4 ways you’re ‘overthinking’ your hospital marketing—and how to stop

Hey, let’s just keep it simple. It’s easier that way.


Overthinking. Admit it, we’re all guilty. There are many examples in the world of hospital branding that fall prey to the symptoms of overthinking. Most are about how we think people will react to strategic decisions and whether or not they’ll be able to put “two and two together.” But here’s the truth—which is sometimes difficult to swallow for people in our business, myself included is:

People just don’t think about things the way we do.

Several sources suggest that we’ve gone from exposing consumers to 500 messages a day to nearly 3,000. And, according to Yankelovich Consumer Research, “regardless of whether the figure is 3,000 or 30,000, it is clear that businesses need to do something fairly special to be noticed on a large scale. Even if people do happen to cast their eyes on your messages, whether they actually take any notice or process the information is a different matter.”

Here are a few examples in hospital branding that have been the subject of overthinking:

  • Naming a new hospital or branded enterprise We have worked with three organizations this past year that were evaluating name changes and suggestions for hospital facilities or branded enterprises. A lot of quality research was conducted and in-depth consumer interviews were held. Not surprisingly, most people liked the names they were most familiar with and expressed the desire to have them incorporated into new branding strategies. Research can be equally validating as it is illuminating.
  • Dabbling in social media There are many health care organizations that continue to think through every possible negative ramification in launching an aggressive digital or online strategy. As a result, they never got off the dime and competition now owns keywords and a strong digital presence.
  • Graphic standards Does the line come under the name or does the name come over the line? Graphic standards are paramount for growing organizations; however, most are developed with the company in mind, not the consumer. Focus group participants clearly report: “Tell us who you are and where you are” and “keep it simple.”
  • Internal branding Stakeholders want to be educated about various marketing initiatives. After all, it’s the “fun” part of the business and who doesn’t enjoy seeing their organization’s name out in the community. But they also want to be inspired, and have a better understanding of what it means for them in their daily work activities.

There are many other examples of key initiatives that often get caught in our own analysis-paralysis. Just remember the number from Yankelovich—your consumer audience is hit with over 3,000 messages every day. Your job should be to make ideas clear, relevant, and simple—and not overthinking the story we want to tell as hospital branders. Other reminders that make our messages more memorable:

  • Engage, don’t sell: branding is a heartbeat, not a chest beat. Remember “feature benefits, not features.” Ideas around love, money, health, career, hopes, and dreams are what get people’s attention.
  • Use media effectively: if consumers are bombarded with messages, select media channels and strategies that are most relevant to those you want to reach. Traditional and non-traditional media can be highly targeted to better the odds of messages being noticed.
  • Be innovative and creative: people will notice your messages if they stand out and capture their imagination. Same old, same old is, well, same old.

A version of this appeared on the Springboard Brand and Creative Strategy blog.

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