Gain deeper knowledge through our adaptive insights™ communities. See the world through your customer's eyes.

Back To Views

Branding Keynote with Bill Gullan, President of Finch Brands – NERUCA Conference 2019

November 12, 2019

| Bill Gullan |

Tune in today on Real-World Branding Podcast for the Northeast Regional Urgent Care Association Conference’s Branding Keynote. Bill Gullan, President of Finch Brands, walks through the foundations of branding and what makes a great brand. If you like our podcast, please subscribe!

Download the slides to the presentation here!

Podcast: Download Subscribe: iTunes RSS

Podcast Signup


Bill: Thank you for welcoming me.

Bill: What is it, first of all, when it comes to branding? There are a lot of different uses of the word. It’s a bit of a frustration I think for us, I must confess. Is branding how many Twitter followers you have? Is it your colors? Is it your name? Is it something bigger than that? My experience and our experience suggests that in defining branding some folks define it too high and others define it too low. What I mean by that is if it’s too high level of … So it’s all encompassing concept, it loses the sort of practical side. How you build strong brands. If it’s too low, too limited, you miss some of the big and fundamental stuff that from our perspective equates to activating the full potential of branding.

Bill: You all in the urgent care space deal with quite a lot. You have stake holders on the inside. Team members, investors, leadership, partner practitioners across the spectrum. And you certainly have your patients and their families.

Bill: So we define branding in the following way. A brand is the sum total of how we define and express ourselves. It is fundamentally wrapped up in how we assert difference and how we establish expectation. Branding is a discipline. Dates back as we all probably can intuit to the agrarian economy and branding cattle. If we think back to how that came about, it was really about you put a brand on cattle. That’s mine, that’s yours. It was really about difference. This cow who’s wandering waywardly has my brand, brand of my farm. That means he or she is ours. And soon, when the yield of that cattle came to market in town, people were able to associate certain characteristics with theirs in terms of taste, in terms of consistency.

Bill: From it’s very, very early days, the purpose of branding was to assert difference. And so all the things that we do to assert difference and define ourselves are from our perspective fair game when it comes to building brands.

Bill: Branding incorporates, but is much greater in our opinion, than marketing artifacts. Again, our name, our logo, our social media, our brochures. All the things that we use to communicate with the outside world and put forth a message by us. These are artifacts of a brand, though they in and of themselves do not represent the totality of what the brand is and where we as business and brand builders should be focusing. And importantly, and we’re going to spend a lot of time on this today, the best brands are built inside out. I think if we look to our lives as consumers, we think about the brands with which we really connect, and in whom we place a great deal of trust, for whom we have a great deal of affection. Some part of that most likely is based upon our ability to access or even sense some of the most deeply held beliefs. And how we’re treated by that brand, that company, the people who represent it. And so there is no substitute for internal education and engagement when it comes again, we’re expressing difference and we’re setting expectations. Who’s delivering that but our team? They need to feel, certainly just as deeply as consumers can and patients can.

Bill: So with that definition, here’s a framework for how we at Finch work with our clients to build brands. This is called the brand pyramid. The best brands are built deliberately and they’re built bottom up. And by the way, don’t feel any need to replicate this. I’ve told Nicole and the conference anyone who wants the slides can have them. This is fully open source. The steps, and by the way we all know that the world doesn’t stop while me might think about the brand, so this isn’t always done in a perfect series of steps. Sometimes you double back. Sometimes you focus in on an area that you think is high opportunity or high challenge, and then you go back.

Bill: But the best brands have these levels. At the risk of losing my audible quality, let me know if you can hear me, winning companies are built bottom up starting with purpose and mission. We’ll have a section here on what purpose and mission is and how to build one. This is about the fundamental ideas that organize us and galvanize us. Reason right to exist. Why we get up every day and why we put all of ourselves as business builders and practitioners and as everything else into this thing that is our passion.

Bill: Layered on top of that is our positioning and strategy. Who’s our target, what are the attributes that we offer, what makes them different, and how do we use our position to pull ahead the field? And to again assert ourselves in our difference. On top of that is our service offering. What do we offer? What do we not offer? Again, for whom is it targeted and how is it delivered?

Bill: On top of our offering is what we might call generically sales and distribution. How do we insure that we’re in the right places, at the right time to sell and deliver our services?

