NCP Guidelines: Domain 1 - Structure and Processes of Care
December 8, 2018
Hospice for Winged Creatures: Is Your Logo a Liability?
February 12, 2014
I stumbled across an online article from Fast Company on branding which offered advice from a young Steve Jobs. I love this concept that Jobs shared: the “chance to make a memory… is the essence of brand marketing.” He went on to say, “Branding answers the question of what are we here to do?”
So with that in mind, I performed a Google Image search on the term “hospice,” with the logo filter applied. I did this because, as I work on websites and messaging for my clients, I’ve noticed that many organizations in our field haven’t evolved their corporate identity to reflect the changing nature of marketing in a crowded healthcare field.
So let’s take a look at corporate logos as a key aspect of branding and marketing. Future posts will explore some of the other marketing mistakes I’ve seen in my work with hospices and vendors over the years.
What Does Your Logo Say about Your Company or Organization?
When I started at what was then called the National Hospice Organization in 1989, doves, butterflies, flowers, trees, hearts, and sunsets were commonplace. If you look at the search link above, you’ll see that is still true today. I also see logos with flowery fonts that attempt to convey the soft, warm and welcoming nature of hospice.
So what’s wrong with butterflies and flowery fonts? First, let’s see what some marketing and branding experts have to say:
“A logo does not sell (directly), it identifies. A logo is rarely a description of a business. A logo derives meaning from the quality of the thing it symbolizes, not the other way around.” (Vital Tips For Effective Logo Design) The article goes on to discuss the 5 Principles of Effective Logo Design, which are worth a review as you evaluate your logo.
Question #1 – Does your logo communicate to partners and referral sources (customers) that you are a trust-worthy, professional and competent organization?
I think many in our field, including large, well-respected hospices as well as associations, vendors, and others fail to recognize who their real audience/customers are.
For hospices, your customers are physicians, providers and payers. Wait a second – don’t send me hate-email just yet…hear me out. I know that your ultimate responsibility is to the patients and families you serve and I’m a big advocate of direct-to-consumer marketing. However, the long-term sustainability of your hospice requires a strong, evolving partnership with hospitals, physician groups, health plans, and individual practitioners in order to secure referrals to serve patients. These potential partners must believe that you have the ability to meet their needs - and those of their patients.
If a competitor is able to leverage their branding to communicate professionalism and credibility more effectively than your organization does, you open the door for the competitor to gain traction with your current partners.
For associations and vendors selling services and products to hospice and palliative care providers, the same principle applies. Your logo and brand communicates your ability to meet the complex needs of your customers.
Your company/organization must communicate your ability to provide the highest quality care/services to your customers.
Question #2 - Does your logo differentiate you from the competition?
Another key principle is that your logo should be memorable. Since doves, hearts, etc., are so commonplace, that means that your hospice logo won’t stand out in a crowd.
Try this: go to Google Image and search for “hospice logo _____” (your state). I Googled several states – those with Certificate of Need and those without, those with a higher proportion of really large hospices and those with lots of smaller hospices. Every state has multiple hospices utilizing doves, butterflies and hearts within their logos. Even a few of the bigger, multi-state hospice companies use these images.
Even if none of the hospices in your direct service area share similar design elements, can you truly say your logo is unique? Unless you’re providing hospice care to winged creatures at the end of life, ditch the doves and butterflies.
Still Not Convinced You Need to Change Your Logo?
Then I double-dog dare you to engage in an unbiased review of your logo. What could it hurt? In fact, I’ve created a process Logo Evaluation Worksheet to make it easy.
First, put together a small short-term workgroup that consists of one person from:
Your board or advisory group
Your outreach or sales staff
An IDT member - ideally this would be someone new to your organization who has worked in other healthcare settings
The person responsible for developing business partnerships with hospitals, long-term care facilities or payers
Someone under the age of 30
The person responsible for your computer/IT needs or, if you outsource that, someone else who doesn’t work in patient/family care, marketing our outreach.
Next, bring them together for a 15 minute kick-off meeting to:
Give them a copy of this blog post and ask them to read it.
Task them with independently evaluating your logo using this worksheet I developed before the next (final) meeting.
Before you disband, schedule the final 1-hour meeting, ideally within the next two weeks.
Finally, convene one last meeting:
Ask someone within your organization who isn’t on the marketing team, and isn’t a “big-wig” (someone at the higher levels of your organization) to facilitate a discussion of among the participants using my worksheet as a guide.
Invite your marketing team and anyone else who needs to buy in to the final decision regarding the logo, to attend as observers (encourage them to take notes, ask clarifying questions, but not engage in dialogue about the strengths of your current logo).
If possible, have a computer, connected to the Internet and a projector to display your current logo and logos that the participants like from other industries.
Thank everyone for their input and collect the worksheets they completed so you can refer to them as you move forward.
Depending on the results of the evaluation start brainstorming ways to upgrade or redesign your logo. If you have an in-house designer or someone you regularly use and plan to keep using, invite him/her/them to the evaluation meeting.
Creating a new logo and brand identity is a great way to re-introduce your organization to your community and everyone you work with.
If you’d like to talk about ways to upgrade your look and feel, shoot me an email and let’s talk about ways I can support your work as a leader in hospice branding, marketing and messaging.