Think Carefully About Suboptimizing Your Brand!

One of the keys to establishing a strong and meaningful brand is consistency. A surefire way to become inconsistent is by “suboptimizing” your brand by focusing on the parts, rather than the whole. Or, in other words, by having a tough time deciding “who you want to be.”

This occurs often in the health care industry, where large system brands will, in some cases, subvert the “system name” to focus on individual specialties. The problem with this is twofold:

1) It takes a great deal of time, effort – and money – to build a strong system brand which “in theory” should provide a overall identity to all of the sub-parts.

2) Tearing down the system brand into several sub-components is not only *more* costly, but creates “cognitive dissonance” on the part of target audiences who in the healthcare industry. As patients, for example, we potentially have health care needs that span all of the specialities within the system – from cardiac to primary care to radiology, etc., etc.  Trying to “sell” patients on individual specialties is more difficult, costly – and potentially confusing – than trying to “sell” or brand the system.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s okay for organizations to promote their components – for health care systems to promote their individual services, for retail stores to promote their individual departments, for consulting firms to promote individual areas of specialty.

Problems occur, though, when these subparts wish to develop identities of their own, rather than remaining part of the overall identity – or brand. So you see health care organizations developing “centers of excellence” with their own “names” and “logos” – or consulting firms developing “divisions.”

Sometimes it makes sense to develop separate brands within an organization. Proctor and Gamble has been very successful doing this, with competing brands fighting against each other even in the same categories. Tide vs. Era in the laundry category, for instance, or Pampers vs. Luvs in diapers.

But sometimes it doesn’t.

The decision about whether or not to break a parent brand into subparts is one that requires thoughtful – and strategic – consideration. The “right” answer will be based on a clear direction and focus for the organization (e.g. knowing who they are or who they want to be) as well as a thorough understanding of the target market(s) they wish to serve.

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