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How to develop a brand before the product exists

How to develop a brand before the product exists

9 June, 2017

This is part 2 of a series of blog posts from our case study about a project we completed with Anne Arundel Medical Center (AAMC) to develop a comprehensive package that included a brand brief, messaging platform, and integrated marketing communications plan for their new clinically integrated [provider] network (CIN). (Read Part 1 here and sign up here (scroll down to the green box) to receive the case study when it is released later this month.)

It may surprise you but branding and design firms like ours are frequently challenged to develop a brand before the product itself exists – and often it’s because they need the brand to build the product. That was the case this time too!

Before Anne Arundel Medical Center’s clinically integrated [provider] network (CIN) could be launched to patients, the provider network itself had to be built. This required communicating with and recruiting new providers—yet there were no print or digital materials to support the effort. AAMC approached Strategic Design Studio requesting a foundation upon which a website and other marketing communications materials could be developed. Once created, the website and marketing materials would support further development of the CIN.

According to Loren Farquhar, AAMC’s Director of Marketing Communications, “It was really important to find someone reputable with strong experience who we could trust. This was the inception—the brand, the value proposition. It was important foundational work.”

As with most projects, there were special considerations to address, which influenced the scope, process, and deliverables for the project.

1. The product didn’t exist yet! AAMC needed marketing collateral in order to continue developing its product (the CIN), but acknowledged the challenge inherent in developing material for a product that is not yet complete. This alone made it difficult for AAMC, initially, to define the project scope. In cases like these, it’s not unusual for the scope to begin as one thing and evolve into something different. In fact, sometimes our Facilitated Discovery Process reveals deeper needs, so flexibility and commitment to the right solution are key.

2. Which projects should they outsource? AAMC’s internal marketing group had more on its plate than could reasonably be completed in the necessary time frame, given their capacity. “It just wasn’t anticipated that the additional resources would be needed,” said Reneé Kilroy, Executive Director of the new Collaborative Care Network (CCN). “Then the network was up and running, and we needed the marketing materials NOW.”

So they had to decide how best to apply outside resources—either to several small projects or to one large one. Ultimately, AAMC decided it would be easier for them to manage external resources focused on one major project than multiple small projects. “We have a system that is growing at a time when we’re not adding more resources to support that growth,” said Josh Jacobs, AAMC’s Vice President of Strategic Planning & Decision Support. “For us it was a resource crunch.”

3. They needed a specialist who could bring dedicated time and an outside perspective. External resources are typically called in for one of two reasons—lack of time or lack of specialized expertise. In this case, both scenarios were in play to differing degrees. AAMC has a strong internal marketing team, but the existing project load exceeded the staff time available. In such situations, it’s typical for tactically-oriented projects to receive priority attention, while time for more strategic efforts is often considered a luxury.

The specialized expertise required for certain projects does not always exist in-house, either. This is particularly true for projects that may be more strategic in nature and are not repeated often. Even when such expertise is available internally, an outside perspective is sometimes preferred in order to introduce new ideas or validate existing ones. “It was important to me,” said Jacobs, the V.P, “to find a partner that could be an extension of our team and that could fully support such a high priority effort.”

To see how it all turned out, be sure to sign up for our newsletter so you don’t miss a single thing. Everything will be delivered directly to your inbox, including the brand new case study.

Upcoming posts in this series include:
• How a scope of work evolves
• Marketing to multiple audiences
• 3 Keys to Key Messaging Success
• 3 Goals of Any Comms Effort: Efficiency, Consistency & Extensibility

In the meantime, you can find our archive of past white papers here, including:
• Telehealth: How to make it a seamless extension of your brand
• Digital Marketing 101 for Healthcare Organizations: how to get started
• 4 Questions for a Successful Healthcare Communications Project
• Everyone Builds the Brand
• Organize and Promote Your Health Campaign in 5 Easy Steps
• WHAT TO DO…when your external audience will see your internal healthcare messages
• Video: The Strategic Healthcare Solution

And if you are launching a CIN or any other initiative that needs anything from key messaging to an integrated communications plan, let’s talk.