Health Care Branding: 6 benefits to discovering your archetype.

Health Care Branding: 6 benefits to discovering your archetype.

Do you want to build trust and be top-of-mind with your audience in a way that is more authentic and true to your brand? Do you want to leave no doubt in your health care consumers’ minds about what differentiates you from your competition? Dig into archetypes, what they are and how to use them successfully with our director of visual identity, Joe Gunderson.

Most organizations know who they are but they have a hard time communicating that to an audience. So, that’s why we’re going to talk about archetypes today. Let’s start out with the definition of what archetypes actually are. They are universal characteristics or symbols that help develop your brand. An easy way to understand archetypes would be to look at celebrities such as Oprah or John Wayne. They each have certain qualities that we quickly and immediately associate with who they are and what they’re about.

When I think of Oprah, I think of giving. I think of a connector. I think, for some, she’s hope. John Wayne was very blunt, stoic. Other cowboys wanted to be him, that’s how big of a cowboy he was.

There are six reasons archetypes can help benefit your organization:

  1. They humanize your organization. Consumers and audiences are looking for organizations that they can trust and connect with. And being authentic in the marketplace is priority number one.
  2. Archetypes provide a clear purpose. We’ve worked with a lot of organizations, health care primarily, that need to be defined with their purpose. They do understand who they are, but they need to better understand how to communicate that outwardly to their audience.
  3. They define your voice. This would be your brand voice. When you have an authentic voice that is true to you, it really helps build that trust with your audience.
  4. Archetypes can benefit you through your visual identity or visual strategy. Here at Hailey Sault, we have an icon that we created for our visual brand. Symbols just like this immediately impact your audience in the same way a personality characteristic can.
  5. Archetypes can differentiate you in the marketplace. By knowing who you are, you can better position yourself so your audience knows exactly what you are about.
  6. Which leads me to my final point and that is to know your competitor. When you better understand their archetypes, you can better understand how you can position yourself in the marketplace.

These are my six reasons you can benefit from using archetypes. Hope you enjoyed this and learned something. Comment below or reach out to us on if you have questions or want to discuss archetypes with us.

An argument for ditching the word patient

An argument for ditching the word patient

As a health care copywriter words are my business—especially those that have to do with describing the relationship between people and the care they receive. To me, words reflect our reality and our values. They are part of who we are as individuals. And they’re certainly part of the “who you are” as a health care brand.

That being said, one word that has always been hard for me to use in copy is patient. I continually find myself wanting to change my copy to read person or individual. To me the word patient is impersonal. It seems detached and unemotional.

The meaning of the word Patient

Patient comes from the Latin patiens or patior, which means to suffer or to bear. It means a person receiving or registered to receive medical treatment. No wonder I have a hard time using it in copy. 

Outdated and paternalistic

I recently read an intriguing article from the New England Journal of Medicine’s online Catalyst. The authors discuss the word patient and hypothesize that although the health care conversation has shifted over the past decade, the paternalism inherent in health care has not.

I agree that patient is a holdover from a paternalistic era when people put their health in their physician’s hands without questions, when the doctor was the authority—end of discussion. There was little public knowledge about diagnoses and treatments a few decades ago. There was no WebMD  to consult. Many people didn’t discuss their health concerns with anyone outside their family and prevention wasn’t part of the health care equation.

I also agree that some health care providers are still stuck in that “it’s for your own good” paternalistic way of thinking and practicing.

Health care is morphing

But, I think health care is morphing beyond just a conversation. While some people are passive recipients of care, most people are not. Prevention has become paramount. Health concerns are discussed with friends, family and online. Health care sites are consulted and educational materials are read.

People are no longer suffering and bearing something done to them. They are making their needs known and asking questions. And most people are looking for a partner or a coach relationship with their health care provider.

Some research to back it up

The patient choice research we’ve done here at Hailey Sault backs up the type of relationship people are looking for now. Of the 1,233 people we interviewed for our study, 40 percent said they wanted their health care provider to help them be healthier every day.

If not patients, what do we call them?

So, if patient no longer describes the person seeking care—or the relationship between the doctor and that person—what does? Some words I’ve heard debated in the past are consumer, client or user.

Ugh. I don’t know about you, but these words don’t scream warmth or relationship to me. They don’t even come close to the compassion and trust that is at the core of a good health care relationship. What they do scream is economic transaction.

Yes, health care does cost money (lots of money), but do you as a health care brand want the people who come to you for care to be described in an economic term?

What is needed is a word or words that are more emotional and relationship based—words that describe the people nurses worry about, those that doctors discuss with colleagues, the people that care-providers advocate for and agonize about.

Could it be as simple as individual, person or human?

I don’t know. All I know is that when I am writing about the people you care for as a health care brand I want it to reflect the kind of care you provide and the regard you have for those in your care. To me that means referring to them as individuals, people, children, women and men.

