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Digital Marketing

The key to effective healthcare branding

You may not have realised, but so many of those well known household brand names like Listerine, Panadol, Strepsils, Calpol etc. are generally owned by just a few healthcare companies. Let’s take a look through the keyhole at how they manage their multitude of brands and why they have so many.

Why are there so many brands?

On the face of it, it would seem that multiple brands might dilute the mother brand. 

But it is common that a healthcare company will have in addition to its brand, another for each product they make or own. An advantage of separating things like this is that should a product or sub-brand fail, or suffer from some other unfortunate situation or PR disaster, it may be severed from the main business without having much impact on the parent company. 

So it helps preserve reputation, and in effect, shield the other sub-brands from any fallout.

But more than that, having a vast range of products allows the organisation to target multiple different markets with multiple different needs.

This helps a brand become successful through having been “…made distinctive by its positioning, relative to the competition and by its personality.”*

How do they manage all those brands?

The brand management process is typically made up of these 5 points:

  1. Market Analysis
    Broad trends, PEST analysis, customer segment profiles, competitor positions, SWOT analysis
  2. Brand Situation Analysis
    Perceptions, heritage, brand personality, individual attributes, ‘where are we now?’
  3. Targeting Future Positions
    Brand strategy, position, scope, target markets
  4. Marketing Mix and Testing New Offers
    Allocation and monitoring
  5. Planning & Evaluating Performance
    Clearly planned objectives, timing of activities, establishing budget and measures for evaluation

Unilever’s branding unlocked 

So let’s look at how one of the big healthcare companies apply this to their branding. Unilever use a ‘Brand Key’ as a template that is applied to each product:

You can see that things are laid out in keyhole shape which serves as a memorable device with consistently positioned brand elements. It means that no matter how many products it is applied to, you can quickly and easily identify, and cross reference, the parts that make up the brand. It also certainly helps reduce the risk of accidentally missing out a point entirely when creating a new brand.

That’s the keyhole, so where’s the key? 

You can think of the key as all the text within the keyhole shape. An incomplete key would not result in unlocking, and so, if the brand hasn’t been carefully considered for each of these points it is unlikely to be effective.

Of course, there are other methods of managing this information but this is a great example of one that is repeatable and succinct – and that’s desirable when dealing with many brands simultaneously.

Here’s how it applies to their well known brand Domestos:

So you can get the idea of how this keeps efforts focused and almost entirely separate from the parent brand whose target market is basically ‘everyone’.

But what’s important here is that the thinking and the framework are entirely Unilever and this develops a consistency throughout the parent company. The keyhole allows them to roll out products within this same framework, target different audiences and develop the insight for the product to be launched successfully.

What this means and why you should consider your healthcare branding seriously

The key to effective healthcare branding is to apply a strategic plan that comes from understanding the brand management process, identifying insights, and acting upon them. 

As 2016’s forecast revenue for Johnson & Johnson ($73bn), GSK ($24bn), Unilever ($39bn) and Bayer ($48bn)** show, there is clear evidence that healthcare companies that take their branding seriously are those that reap the benefits financially. 

I bet next time you’re brushing your teeth, you’ll be looking at the small print on the toothpaste tube to see which of the big healthcare companies own it. And maybe you’ll be wondering if they’ve hit their target market effectively.

* Hawkinson & Cowking - Branding in Action, 2006

**FTSE - correct at time of writing