Branding is very critical to an organization because it provides shareholder value, business longevity, and differentiation. Branding refers to the creation of a recognizable entity that has a specific image, traits, and values. An excellent brand is likable, memorable, relatable, and captivating. As a result of such traits, customers relate to the brand and build loyalty around it. Various dynamics in the healthcare sector have increased competition and other activities such as mergers and acquisitions that create the need for organizations to establish brands that clients can identify with and to which they can become loyal. The value of branding in the healthcare sector is indispensable although caution is essential because of unintended consequences that may arise from healthcare organizations’ branding.
The dynamics of the healthcare sector have created situations that make branding a necessity. It is imperative to explore the dynamism and how various occurrences have created circumstances that make branding an essential component of healthcare organizations’ strategies. The emergence of comprehensive services has raised patients’ expectations because they are likely to seek providers with excellent overall services. On the minimum, the comprehensive services include wellness programs, office visits, and preventive care. The diversification of offers broadens clients’ expectations from a single hospital. Those organizations that cannot provide the services are seeking to merge or acquire others to improve their portfolio. The trend towards preventive care and wellness influences customers’ perception of value. Many patients no longer need to be sick to visit healthcare organizations. Even after diagnosis, clients may enroll in wellness programs and seek guidance from their providers about preventive care. In such a circumstance, the client and the healthcare provider establish a trust relationship that is critical when a patient becomes ill and requires treatment. According to Shore (2007), health-related decisions are very personal and require trust more than in other purchase decisions. Trust is a critical issue because treatment is a matter of life and death. Thus, clients are likely to seek services from providers they know and have worked with before and experienced their desired level of services. The legal environment is also constantly shifting, which makes adherence to new rules fundamental in strategic decisions. For instance, the legal requirement to implement Electronic Medical Records (EMR) has upfront cost ramifications for healthcare organizations (Faezipour & Ferreira, 2013). The requirement is costly and gives large players with economies of scale a competitive advantage. Moreover, reduced reimbursement from the government has led to the reduction in the number of people supported by government programs. Consequently, healthcare organizations have experienced a shortage of revenues while costs have risen. Patients have gained empowerment and choice because of the digital transparency in the industry. Most healthcare organizations are accessible online, which means that patients can compare costs and ratings of physicians and hospitals by other patients. Such ratings also influence the amount of federal reimbursement that healthcare institutions can obtain. Consequently, the informed clients will only seek providers with the best services and feedback to take advantage of federal reimbursement that reduces costs on the side of the patient. All the activities in the healthcare industry have the significant influence on the need to exercise branding.
The forces in the industry discussed in the previous section make branding very vital. The rise of comprehensive services and its subsequent increase in customer expectations require branding because it provides long-term competitive advantage. Branding is a corporate tool that enables the managers to differentiate their products and services from those of competitors. It promises value to the consumers, and its delivery has the potential of making customers stick to a single provider that has the effect of prolonged business relationships. The branding process enables healthcare organizations to create and deliver customer value that is tedious for competitors to imitate. The corporations with a broad range of services that appeal and satisfy the expectations of their consumers have the capacity to succeed compared to their competitors. The need to merge or acquire other providers, which is a trend in the healthcare sector, requires branding that highlights the brand equity and communicates the strength of a corporation. Therefore, branding assists in projecting excellence so that healthcare organizations can be attractive for mergers and acquisitions that represent a competitive advantage in the current healthcare industry. The increased financial pressures resulting from the legal environment and reduced government funding make branding indispensable. Healthcare providers that cannot afford to merge may remain competitive by leveraging their brand equity to access finances to enable them offer diversified products and services and comply with regulations. The goodwill that emerges from having a strong brand is vital in convincing investors to give their finances to a firm (Heiens, Leach &McGrath, 2012). Even the healthcare institutions that have already merged still require branding because they need financial resources to grow and develop new technological innovations that will determine competition in the future. The patient empowerment through access to information and technology and the availability of different providers demand that healthcare organizations research customer needs and preferences and deliver them better than competitors. The only way to reflect those needs is to create brands that are attractive to the target customers. The reason clients in the healthcare sector seek brands they know lies in the fact that they have reduced perceived risks. The risk of failure in the health care sphere may be catastrophic, and thus patients choose brands with the least perceived risk. The best way to create the trust is to establish a brand that delivers what it promises. Eventually, such a brand will gain reputation and attract customer loyalty. As such, the activities that characterize the industry make branding vital.
Although branding is beneficial to healthcare institutions, it can sometimes result in unexpected undesirable consequences. When an organization brands itself, it must deliver the value proposition to clients. If the customers do not feel like the company delivered the value, they will shun the company. Additionally, any future attempt to correct the brand`s perception may fail because there is a difference between brand image and brand identity. According to Shore (2007), the brand image refers to what the marketplace perceives while brand identity is the desired perception of the market. When a company tries to rectify past branding errors, it may genuinely address the creation and the delivery of value, but customers may fail to recognize the brand identity because they still have the brand image created initially. Therefore, an organization may have improved its service and delivery, but its brand equity may fail to recover because of its past branding mistake. Such a scenario is potent with a valuable lesson to those wishing to create recognizable brands in the healthcare sector. The lesson is that it is critical to carefully think of the ability to deliver the intended value of the brand before communicating to clients because it may lead to irreparable damage.
In conclusion, branding is valuable in the healthcare sector because the circumstances in the industry make it critical for survival and sustainability. They include the emergence of comprehensive services, mergers, acquisitions, increased importance of trust, changing legal requirements, patient empowerment, reduced government reimbursement, and increasing costs. Each of these situations makes branding essential as it helps satisfy requirements and avoid negative ramifications. The possible negative result of branding is the failure to deliver the promise and the inability to rectify the damage, which may lead to strategic mistake.