Executive summary of “Healthcare branding: developing emotionally based consumer brand relationships”

Journal of Services Marketing

ISSN: 0887-6045

Article publication date: 6 May 2014



(2014), "Executive summary of “Healthcare branding: developing emotionally based consumer brand relationships”", Journal of Services Marketing, Vol. 28 No. 2. https://doi.org/10.1108/JSM-02-2014-0073



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Executive summary of “Healthcare branding: developing emotionally based consumer brand relationships”

Article Type: Executive summary and implications for managers and executives From: Journal of Services Marketing, Volume 28, Issue 2

This summary has been provided to allow managers and executives a rapid appreciation of the content of the article. Those with a particular interest in the topic covered may then read the article in toto to take advantage of the more comprehensive description of the research undertaken and its results to get the full benefit of the material present.

The more that companies compete to provide the services or goods upon which their survival depends, the more power the prospective customer gets – more choice, a stronger negotiating position, an increased opportunity to shop around. Or so it seems. Sometimes that customer cannot decide who gets his or her custom merely on the basis of what seems the best deal at the time. This is especially so when healthcare – one of the most important and personalized services a consumer experiences – is being purchased.

With the ageing of the Baby Boomer population, and government healthcare reform, the US healthcare industry is likely to encounter unprecedented change. Further, as more healthcare options become available to consumers (e.g. minute clinics in drug stores, after-hour urgent care clinics), more competition will exist. Marketing will play an integral role as hospitals compete on care and quality outcomes. Effective marketing strategy will require organizations to develop a strong brand identity. As marketers engage in endeavors to understand and improve the experience their brand provides for their customers, operative implementation and controls systems will be required. However, such effective marketing will help differentiate healthcare brands and allow them to achieve competitive advantage in the marketplace.

The organization of healthcare in the UK might be very different from that in the USA, but there too patient choice and quality of medical care and surgical procedures are under intense scrutiny. Healthcare branding – whether delivered by a public or private body – requires a solid, organized commitment to consistently high standards through the institution’s products and services.

The development of effective branding strategies is important for healthcare organizations. This is especially significant, given the changes the industry is facing. First, as deductibles and copays (in the USA, the amount you pay per visit, whether or not it is covered by insurance) increase, consumers are becoming more selective about their healthcare and the availability of options makes this possible. Also, the US Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act enacted in March 2010 could increase the number of insured consumers by over 30 million. Successful healthcare systems will view these changes as catalysts for developing new strategies that fulfill their communities’ healthcare needs.

People seeking healthcare for themselves or for family members are, by definition, at a particularly vulnerable and emotional time of their life so it is no secret to discover that an emotional link to a healthcare provider – a particular hospital for instance – can be a big influence on someone’s decision-making process. Maybe their children were born there, or a relative received excellent service. It should not need saying, but hospitals are not “auto shops for people”. Sick people’s recovery can depend, not merely on the expertise and knowledge of doctors and nurses, but on tempting food when they are not particularly hungry but need to eat, and the ability to have friends and loved-ones visit when, and for as long as, they like. Hospitals and other healthcare buildings have to be clean and ought to be welcoming.

Consumer sensitivity and emotional response play a major role in healthcare where trust and care-giving must co-exist. Emotions are inherent in the type of buying decisions that individuals make for their family and themselves in the healthcare marketplace. Thus, effective marketing for healthcare organizations should consider consumer emotions.

In the US-based study, “Healthcare branding: developing emotionally based consumer brand relationships”, Professor Elyria Kemp et al. examine how emotional or affect-based brand relationships are developed for healthcare. It is recognized that building a valuable brand goes beyond specific product features and benefits by ensuring the brand has the ability to penetrate people’s emotions. When consumers connect emotionally with a brand, a relationship of attachment and commitment develops.

The study demonstrates that trust, referent influence and corporate social responsibility are positively related to consumer emotional commitment for a healthcare provider’s brand. Marketing communications that appeal to consumers’ attitudes about the organization by communicating competence and patient-centric qualities will be effective in cultivating trust and therefore emotional connections with consumers. Further, given the importance of referent influence, promoting a family-friendly environment (e.g. flexible visiting hours, comfortable rooms) and emphasizing the importance of family and friends in the healing process may also help to foster emotional commitment from consumers.

Hospitals have created maternity wards which exemplify the family-friendly philosophy. Such an emphasis is important since, according to the Department of Labor, women in the USA make approximately 80 percent of healthcare decisions for their families. Events sponsored by healthcare providers such as health fairs, picnics in the park, working with underserved and disadvantaged members of the community are activities that signal to the consumer that the hospital cares about them and their community. Such efforts are effective at creating bonds between the brand and the consumer.

To read the full article enter 10.1108/JSM-08-2012-0157 into your search engine.

(A précis of the article “Healthcare branding: developing emotionally based consumer brand relationships”. Supplied by Marketing Consultants for Emerald.)

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