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Without Emotion, Your Brand is Just Noise

There’s an old saying in advertising that nobody ever bought anything based on logic. It’s mostly true.

People’s decisions are primarily driven by emotional connection, not features and benefits.

That’s the case when someone buys a car, picks a travel destination, or chooses a restaurant. It holds true in healthcare decisions, too. Even when someone picks a doctor or hospital, they’re still working from the same set of motivations. In other words, we choose based on how we emotionally connect to each competing option and make a choice.

Now, you’re thinking, “Come on, that’s bullsh*t. There is plenty of emotion in healthcare. Just look at our mission statements, and even our ads.  All we do is talk about healing people and improving communities.” You’re right. But you’re also wrong.

The broad gestures we see in healthcare are emotional. But they basically equate to every Silicon Valley tech company’s claim that its mission is to change the world.

They are platitudes. They mean something to the person saying them, but not much to the person hearing them.

Change the world, you say? Ya, ya, we know. If you want me to believe it, show me how you’re doing it, and how you’re different than all the others who are using the same exact words. We need something real to make us care. To forge a real connection. And that’s where healthcare organizations fall short.

We work with many healthcare clients who ask ReviveHealth to help define or refresh their brands. The pressures that help them find their way to us revolve around common themes. Competition is getting stiffer.  Their market is changing, and it has them spooked. They’ve gone through change, whether it’s new leadership, buying, selling, merging, entering a new market, or adding new products and capabilities.

Whatever their motivations, the ask from these clients is similar. “We want a fresh brand that gets customers (or patients) excited about us.” In other words, “make us cool, so more people will like us.” Sure, we can do that.

A new brand position. Refreshed values. Maybe even a new name, a modern logo (boring sans serif, amirite?). Wrap a big campaign around it, with beautiful creative, compelling content, and smart execution. Put a good bit of money behind it.  Hit launch, and voila! Everybody loves you. Or do they?

What you’ve achieved (if you’ve done the job well) is a big pop in brand awareness. But how does that translate into preference? Or real engagement and loyalty? After all, your competitors are yelling from the rooftops at the same audiences in an effort to create awareness, just like you are.  

Today, with every brand screaming at people every single minute of every single day, a funny thing has happened. People have stopped listening. Yet something else is happening, too. Partisanship. Division. Hatred. The death of civility. FOMO. Screens, seeping into every aspect of our lives. The forces governing our lives today are driving us further and further away from one another.

And in a desert of isolation, we crave connection. Not just with other humans. With brands, too. We want the money we spend to have meaning. To create purpose.

Yet before we let down our guard and give you our money, we want proof.  Proof that you’re real.  Proof that you are who you say you are. Proof that you stand for something good.

And what’s proof? Proof is action.

You say you want to change the world. Ok. Show me. Make me feel it.

    (ATTENTION BRANDS: this is your opportunity.)

How, you ask? There are millions of ways. Pick ones that feel authentic to your organization, and will mean something to the communities you serve. And go all in. Give away a dose of your medicine for free, for every dose you sell. Use half your marketing budget to fund more teachers or school nurses or after-school programs in the city where you’re headquartered. Buy a farm and grow the clean, healthy food you’re always urging your patients to eat. Sponsor a supermarket in a food desert to help feed an underserved community. Get off the sideline, and take action.

You remember Nike’s ad campaign with Colin Kaepernick, right? Stand for something. Even if it means sacrificing everything. That wasn’t an ad campaign. It was action.

Nike chose to reward a young man who had taken a stand for something, and declared through bold action that it stood for something, too. And Nike was handsomely rewarded. Of course, it came with huge risk. But the old saying – no risk, no reward – is still true.

Millions of words have been written about Nike’s motivation for tapping Kaepernick. So, I won’t go deeper into it. I will say one thing. Motivation is irrelevant. Action. is. the. only. thing. that. matters.

Your brand isn’t what you say it is. It’s how your customers experience you. How you make them feel. So, get out there. Plant your flag. Tell people what you stand for. But don’t think that’s the end game. It doesn’t. It’s only the very first step, and it’s the easy part. The hard part, the part that matters, is what follows.

How will you prove your words with action, and make people feel something? Do that, and you’ll be handsomely rewarded, too.

August 8, 2017
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