Bill: And then on top of that is how we execute. How do we deliver? Do we live up to it? How do we tactically drive demand from patients? How do we recruit, and retain, and reward key team members? And so it was probably a decade, and we’re going to dwell on each of these a little bit, it was probably a decade of introducing the brand pyramid to clients and prospects before I think we realized that the left side of this may be how we build when we want strength and solidity, deliberateness if that’s a word, at every level. But those key stakeholders experience these steps in exactly the inverse order.

Bill: So if we’re building up the left, those whose ultimate assessment of us, indicates their level of loyalty and value to us, experience these steps in exactly the reverse order. So the first thing is, they interact with us at an executional level. And they get to decide whether or not they’re compelled by how we execute. If they are and they go a little bit deeper, they interact with those, again generically, sales and distribution points. Our clinics, our call center, the folks who answer the phone or website. Whatever it is. Social media. And then they can decide whether or not they want to engage further.

Bill: Whether we’re making this interaction easy, convenient, stimulating, positive, powerful. And if so, they have a real deep interaction with and assessment of our offering and services we offer. Whether they have x-rays on site. This is the right place to go for this or for that. Do I have confidence in their ability to deliver and address the challenges that are in front of me? And if so, they go deeper. They get to decide us versus all of the other options. Primary care, ER, the other urgent cares around town. That’s when they’re accessing our positioning and really determining whether we are the right fit. Whether they would ever go anywhere else or whether they want to build a long term relationship with our brand and business.

Bill: The brands that reach the pantheon, really, are those where again they’re not going to cite a purpose statement or a mission statement word for word. But they’re going to feel it. And if you ask them what do you think the purpose of this organization is? The brands that really reach that level of being truly world class, are those where that experience really results in a strong connection and where the brand becomes an essential part of life.

Bill: So again, we’re going to touch on each of these steps one at a time, but in a perfect world we build our business, and our brand on the left side, and by having strength at every level and building brick by brick, we earn each successive level of trust and credit and connection and belonging coming down the side of the right. Let’s go through a little bit of this, and as we go today to make this real, we’re going to do it by way of case study in part. And our distinguished clients and friends Lynne Rosen and her team at PhysicianOne Urgent Care were an early client of ours in this space, actually predates Lynne’s opportunity as CEO slightly. We met her midstream and found tremendous joy and power in that. When the work began and we’re going to take you through some examples of it, you all may remember if you exist in this region that this was the brand.

Bill: Urgent Care Connecticut had five or six locations in and around various town centers in Connecticut and this was the brand. The name was Urgent Care Connecticut or at least the sort of visual and verbal identity. This was the name, the tag line was where the doctor waits for you. As we go through these different levels of the brand pyramid we’re going to talk a little bit about how we took this, and we is not the right word. This is the royal we. All of these processes are team efforts. This is not a consultant going to a mountain top, eight weeks later saying here’s the answer. And you know why? A, that’s not the right way to do this. But B that’s not the right outcome. Brands are built inside out. It needs to be participatory. It needs to harness the insight and the strength and the passion of the internal team to yield a strongly positive outcome which we believe we did in this case.

Bill: So let’s start at the bottom. Purpose and mission. By the way, a little sort of copywriting nit, this has for many, many years been known as vision mission. We at Finch and we’re not alone in this, have slightly evolved the language to reflect purpose as opposed to vision simply because our experience suggests that our clients find that to be more accessible. That folks understand purpose at a deeper level and what that word means and all that it can mean as opposed to vision, which in some cases can come across as a little fluffy and long term. This is if you’ve read, studied, or felt we’re going through a process of vision and mission identification process, this is what I’m talking about.

Bill: So first of all why does it matter? We’ve probably all seen or been part of organizations where this basically lived as a plaque on the wall and that was it’s underlying and ultimate significance. It is our belief, our emphatic belief that that’s not enough. Again, brands build inside out. Purpose and mission provide guidance for us day in and day out about what we stand for. About where the big priorities are. How to make the big bets when we decide about expanding. So again, why does it matter? In addition to being a central organizing principle for an organization or an institution, here’s why it matters. There’s data to suggest and … This is I think Ernst & Young data it’s hard to read the citation on the lower left, but purpose driven organizations by their definition perform financially and otherwise in a much more powerful and durable way than those for whom purpose is a plaque on the wall or not even that.

