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How to Improve Your Integrative Medicine Brand Identity

Article written by Glen Sabin and brought to you in partnership with FON Therapeutics

Your brand name and logo are the first things a prospective customer (patient) typically encounters when searching for an integrative healthcare provider. Significant consumer confusion already exists around the terms and descriptors surrounding integrative healthcare. Consequently, you must clearly distinguish your brand identity from your local competitor’s, regardless if you are a small private clinic, hospital system or academic center.

Position your center for success by communicating your brand’s value proposition with concision and a high quality graphical aesthetic. Tell your target audience who you are and why you matter by following these guiding principles:

 

CHOOSE YOUR BRAND NAME CAREFULLY

Today, CAM is dead and the term “alternative medicine” is mostly associated with marijuana dispensaries and certain interventions used in lieu of effective, evidence-based or clinical outcomes informed, standard of care therapies. Don’t believe me? Try a quick Google search. I’ll wait.

If nothing else, the words “alternative” and “medicine” sitting next to each other are relics from the ‘70s—providing fodder to the skeptics still unable to differentiate it from the inexorable march that is evidence-based integrative healthcare.

ABSENCE OF EVIDENCE DOES NOT PROVE FAILURE OF EFFECTIVENESS

Credentialed and licensed naturopaths, chiropractors, massage therapists and acupuncturists do not comprise “alternative medicine”.  These modalities and whole systems are often alternative options to pharmaceutical and surgical approaches.

However, there is only one “medicine”—that which is safe and efficacious, even if not fully proven under the gold standard and reductive, double-blind randomized controlled trial paradigm, which was largely designed to investigate pharmaceuticals or one active agent in isolation.  It’s also important to note that the literature supporting several of these interventions continues to grow.

For the patient, it’s a whole person, “holistic” approach we’re aiming for.  But for your center’s name, let’s not harken back to 1960s vernacular. Dig? Using “holistic” in your collateral, communications, and, if you must, your tagline, is perfectly fine. But leave it out of your brand name.

“Integrative medicine” and “integrative health” are the contemporary, appropriate terms for most integrative-directed providers. However, there are certainly exceptions to this general rule, and the breadth and scope of integrative clinic brand names abound.

If you don’t like the word “integrative” attached to your brand, and insist on using words like “prevention” or “wellness” or “lifestyle”, or a number of other similar treatments, I encourage you to look closely at the current meanings of these words. See if this accurately describes what your clinic offers. Feel free to run them by me and I’ll share my, um, unbiased opinion!

Take Ownership
The use of a generic name for your entity is not helpful.  A nonspecific entity name fails to distinguish your brand (center) from your competitor’s.  Moreover, it’s difficult to trademark generic names to keep others from using. This happens in the business world and can lead to consumer confusion and potential legal problems. Nevertheless, if you look at FON’s national directory of integrative healthcare centers, here, you will see an abundance of generic names.

It’s always better to use a noun rather than an adjective in your organization’s name. “Quality Integrative Medicine” is neither easily trademarked nor protected. However, “Apple Integrative Medicine” is. That is, unless someone else has secured it since I wrote this!

My original thought was to grab a bunch of these existing names, i.e. “Center for Integrative Medicine” or “Holistic Healing & Wellness”, capture them along with a dozen or so logos (brand marks) and critique them in this e-book. But instead of calling folks out here, I am happy to have a conversation if you are launching a new program or simply want to update your name or brand identity.

When creating your name and tagline (optional) for your enterprise, keep it short and concise. Remember, less says more.

Plan Ahead

If you are developing a private clinic and your exit plan—how you will eventually exit your practice—is to launch the center; build it up over five years and then move to Tahiti to perfect your golf game, do not put your own name on the door. This can understandably be tempting for some folks, but you need to consider what your eventual exit may look like even when launching your business! Simply put, the name of your center, as well as the name of your corporate entity, can impact your eventual exit plan. It’s your good name; would you want it attached to a new operator’s less than stellar reputation?

