|January 26, 2013||
How to Improve Your Integrative Medicine Brand Identity
By Glenn Sabin
Your center’s brand identity tells health consumers who you are and what you do. It is the first thing 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: It is important to 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 targeted audience who you are and why you matter by following these guiding principles:
CHOOSE YOUR BRAND NAME CAREFULLY
It’s 2013—CAM is Dead. Today, the term “alternative medicine” is mostly associated with marijuana dispensaries and certain interventions used in lieu of effective, evidence-based, 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 that provide fodder to the skeptics still unable to differentiate it from the inexorable march that is evidence-based integrative healthcare.
It’s a whole person, “holistic” approach we are 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 have to, in your tagline, is perfectly fine. But leave it out of your brand name.
“Integrative medicine” and “integrative health” are the most contemporary and 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 take a good close look at the current meanings of these words to see if this is primarily what your clinic offers. Feel free to run them by me and I’ll share my, um, unbiased opinion!
A generic name for your entity is not useful. A nonspecific entity name fails to distinguish your brand (center). Moreover, you cannot easily trademark generic names to keep others from using. This happens in the business world and can lead to consumer confusion and potential legal problems. But 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 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 post. 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.
If you are developing a private clinic and your exit plan—how you will eventually exit your private practice—is to launch the center; build it up over five years and move to Tahiti to perfect your golf game, than do not put your own name on the door. This can understandably be hard to refrain from 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 the exit process. It’s your good name; would you want a new operator’s less than stellar reputation attached to it?
Choose Taglines Carefully
A tagline can help but is not always required. If your brand name can be adequately communicated in just a few words, then leave it out. But if you do include a tagline, make sure it works. It needs to reinforce who you are and your unique delivery of integrative healthcare.
AVOID POOR LOGO DESIGN
Everyone seems to have a second cousin whose kid is a terrific graphic designer. Or you may feel that now is the chance to express your long suppressed creativity and burning desire to create the ideal logo (aka brand mark) for your center that will stand the test of time. But please, please leave this important process to an actual brand identity professional!
You don’t want to pinch pennies when it comes to the design of your logo. Don’t be tempted by the myriad websites that offer 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. Even then there’s no guarantee that you will 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 and their friends for opinions on the development of 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. Your time may be better spent in clinic or working on other aspects of your business, rather than managing your own brand identity project with cut-rate, and usually less effective service providers.
The Creative Brief
Any decent brand identity firm will provide what’s called a creative brief. Therein lots of important questions will be asked about the nature of your clinic, the message you want to convey to the public, your preferences for color, shapes, typography and more. Take the time to carefully answer these questions to inform the design process and ensure the best possible result. This iterative process requires your participation and ongoing feedback.
Measure Twice, Cut Once
The logo development itself is actually the least expensive part of the process. Once you have this in place, you will create signage, myriad collateral and even products proudly displaying your logo—your new brand identity. Moreover, the design of the logo—shape, color, look and feel—will also inform the general design (or redesign) of your website and all other designed components, both electronic and physical, connected to your integrative brand. All this other stuff tends to very quickly dwarf the investment of the actual logo itself. Before you commit to all this expense, make sure you have the most appropriate and effective brand mark that will withstand the test of time.
A Serious Contender—By Design
The average health consumer may not be able to articulate what makes for good design but most folks know it and feel it, when they see it. They can differentiate between 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 logo should result in an identity perceived as strong as, or better than, your largest competitor. It helps communicate that you are a major player in the field.
APPLY YOUR BRAND IDENTITY CONSISTENTLY
I visit a lot of integrative medicine facilities, both small and large and 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, the type and color palette differs; some may be skewed to fit in a particular space. It can be messy and confusing, especially to prospective clients.
Most often it is best to have both a vertical and horizontal iteration of your logo, in color and black and white, for use in different applications. Importantly, your logo needs to be scalable—easily readable and sharp looking in both small and large sizes.
After approving but BEFORE using your new, well-designed logo, it is wise to invest in a logo style guide. An example of a logo style guide can be found here. Will your logo be featured on a partner website, sponsored event or t-shirt for the local 5K marathon charity? A logo style guide helps ensure that anyone who touches your logo—your core brand identity—does so by following your established rules for its application. If you would like to see FON’s logo style guide, contact me and I will email you the file.
Your brand identity is a smart investment that should endure and pay dividends for years. Working with a brand identity expert, and carefully following these core guiding principles, will result in a strong identity that your center can proudly display and leverage for many years to come.
About FON Therapeutics
FON is a leader in business and clinic development strategy for integrative medicine and oncology centers. With a focus on building patient volume via sustainable business models, FON develops marketing, messaging, referral, experiential and partnership solutions that truly engage. Contact us today to learn more.
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