Bill: So fifteen times over fifteen years …500 with a clear and driving sense of purpose. 75% of leaders from purposeful companies state that purpose creates short and long term value when integrated with a business. And 84% of team members working for those organizations with that shared and palpable sense of purpose are engaged compared with only 32%. So it matters across the metrics that matter, which is financial performance, which is employee engagement and retention, and also executive clarity. If it matters, let’s think about how we operationalize it and then we’ll talk a little bit about how to build it or rebuild it or expand it.

Bill: Purpose and mission operationalized is really about our way. People talk a lot about culture and often, again, like the word branding, culture is sometimes used to capture everything. Culture is really just how we are. That’s what it means. What are the norms that we pursue? What are the expectations that we have of ourselves and others? How we are. It’s not what we do. Not what time we show up, but it’s how we act. How we behave. We’re going to talk within this section of how we elevate values along with purpose and mission to a level of privacy and power within an organization.

Bill: But a purpose and mission is about defining our way. So we define as we’ll get to this in a minute, customer centered purpose and mission. We define our values. We ratify them and then we live them, which means again plaque on a wall, that’s great, but that’s not enough. Our purpose and our mission and our values need to be effectively integrated into hiring processes, training, and rewarding. They need to be longitudinal concepts that are present day to day. Silently, but meaningfully. In conference rooms, in meetings, within HR processes, and certainly within all the activities of leadership. And then we measure against them. It’s not enough to measure financial performance, it’s not enough to measure wait times, it’s not enough to measure simply the sort of hard numbers of our performance. It is our experience and the data certainly bears it out, that the degree to which purpose, mission, and values are well understood and operationalized day in and day out are certainly leading indicators of financial and organizational performance.

Bill: So in addition to operationalizing it within key processes and within key leadership sort of functions, you got to live it. Purpose drives performance. And again, more than a poster or plaque on the wall, if it’s a real tool to drive strategy and operations, the power is so deep and so meaningful. So our aspirations are really defined and ratified within this process. Purpose is our why. Mission and values are our how. And then they inform very, very heavily how we operate. How do we act? What are the services that we deliver? If we’re determining whether or not to offer a new service, one of the key checkpoints is not just right to win within a market, or marketplace demand, but is this congruent with our purpose?

Bill: I was in a class going through a similar talk last week and we did our workshop and we were talking about … And I was working with students, this was at a graduate program at Temple University in Philadelphia where we’re located. Go Owls. We went through a process and we used a case study example for how purpose and mission impact product development. LinkedIn’s original, I’m not sure what it is now after they’ve been acquired, LinkedIn’s original vision or purpose was to create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce. If that’s your purpose, it’s pretty clear if someone comes with eight great ideas, what’s in and what’s out. That’s how purpose impacts what we deliver. And then obviously processes. In our world where we’re delivering services, people serving people, the processes through which we deliver those services have to be congruent. And with a strong purpose in mission and values we have the ability to make sure they are and to assess each and every policy, each and every process, the entire patient journey through the lens of whether it’s congruent or not with what we set forth as our why and our how.

Bill: So, how do we do it? Here’s some definitions for purpose, mission, and values. Purpose is a twinkling star. It’s a dream. It’s not something we’re necessarily going to achieve…is not purpose. Maybe a goal, but it’s not purpose. The role of purpose is to be that guiding star. To help guide big bets. To inspire everyone internal and external who touch the business. The timeframe for the right kind of purpose is a long term timeframe with an indeterminate end. Purpose isn’t designed to be reevaluated every couple of years. Mission can be. It should be. But purpose is a big idea.

Bill: We worked with Experity, we’ll get to that a little bit in the case studies. The purpose there is to power the patient centered healthcare revolution. It’s a big idea. It’s not to increase…., it’s not that. Those are obviously important to all of us. But purpose is a big sweeping meaningful idea that enables us to be wrapped up in something greater than day to day operations.

Bill: Mission is how we do it. Not to the level of strategic plan, not a marketing plan, we don’t do it through SEO, although that’s important of course. But these are the two or three main sort of driving focus points for everyone, for how we’re going to get that purpose done. It also helps guide day to day decisions, it answers a little bit more deeply these fundamental questions of how, and it’s ongoing. It makes sense to reevaluate and re ratify, and in some cases expand on mission during every major inning in the life of the business.

