ is to offer quality eye care at reasonable costs.

 Another successful branding example is ‘Mayo Clinic Hospital’ in Scottsdale, Arizona, US. It is branded as a 'healing environment'. The Mayo Brothers believed that the best interest of the patient is the only interest that should be considered.  The clinic has a soothing environment with soft music playing, the ambience of corridors are quite peaceful. There are no announcements made to hamper the environment inside and the visitors are never asked to leave. This has helped create an extremely welcoming image of Mayo Clinic Hospital.

Social Media: When you come to think of it, social media is a great way to strengthen the existing value of a brand. The best thing about social media is that it allows one-on-one conversations with customers which no other medium does.

Apollo, Fortis, Narayana Hrudayala are few names with great social media presence. They are on all relevant social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. And it is not just about being there, brands are making sure that they engage regularly on these platforms as well. Social media experts are helping brands optimize the use of this new media.

One of the best examples of Social Media used effectively is Scott &White Healthcare located in Central Texas. During the Fort Hood shooting attack in 2009, Steven Widman, (MEd, Scott & White Healthcare) used twitter to post updates about victims directly from the hospital. He also re-tweeted news from the Red Cross to keep people informed. This led to an increase in their Twitter followers by 78% in just 3 days.

Public Relations: Healthcare is a very sensitive and critical issue for a customer, which is why brands in this sector need to take account of a lot of things. They have to ensure that every customer’s emotions are taken care of. Especially in this digital age when a person practically has access to the entire world, consumers are getting smarter and are making their own decisions. In such cases, one little slip-up and the brand is out of customer’s consideration set. How does a brand come out of situations like these? The answer is simple - PR. More like reputation management.
Wellness is a booming thing in healthcare industry. Brands in this sector are dependent on the local media and it is amazing to see how they utilize it. One example of the same is how celebrities are involved with these brands. Recently there was a lot of buzz when Salman Khan was present for an event at Gold’s Gym, Mumbai. Considering the image of a fit body that Salman carries with himself, his association with Gold’s Gym was a perfect win-win for both Salman and the brand.
To talk about healthcare and celebrities, another famous actress Shilpa Shetty now owns a spa called Iosis which was in news last year due to its branch out in Lucknow.
Exploring more on the new segments of this industry, diagnostic centers are names that I came across very frequently. One very successful PR story of a small diagnostic center is of Suburban Diagnostics when they talked a lot about the high quality services that they provide. Due to the positive image of Suburban in the market, big venture capitalists ended up investing in them.
Apollo hospitals are in news regularly sending out positive stories about their achievements. This has helped Apollo achieve many smaller hospital brands partnering with them.
Branding in healthcare is new and yet to be explored. All we know is that there will always be something interesting that will be practiced in this complex yet intriguing sector. In future we will witness more marketing professionals getting into healthcare marketing and branding.

Integrated Corporate Practice Team,

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