University hospitals, hospitals, and medical practitioners in community practices are increasingly concerned with their own placement in the market. If they want to act economically, it is necessary to sell not only the necessary medical care, but also additional offerings, which are often common in wellness treatment centers. Hospitals, medical practices and care facilities carry out marketing, develop logos and try to present their brands in such a way that patients trust them and recognize them. The following article examines which principles need to be followed when building and protecting a brand.
The competitive environment surrounding healthcare has radically changed in recent years. The healthcare fund, which is fundamentally regulated and funded by health insurance companies, cannot pay for many of the services available today, which go well beyond basic medical care. Further services are “sold” to the patient, often privately, by doctors and hospitals separately.
Medical and technical progress is increasing rapidly – as is the number of treatment options and the increasing specialization of the medical profession. At the same time, the requirements of the technical equipment of hospitals and practices are growing, which increases costs. This results in a fundamental, structural change in the healthcare landscape: Instead of doctors’ individual practices, community practices or medical care centers are increasingly forming. Hospitals are also increasingly being operated by large private carriers.
In this far more private environment, each hospital and medical practice, regardless of size and legal form, but also every nursing facility and every other provider of medical or nursing services, must stand up to the competition and position itself. A consistent and effective marketing strategy is therefore necessary.
It is important to be recognized by potential patients or clients and to be linked with certain values and/or special services. It is necessary to create a transportable image under one brand or, said another way, under one “roof”.
The brand is a sign that serves as a source of inspiration and quality for the company (hospital, practice, institution) or for a specific product or service of the company. The trademarks must be individually developed for each company and for each product, and the image, i.e. the brand message, which is to contain the sign, must be conveyed to the (potential) customer/patient.
The brand messages must be communicated in a clever way to make them known in the market and to enable them to be recognized again.
A successful brand strategy makes an offer visible, conveys messages and allows for an identification with the values that the sign conveys. Patients should gain confidence through the positive perception of the brand and feel comfortable with the offer. They should have the feeling that they have found the right place for themselves and their health concerns.
Achieving this goal requires the development, protection and enforcement as well as communication of the brand directly to the desired target patient/customer.
First off, the development of a sign that can convey the desired brand message for the company or the product designated by the brand is necessary. To these ends, the following is required:
Most hospitals and care facilities already have elements of a brand. Not infrequently, there is a name and a logo. These are also regularly used and communicated – for example on homepages, flyers, stationery and business cards. Often it is a sign for the entire company. The development of trademarks, or designs, for individual services or areas of a company is less common.
However, the protection and protectability of a trademark is often not sufficiently deliberated. Even if it seems logical to approach brand protection only after branding, this course of action carries risks. The legal requirements for registering the IPR should be taken into account when developing the brand name and logo. Otherwise, it may happen that a design, which has already been developed and established in the company, will be rejected in the application to protect the trademark. Much worse, though, there is hardly any way to deal with the use of the non-protected design by a third party.
Especially in the case of the (otherwise) successful development and use of a non-protectable logo/design, there is, in particular, the danger of being imitated and thus having to share the design’s luster.
The use of a self-developed design that has not been checked to see if any third party has the right to the design or parts thereof or to similar designs may be prohibited by third parties who can exercise their own rights to the design. In addition, the third party can demand a considerable amount of damages in certain cases.
Moreover, it is particularly important in the sensitive start-up phase of a brand to be able to protect the logo/design effectively against imitators. For registered trademarks, claims to stop the use of similar or similar designs are much easier to enforce than for unregistered designs. This is because, as a rule, for registered brands there is no need to provide separate evidence that the design is used as a company or product design. Such proof can be quite difficult with new non-protected logos or designs.
Last but not least, the designs and logos developed and optimized for a company and its products must be communicated, i.e. with the brand message they convey, to the potential patients. For this purpose, meaningful communication channels should be researched, through which appropriate communication of the trademark should take place as regularly as possible.
To implement a brand strategy and effective brand protection, the following approach is recommended from the outset:
Christine Vock, Liane AllmannSave as PDF
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