Bill: And then values. There are probably fifty things that we would want every member of our team to live every single day. Our values is about establishing the priorities within that fifty, whatever the rough number is. Sure, we want people to be on time, and we want them to care. We want them to smile. But within our values is where we elevate a handful of behaviors that we think are central to the culture we’re trying to build and how we seek to deliver on purpose and mission.

Bill: So a couple of examples of this. A little bit more about values. There has been a lot of values around how values ought to be enunciated and there is some data, ….well regarded business leader and thinker and data to support it that values should be phrased as verbs. It’s not enough to say innovation because as a team member sitting at the front desk or whatever, I don’t know what the heck that means to me or for me. What does that mean I need to be doing today? How do I know whether I’m living it or not? Here’s some examples of values from the various companies that are sort of circulating around a particular set of issues and norms, but that are well phrased in ways that give a little bit more to the team for how to live it.

Bill: Facebook originally move fast and break things. What they were trying to say was we’re going to innovate and we’re going to focus on the ideas that come out and we’re not going to harp on or punish the fact that some of these won’t work. Now we know in the news they shouldn’t really be breaking things and so as they evolved and became as big as they are they took break things off. It’s just move fast. That’s one of their values.

Bill: Zappos be adventurous, creative, and open minded. AWeber which is a, for those who know it, a software program for small businesses to handle variety marketing tasks, listen to what people say about us, invite feedback, et cetera, et cetera.

Bill: So when we think through values, let’s think about them as verbs and as ideas. Have the conversation that matters is an example. Act like an owner. See the world through the patient’s eyes et cetera, et cetera. But whatever the right values are, the whole purpose, purpose small p, of building our values is to elevate the behaviors that we want every team member to think about. One of the, perhaps apocryphal, though most powerful stories in this vein was when President Kennedy went down to Houston and he asked the janitor, “What do you do here?” The janitor said, “Mister President I’m here to put a man on the moon.” That is an example of purpose being deeply felt within an organization. I think it’s true, I hope it’s true. It’s a great story.

Bill: Back to our friends at PhysicianOne going through the process, and again this was not exactly a perfectly linear brick by brick, as we worked with the leadership team under Lynne’s direction to ratify purpose and mission. Purpose to be the first choice in urgent care by delivering an exceptional experience to every patient every time. Mission we provide uncompromising convenient care with a team of friendly and compassionate professionals that treat you with the kindness and respect you deserve.

Bill: A couple of things to call out there because within this, and you know pretty …whatever, within this are points of emphasis for that business. Exceptional experience, it wasn’t just positive health outcomes. In here was the ratification of a focus on experience. Every patient every time. A focus on consistency and repeatability of process. Within mission uncompromising convenient care, friendly compassionate professionals. A focus on hospitality, treating you with kindness and respect. Again, we may solve that finer that hurts, but that wasn’t what they chose to elevate here. What they chose to elevate was the core elements, and is the core elements of a hospitality business that happens to revolve around high quality medical care. Every word intentional within this process.

Bill: So that’s a little bit about purpose and mission and values. Let’s move onto positioning. And again sort of that classic positioning story if you read the immutable laws of positioning for those who are kind of marketing things like I am, one of the examples they use for what positioning is, is they walk down the toothpaste aisle. They said, “All right, you got your Crests of the world that are clearly positioned for families and bright smiles and happy kids and gleaming white teeth. And then you have Close-Up that’s positioned for people who are seeking to move in the romantic direction. Who are thinking about how their smiles look and smell, come across when they’re close to someone in whom they’re interested. I’m not a chemist but I imagine the ingredient profile is probably almost a complete overlap. Close-Up, Aquafresh, Crest.

Bill: But positioning is different. Who’s your target? What rationally and emotionally are you seeking to activate within them? And on that basis, how do you seek to bond deeply and connect with them? We use a, and we’re going to a little bit of this in the workshop that comes after I think for the leadership tract, we use a methodology within positioning that we call brand ladder. It comes from the consumer packaged goods world many of my clients come from. Campbell’s Soup, Target, Kimberly Clark and these other department colleagues. Not clients, clients too, but we place a high premium in building our own team with folks who’ve been operators at brand driven consumer facing environments. This is one innovation, this is the one, but I’ll walk you through it.

