One of the costs of getting older is seeing your parents get older, and that unfortunately means spending more time in hospitals. This past week, my father-in-law was admitted to the local hospital with various heart issues. The hospital is part of the Dignity Health family.
As I drove into the main entrance, in the planter ahead of the garage were three foot tall 3-dimensional orange letters greeting me with “CARING.” Passing one of the driveway fences, an attached orange sign declared “Every breath matters.” Stepping into the main lobby, more 3D oversized letters spelled out “HELLO.” Throughout the hallways, large posters offered various thoughtful messages and insights about Humankindness, which is the company’s main marketing theme (“Hello Humankindness”). I even saw the same great posters in the basement hallways which are mostly used by the hospital staff. You couldn’t miss the point. And just as important, neither could the staff.
This is what branding is supposed to be, not just a slogan or logo or corporate color scheme but a complete experience. “Environmental branding” unites the marketing messages presented in ads, commercials and online media with how the customer experiences the company at the street-level. More than that, it serves as a declaration of a company’s way of being. (You can’t promote that humankindness is important if you treat your families dispassionately, or worse.)
This idea of environmental branding is nothing particularly new, as everybody experiences it at their local Target or Starbucks or market or gas station. In essence, it is designed to get guests or customers (and employees) to align themselves with the brand while within the setting. Done correctly, it wins loyal and raving fans.
So, if environmental branding works in the retail setting, why not in other areas…such as hospitals. Or cemeteries or funeral homes? Can you think of better opportunities to ease a family’s worries and let them know they’re in the best of hands and at the same time set the business apart from its competition?
Part of what makes the Dignity Health program work so well is that it’s not being done by other hospitals. Most hospitals look and feel like most other hospitals. But Dignity hospitals deliberately look different and so it registers on the “audience” differently. That’s the value of being disruptive. Dignity has stepped outside the box and it’s paying off.
Unfortunately, most funeral providers are behind the curve when it comes to stepping outside the box.
Recently, we spoke with a funeral home owner whose own private office featured an amazing wall-mural of painted flowers. It was beautiful. It was art. The owner told me it was done by one of his family members. I asked him why he didn’t do the same thing in the lobby, where families could see something unique and wonderful. He said he was nervous about doing so because it’s not what families expect. I said that’s exactly why he should do it! And yet, he hasn’t.
Although cemeteries are by nature “environmental,” they often miss the marketing opportunities available throughout their parks, such as branding with unique messages and signs in the parking lot, at the entries, along fences, and in the office lobbies. All I often see are the hours of operation, days of flower & decoration removal and service directionals. Ah, what superb opportunities missed!
I would offer this up to anyone running a funeral home or cemetery: If there’s a Dignity Health hospital in your area, pay it a visit and see how they’re creating a complete experience – one that’s not too distant in spirit from what a cemetery or funeral home traditionally offers: care, compassion, dignity.
Dignity Health has done it right. Now it’s your turn.
Dan Katz is president, creative director of LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com. You can also connect with Dan on LinkedIn. See agency work via this link.