You provide person-centered care. Hopefully it’s the kind of care that seeks to respect the unique cultural, economic and social needs of each individual. It’s powerful stuff and the word patient doesn’t cut it anymore.

Is there a perfect replacement word for patient? One that works in all instances? Maybe not. But I’m going to keep searching.

Where Health Care Brands Are Headed

Where Health Care Brands Are Headed

If you’re in the business of health care marketing and strategy, you can do all the right things and still lose. You can work from your health system’s strategic plan. You can focus on your hospital’s key priorities. You can nail your KPIs and business metrics.

And still come up short.

Because the entire health care landscape is changing. Fast. Every day there’s a new headline about a mega-merger. Traditionally non-health-care brands like Amazon are poised to disrupt the way we buy pharmaceuticals. And the rapid fire policy changes in D.C. impact every facet of health care brands.

To be sure, there will be winners and losers. Your brand’s future comes down to recognizing the patterns of change and responding accordingly.

We’re living in a time of 0 to 1 changes in the health care landscape. Meaning, we’re not experiencing gradual, incremental changes. We’re seeing sharp, distinct, profound, and intense changes that impact everyone.

Here are three “0 to 1” health care shifts:

The shift from local to national health care brands

It used to be that small community hospitals competed with other local hospitals. Every region had its own flavor of health care brands and providers. Now with the mega-merger headlines about Ascension and Aetna and the speculation that Amazon will be getting into the pharmacy business, we are now in an era of national health care brands.

The shift from supply-driven to demand-driven health care

The strategy to drive new patient volume in the past had been to put an Open sign in front of the new hospital or clinic or MRI suite and patients would show up. Back in the day we called it the “Field of Dreams” strategy, based on the film’s rejoinder, “If you build it, they will come.”

Health strategy consultant Candace Quinn says that today’s health care consumerism has shifted the power from the companies and health systems over to the consumers. Now, consumers shop for the best health care quality and cost.

The shift from hospital to home

One of our clients told us that in a few years, if a patient has to come inside one of their hospitals for care, then they’ve failed the patient.

Population Health is no longer a wistful thought. Health care is transforming itself such that I could now be writing this to you in a coffee shop on a Friday afternoon while hundreds of miles away technicians are monitoring my vitals and physiological response to medication. In just a few minutes I could be looking my doctor in the eyes via my smartphone, to let her know I’m feeling great, while enjoying my Chai Tea.

No need to take off work. No need to hunt for a parking spot. No need for an expensive MRI. As the title goes of the book by brilliant thinker Eric Topol, “The patient will see you now.”


These 0 to 1 shifts point to a future that’s both exciting and terrifying for brands. A future where there are only winners and losers. And how you read these patterns—and respond—will determine what future you’re building.

In fact, the future for your brand comes down to one of two decisions:

Will your brand try to buy or try to earn its way to the top?

You can try to buy your way to market dominance. You can be the only game in town, the health system that has the contract with the biggest insurance provider. You can force your consumers to use your services because they have no other choice. And because they have no other choice you have no incentive to make their experiences exceptional, remarkable, transformative. Why bother? They have to use you. Until something happens and they have a choice. Then they will leave your brand forever.

You can try and earn your way to market dominance. Be the brand that cares the deepest. That goes the extra mile. That remembers every patient is unique. That this could be the most traumatic day of your customer’s life so you’ll give them dignity. Or you might tell your employees that the customer might be having the most stressful day ever so let’s make giving her what she needs radically easy—so much so that she’s likely to rave about you to friends.

Soon there will only be two distinct positions for health brands: commodities that customers could take or leave (and will always, inevitably, leave) or brands that hold sacred trust with the customer, in which the customer will buy whatever you sell, and return to you again and again because you make their life better, easier, healthier.

Commodity or Sacred Trust: which brand positioning is your organization moving to?

In later posts this year and in special resources (make sure to sign up below), we’ll share strategies for building sacred trust with your patients and customers.

In the meantime, here is one question to help your organization choose its future.

Who is my “Ground Zero” customer, the most important person I need to champion, support and design our entire organization around?

Brands like Amazon win because they keep their customer top of mind with every decision they make. But many health brands are different, aren’t they? Leaders of health brands often make decisions for shareholders and other audiences long before they arrive at what’s best for their Ground Zero customer.

Health brands that earn their way to the top champion their customers. And health brands that try to earn their way to the top champion other interests.

And if you’re working for and with brands that don’t put the customer first, no amount of slick marketing will disguise what your customers know to be true: that they won’t be customers for much longer.

Key Health Care Marketing Insight 2017: Brands, politics and payers.

Key Health Care Marketing Insight 2017: Brands, politics and payers.

In the last six months, I have been paying close attention to some emerging trends affecting several of our clients, and it has created an indelible impression: your brand matters, although perhaps not for the reasons you once thought. As ACA rolls into its third year (perhaps its last?), the battle lines between payers and providers are growing, and we are seeing the impact health brands can have on affecting legislative issues, out-of-network statuses and ultimately patient trust.