Bill: We’re again do something like this is the workshop. The bottom of the brand ladder is core needs. Either through intuition or through research. What do our stakeholder groups value, and expect, and need from their interaction with us? There are three different, doesn’t have to be three, but there are three different categories of this because we recommend very strongly and emphatically that our clients include, let’s say urgent care. Patient, as well as employee, team member certainly. And then perhaps stakeholder whether it’s primary care physician or whatever. Let’s define through research or intuition what those needs are. And then let’s layer on top of those needs how we deliver against them. What are the attributes or qualities we bring that enables us to meet those needs. And then let’s layer on top of that what are functional benefits that are bestowed? Everybody has a head and a heart, right? The functional benefits are those that are more rational. This would be where things like short wait times, high quality care, etc. might exist. Functional needs.

Bill: But then we ladder up from the head to the heart to understand what are the emotional benefits so if this layer is what those key stakeholder groups need. And this layer is how we deliver against those needs. The functional benefits are what rationally do they benefit from our delivery, and then emotionally how do they benefit? Confidence, belonging, savvy, etc. What are the values that are associated with that? And then from there you ladder up to what the brand’s core idea ought to be. And so going through this process and again we’ll go through an abbreviated version of it in our next session, this helps us in some ways not fall into the trap of being too functional and too rational. It helps us perhaps not fall into the trap of being too focused on the species of urgent care, but on what we distinctively do well and seek to elevate. And it also helps us work through a positioning message. Incorporating an idea that lands at the right blend of head and heart.

Bill: So this was the positioning statement for internal use originally with PhysicianOne before I get there, talk a little bit about the process. When Urgent Care Connecticut was acquired by an investor, that’s when we were engaged, and the first thing we did was a study of their patients and of consumers in the regions that they operated. We did focus groups that I moderate. We did surveys. We did a variety of different things and what we found fundamentally was that patients at that point, this was maybe 2015, patients knew roughly what urgent care was. They knew that it was a place where you could walk in, the wait times weren’t long, and they could take care of a certain range of medical needs. They knew what the species was. What they didn’t know and what they had some trepidations about was the quality of the care they were going to receive once they went. And so it just so happens our client at the time Urgent Care Connecticut had a really, really strong clinical story.

Bill: Founded by an ER doc, joint commission certification, strong presence of doctor level provider in clinic. And so we decided that we really wanted to not just say, again nothing personal, FastMed or Walk-In or whatever, we didn’t want to define the species, we wanted to define what us, what we were uniquely and what we did uniquely well and where our focus uniquely was and is. And so this is not externally facing copy, this was never in a brochure, but the sort of positioning statement was doctors are our difference. Right now it only matters if the care you receive is the highest quality came directly from the research. Our centers are managed by experienced doctors, the expertise, warmth, and integrity your family can trust, top 1% certification, et cetera.

Bill: And so no mystery perhaps that we leaned where we did for the name of the business because, and we’ll get to naming in a minute, one of the things that names do, they don’t say everything, but they say something. More than hey, we have detergent and we’ll clean your clothes. They say something more about us, what makes us different and what we specialize in. As urgent care has proliferated, none of us are going to come to a message where we’re the only one in the world, that we can say that just doesn’t really exist. What we certainly get to choose, what we want people to think of us and what attributes we consider to be fundamental to our appeal and the basis on which we seek to compete and connect and win.

Bill: So as we work through brand DNA those proof points on that ladder we might call them brand DNA. Professional, personal, comprehensive, cooperative, convenient. All laddering up to this positioning. Doctors are our difference and a desire on the part of the brand to lean into clinical excellence because A, the market was seeking that, and B this company just so happened to uniquely deliver it. So the right positioning is really at that intersection. What is the market seeking, and what do we uniquely value? That’s the point to define when it comes to positioning.

Bill: So then within the process, this is a fun one, it really is, a great personal … I started my career in the 90’s on naming. I was working with a company in North Carolina that was naming. Big, GM, Volkswagen, Microsoft, these big brands naming products and services. So I loved naming. It’s hard. Naming triggers a lot of hope and a lot of fear. There’s a lot to it. For any of you banged your head against the wall coming up with lists, that’s kind of how it works. But you get there, hopefully. When it came time to work through the naming process that led to PhysicianOne, these are some of the things we share with our clients when they embark upon naming processes.

