Dangers of Negative Healthcare Branding


Sondra Brown

President and Founder


Brands are a strength, not a weakness, and a strong brand is vital for healthcare providers. Without one, patients can (and will) choose other healthcare providers. But, is a strong and well-known brand the only attribute necessary? A strong and healthy brand must also be positively linked with the healthcare organization. It’s not always obvious that your brand is suffering or is losing ground. Four signs of a weak healthcare brand are listed below.

Weak Healthcare Brand Issues Include:

Lack of Awareness

This point is almost self-explanatory. Businesses need consumers to stay in business, and healthcare systems are no different. Without a high number of consistent patients, the system will not be able to offer innovative techniques, participate in necessary research, provide educational programs, or employ well-trained staff. Consistent and well-planned marketing strategies/campaigns highlight your healthcare organization’s services and differentiation points. Inconsistent branding leads to miscommunication, brand confusion, trust reduction, and poor customer experiences. If your target audience does not recognize your healthcare brand, then it could be indicative of other major problems.

Low Affinity

When selecting a healthcare provider, patients primarily consider places where their connections chose or would go. We like to be confident in our choices by having confirmation from others, especially relating to our health. Affinity, or likeability, signals trust, and a positive reputation. Without likeability, people may choose other providers. Online reviews, patient satisfaction survey scores, and social postings provide insight into your organization’s affinity. Mentions of unhappy customers or poor satisfaction results could signal low likeability. Healthcare providers must supply unsatisfied patients with a private and successful method for airing their grievances. If your healthcare system is poorly viewed, it may be time to rethink your branding and/or your execution of brand values.

High Churn

In the healthcare industry, not all press is good press. Undesirable news includes doctors forgetting surgical instruments in a patient or patients receiving incorrect care. The negative publicity leads to low patient satisfaction which leads to high churn. If stories like these appeared about your healthcare system, existing patients would feel uncertain and distrustful, while ensuring new patients would not take a chance on the system. With the abundance of choices in today’s healthcare industry, traditional healthcare systems must negate poor publicity and instill trust to succeed. NPS (net promoter scores) programs can help your organization keep tabs on loyalty metrics and ensure your organization continues to be recommended by your patients.

Trust is paramount in the healthcare industry, and a hospital with low trust or high negativity will not be chosen by patients.

No Point of Difference

Innovative. Top Ranking. Affordable. Personal Care. These words and phrases are frequently used to describe healthcare systems. With many attributes overlapping, hospitals need to determine how to distinguish themselves from the competition. If you do not, then you run the risk of becoming associated with poorly viewed systems – or not remembered at all. It is also important to monitor your differentiation techniques to ensure people still associate them with your health care system. If your tagline or attributes become associated with others, it may be time to conduct brand re-positioning as Ochsner Health System did in this rebranding case study. However, you must also ensure your branding embodies the healthcare system, along with accurately representing your services and products. When presenting your brand, you instill patients with a set of expectations. You want to live up to these expectations to create and maintain trust, which is paramount in a healthcare setting.

Key Take-Aways

Every element of a customer’s experience with your healthcare system must align with your branding values and goals. If part of the experience does not match, then the carefully built trust may be eroded. Healthcare brands can create strong, positive impressions, but also must watch for signs of weakness. However, weaknesses can be turned into strengths with careful market research and implementation.

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