Like politics, healthcare marketing is often a local affair. In most areas, the battle for health system market share and brand strength is waged among competitors with high levels of familiarity regarding each other’s strategies, approaches and tactics. With such an intimate, up-close perspective on brands and their communications, it’s surprising to see similar battles playing out across markets. Health system brand archetypes that have withstood the test of time and are present in many markets include “the Caregiver” (focusing on compassionate care), “the Sage” (the leader in medical expertise) and “the Everyman” (leveraging scale and access).
In 2004, Kaiser Permanente, the West Coast-based healthcare system, fundamentally changed the category dynamic when it introduced its “Thrive” campaign that shifted the focus from the treatment of sickness to the collective pursuit of wellness. This “Hero” archetype introduced a simple, yet profound change in perspective that connected with internal and external audiences alike. The campaign broke convention and, while it must have had its share of skeptics at the time, it fundamentally changed the language and tone for the category and has been mimicked by brands across the country ever since.
Three New Brand Futures
Little has happened since then, however, in foundational healthcare brand marketing innovation. In 2013, as the Affordable Care Act has introduced the next frontier in healthcare insurance, it begs question regarding “What’s Next?” in terms of health system brand marketing. Which brand will be bold enough to break with the common aforementioned themes and represent something new? Only time will tell, of course, but here are a few themes that may gain greater visibility:
These three broad themes could become the starting point for a bold healthcare brand looking to set itself apart and connect on a more meaningful level. What do you see as the next frontier in healthcare marketing?