For Healthcare Brand Success, Learn From Steve Jobs
Healthcare Brand Success Lessons from Steve Jobs
There’s a common theme we often hear in the Discovery phase of many of our healthcare brand engagements – whether we’re launching a new brand, repositioning/reenergizing an existing brand or rebranding an organization to bolster their relevancy.
When we ask clients about outside category role models (in the context of talking about their own brand story, brand design and brand experience) we often hear someone say “we want to be like Apple.” Regardless of whether they’re an Apple observer, fan or fanatic, everyone acknowledges the distinctiveness and consistency of how Apple feels, looks, speaks and behaves. It’s a brand where everything comes together with beautiful simplicity.
I stumbled upon this old communication from Steve Jobs to his management team just days before the Think Different campaign launched in 1997. His words still offer great advice for healthcare marketing teams, who sometimes struggle to truly think different about their brand and their marketing.
“Marketing is about values. This is a very complicated and noisy world. And we’re not going to get a chance for people to remember much about us. No company is. So we have to be really clear on what we want them to know about us. The way to do that is not to talk about speeds and feeds. It’s not to talk about MIPS and megahertz. It’s not to talk about why we’re better than Windows.
Our customers want to know, ‘Who Is Apple? What is it that Apple stands for?’ What Apple is about isn’t making boxes for people to get their jobs done, although we do that well. We do that better than almost everybody in some cases. But Apple is about something more than that. Apple at the core, its core value…is that, we believe that people with passion can change the world for the better. That’s what we believe. And we believe that in this world people can change it for the better. And that those people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones that do.”
Apple didn’t want to be like anyone else – not just other technology brands, but literally anyone else. And they set their sights far beyond the boundary lines of great technology products. Too often, however, because healthcare leaders don’t understand what great brands consistently do and the discipline and courage it takes to truly think different, most leaders default back to their comfort zone of imitating the competition, focusing on technology features and functions instead of benefits and trying to be everything to everyone. It’s a recipe for blending in, not (as Seth Godin coined the term in one of his books) creating a purple cow.
Three Things Your Healthcare Brand Needs to Succeed
When we consider what makes brands like Apple so great, it comes down to three basic concepts. If you truly want to create a brand revolution, you must possess the following.
All great brands have conviction.
- Conviction in the certainty of knowing who they are and who they are not.
- Conviction in the power of one singular and simple message with one key differentiator, and putting this simplicity at the center of the customer experience. Note: multiple studies reinforce that the majority of consumers are more likely to recommend a brand because it provides simpler experiences and communications. “Simpler” empowers people (like Airbnb and Warby Parker), removes friction (like Venmo and Uber) and saves time (like Blue Apron and Nest).
- Conviction to stand alone, no matter the number of doubters.
- And most importantly, great brands have conviction in their own product/service abilities or qualities.
The reality is, consumers don’t want to be sold, but they love to buy. Brands need to move the decision making process from the brain to the heart by leveraging emotional connections. According to Simon Sinek, the author of “Start With Why”, consumers will make an emotional justification even if the rational brain says ‘no.’
Neurological research supports the premise that people buy on emotion and justify with facts. All strong brands have an emotive fit with consumers in a particular need-state, and it is this that connects them so effectively with the System 1 brain that drives much of our daily decision-making through emotion and intuition. The easiest way to create this connection is by being authentic to your overall vision.
Brands like GoPro, Disney, BMW, Panera and USAA (alongside Apple) are great examples. They’re brands whose customers believe in their vision and want to be a part of it. The brands that are able to cement this kind of emotional connection are the ones that have built a loyal following based on their vision. Emotional Connection is also the most predictive driving force behind brand purchasing decisions and the long-term loyalty of consumers (Motista study).
Big Energizing Idea
Effective brands all have what Billy Crystal in the 1991 movie City Slickers (if you remember the movie) refers to as “one thing.” In this case, it’s the one thing that the brand stands for and communicates as its primary differentiator. The “thing” differentiates a brand from anyone else in its space, is rarely feature or performance-based and is the only attribute people think of when they simplify your brand down to its core.
At Trajectory, we refer to this as a Big Energizing Idea. Big in that it transcends a category, unifies a brand’s point of view and can be brought to life everywhere; and Energizing in that it aligns all audiences around the same idea. It’s a proposition that consumers buy into, beyond just a proposition that they can buy.
Regardless of what you call it — whether your north star, essence, purpose or guiding principle — your big energizing idea is an important internal and external beacon for your organization. For Volvo, their big energizing idea is “safety”. For Salesforce, it’s the mantra of “No Software.” For Red Bull, it’s about “giving you wings.” For Trajectory client Tower Health it’s “Advancing Health. Transforming Lives”, and for our client The Wellness Way, it’s “Do Health Differently”.
Thinking Different About Your Healthcare Brand
It takes courage to live by these three principles, but the brands that can (all else being equal) will have the most success. This is the “one thing” that holds true regardless of category, or whether b2c or b2b.
Reach out for a no-risk consultation. Since 1999, our New Jersey marketing agency Trajectory has worked across the healthcare and wellness continuum helping brands rise above the noise to create greater value for their businesses and customers.