Choose Taglines Carefully
A tagline can help but is not always required. Leave it out if your brand name can be adequately communicated in just a few words.  But if you do include a tagline, make sure it works. It needs to reinforce who you are and speak to your unique delivery of integrative healthcare.

AVOID POOR LOGO DESIGN

Maybe you feel that now is the chance to express your long suppressed creativity and burning desire to craft the ideal logo (aka brand mark) that will stand the test of time. Everyone seems to have a second cousin whose kid is a terrific graphic designer. Trust me when I tell you—it’s best to leave this important process to an actual brand identity professional!

Never pinch pennies when it comes to designing your logo. Don’t be tempted by the myriad Web Sites offering unlimited logo design for $49. Even using name-your-price auction sites like 99 Designs can be a frustrating process, especially if you don’t offer a respectable sum with which to motivate the better designers to participate on spec. There’s no guarantee even then you’ll come away with a quality brand mark. If your standards are high, I categorically recommend that you stay away from creative auctions.

Avoid Design by Committee
Don’t ask your entire staff, your kids, or their friends, for opinions regarding your brand mark. Keep your circle of advisers small, or you may end up going in big circles!

Don’t Be Penny-Wise, Pound-Foolish
Time is money. And your time is probably better spent in clinic or engaged in business aspects other than managing your own brand identity project with cut-rate and generally less effective service providers.

The Creative Brief
A quality brand identity firm will provide what’s called a creative brief. Therein, a lot of important questions will be asked about the nature of your clinic, the message you want to convey to the public, your preference for color, shape, typography and more. Take the time to carefully answer these questions to help inform the design process and ensure the best possible result. This iterative process requires your participation and ongoing feedback.

Measure Twice, Cut Once
The actual logo development itself is one of the least expensive components of brand identity creation. Once in place, you will create signage, myriad collateral and even products proudly displaying your logo—your new brand identity. Moreover, the logo design —shape, color, look and feel—informs the general design (or redesign) of your Web site and all other designed components, electronic and physical, connected to your integrative brand. The cost of all this other stuff tends to very quickly dwarf the logo investment itself. Before making this consequential commitment and incurring all this expense, make sure you have the most effective logo (brand mark) that will withstand the test of time.

A Serious Contender—By Design
Though the average health consumer may not be able to articulate what makes for good design,  most folks know it and can feel it when they see it. They can differentiate an amateur versus clean, professional aesthetic. You may not (yet) be as large as the well-established integrative medicine center a few miles away, but your  professionally designed new logo should create  an identity that’s perceived to be as strong as, or better than, your largest competitor’s. In effect, announcing that you have arrived!

APPLY YOUR BRAND IDENTITY CONSISTENTLY

I visit a lot of integrative medicine facilities both large and small, across types and disciplines. I see lots of logos, brochures, signage and websites. Yet I always find it amazing when an entity uses multiple iterations of their brand mark across applications. Often, there’s variation in typography and color palette usage; or logos skewed to fit a particular space. It’s often messy and confusing, especially to prospective clients. With respect to clearly branding your company, this matters greatly.

For various applications it’s usually best to have both a vertical and horizontal iteration of your logo in both black and white and color.  Your logo needs to be scalable—easily readable and sharp in both small and large sizes.

After approving but BEFORE using your new, well-designed logo, it is wise to invest in a style guide. An example of a logo style guide can be found here.  Will your logo be featured on a partner Web site, t-shirt for the local 5K marathon charity or at a sponsored event? A logo style guide helps ensure that anyone who touches your logo—your core brand identity—follows your established rules for its application. If you would like to see FON’s logo style guide, contact me and I’ll email it to you.

Your brand identity is a smart investment that should endure for years.    Working with a brand identity expert, and carefully following these core guiding principles, will result in the creation of a strong identity that your center will proudly display and leverage for many years to come.


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