How does your brand fit into your customers' lives?

It’s easy to get caught up in brand centricity. We are constantly challenged to assess why our brand is superior to competition or answers a need that others do not. Our professional efforts revolve around the discovery, refinement and perpetual communication of brand attributes. Even when we employ market research and pore over findings to assure that our brands are aligned with the needs of our customers, it can be easy to be swept away by the powerful tide of our own enthusiasm. It is, however, critical to accurately understand how the brand fits within the everyday lives of our customers. This is not to suggest that we should not be emphatic brand champions or strive to earn brand loyalty. In order to do this successfully, we must understand the role our brand plays.

Context is everything. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you strategize your brand.

Patients are people.

It seems like an obvious statement, but this sentiment often gets lost as we reach out to educate and persuade these vital constituents. Even in situations where our brands represent life-changing or sustaining capabilities, research demonstrates that “patients” view themselves as people and do not define themselves by their medical condition or disease state. Time and time again, people communicate that their health is something that they may have to grapple with, but it does not represent who they are as individuals. They are mothers, fathers, children, professionals, students – with more things in common with the general population than not. Health is something many have to take seriously, but again, remember the context. Often our brands are a means to an end – a way of maintaining or getting to the things people want to experience or enjoy in their lives – grand and simple. The “how you get there” is not nearly as consequential as actually “getting there.” Our brands can be enabling – sometimes when nothing else has been – or more enabling than ever before. But it is what we are enabling that counts.

Healthcare professionals care proportionately.

When you think of the sheer number of decisions practitioners are confronted with in a single day, it is overwhelming. From consequential treatment choices to practice management issues to how to perform their jobs within an increasingly complex and ever-changing healthcare system – all while simultaneously keeping all the balls up in the air in their personal lives. And then, along comes our brand. We want our share of their time and focused attention. The simple truth is that with the number of brands competing for practitioner attention, not all command the same level of importance. It’s not to say we should compromise or run up the white flag, but knowing where your brand fits can foster insights as to how to best communicate it. Being customer-centric means understanding why, with all that these individuals are exposed to day in and day out, they should realistically pay heed to our brand.

Credibility enhances access and adoption.

Even within regulatory guidance, it is important not to exaggerate importance. Instead of puffery, even evidence-based puffery, it is more effective to research and really understand from key constituents, why they think your brand is relevant. The key is identifying points of interest and harnessing them in a credible manner. Patients and practitioners need to understand how our brands can fit within their lives. They need to understand the potential benefits, risks and how the brand can positively impact or disrupt their main goal – moving forward with their lives. When this is communicated in a realistic manner, credibility is enhanced, expectations are met, and the seeds of brand loyalty are nourished.

When you don’t know, ask.

Presumptions are dangerous. The roots of making presumptions are many – deadlines, budgets, access and worst, arrogance. It’s imperative to have sound knowledge of how your brand is perceived. And because the marketplace is fluid, circumstances change. Needs change. Expectations change. What was once fact may not be so any longer. Your brand must be guided by current information. The best way to obtain this information? Ask. The task can be as large or small as time, budget and need mandate. From one-on-one interviews with constituents to online questionnaires, to small group advisory boards – knowledge acquisition does not have to be arduous. The “n” does not have to be large, but it does have to be representative. Choose your participants carefully. Sometimes the thought-leader on the cutting edge or outspoken patient advocate, although eager to be of assistance, are not indicative of the middle of the pyramid of your targeted audience. Understand who you want to influence and seek representation that represents this accurately.

Ultimately our constituents weigh brands the very same way we do in our own lives. Some matter and some are pushed to the margins. It depends on our needs and interests. It depends on what we want to accomplish. It depends on the relative importance the brand to our lives. We instantly prioritize and relegate. Over and over again. The brands that we adopt are those that have earned a space within our lives. Those that have been communicated earnestly by those who know exactly how those brands will fit within our lives. All because they asked, paid attention and acted accordingly.

by Jonathan D. Katz