Bill: First, funny for a guy to say this for a guy who does a lot of naming and loves it, but names aren’t great. It’s brands that are great. Businesses that are great. So when clients in the 90’s would come to me and say you’re naming something for us, we want the next Windows and the next Amazon, that isn’t what they wanted. They wanted the next Windows or Amazon business or brand. It wasn’t the name.

Bill: And if you look at the inspiration and origins of some of the names that folks might say today are some of the best, Amazon I’m sure at the time when some poor consultant like me said, “Jeff,” and I’m sure this isn’t actually how it happened but, you could very easily imagine someone today doing an equivalent of an Amazon naming process. People saying, “I don’t know what the heck that even means.” Well, what it was in this case was a metaphor for selection. The longest river in the world. From A to Z. And so what it became was this place where you can get almost anything under the sun.

Bill: Nike, familiar story, named for the Greek goddess of victory. I’m sure at the time people would say, “What the heck does that even mean?” But for whatever reason saw something in it. Starbucks is a minor character in the book Moby Dick and it has become the go to beverage institution across the world.

Bill: The name in and of itself, what it lacks I guess is strong negatives. It lacks something offensive or linguistically inappropriate, or at the time a legal conflict. But most importantly with the naming processes is we tell our clients focus on what it could be when we build an incredible brand around it and you execute an incredible business around it. Naming is about potential. It’s not about thunder bolts from on high saying, “Oh my goodness, that’s it.” That never happens. Maybe that’s a consultant moving the goal post but that never happens. The right names are those that we rally around and move forward to build strong brands around.

Bill: Verizon, I remember this one well. GTE and Bell Atlantic had merged, most of you are younger than I am, and mobile was just beginning to take hold and I think they both knew they were long distance legacy phone providers and neither of them was going to be the right brand under which to carry the banner of the change in telephony towards mobile. So they decided heck, we got to do a new name. And I remember the day that this launched, I was in the naming business and everyone was talking about it. I hated it, you can’t pronounce it. What is it? Verizon? What does it even mean? Well, ver is the Latin word for truth based on horizon. So true horizon. This was a view of the future. This is what’s called an analogism. We may like it or we may not like it but they’ve built an incredible business and brand around it. So we encourage you when you’re in naming process to not be too hard on yourselves and to focus on potential, not expecting this incredible thunderbolt from on high because again, it doesn’t happen that way.

Bill: But six months later if you’ve chosen a name that lacks negatives but has potential and you build a strong brand around it you’re going to be really happy and you’re not going to even imagine or remember that it could have been anything else. That’s how names work.

Bill: So here’s some examples, no offense, of prevailing and powerful names in the urgent care marketplace today. These were some of the companies that we were looking at going through that process with PhysicianOne. And one of the things I think you can find, and some of these great businesses, MedExpress, FastMed, CareSpot, CareNow, Fast Pace, Patient First, it was our belief that each of these names and many others in the category at the time, were focused on species level care.

Bill: So if you think about taxonomy, if we were going to name a new detergent, all of us, everyone knows what detergent is, right? We would probably not name it Clean Clothes. We would probably not name our new sneaker brand Run Fast. We would probably try to find something distinctive. So my critique, not of these businesses or of these brands really but of these names at the time was that they’re missing an opportunity. Because they’re defining the category of urgent care and that’s a category we all inhabit. MedExpress, the species, is about fast medical care. FastMed, so reverse the words in the idea. When you think about naming, it is our belief and it would be our strong recommendation to try to go beyond, particularly now that urgent care has taken hold in the way that it has, but even our data again back in 2016 suggests that the patient sort of knew what it was. So we didn’t in the name have to tell them necessarily what it was.

Bill: What we wanted to tell them through the name was what this company was going to do differently. What was the commitment we were going to make that was in our opinion distinctive from their other options in those markets. And that’s why PhysicianOne was born. By the way, when we go through a naming process couple of different ways to look at if you’re going through this. Some people, in fact many people, learn about and transfer names verbally. So you should always look at what it looks like on a sign of course and on letterhead, and I know that Lynne has scolded me gently that it’s hard to fit on some signs, and that’s, we’ll take that. That’s on us PhysicianOne because it’s a little longer, but we also want to talk about how it is verbally. I’m going down to such and such. So the way that we test that is we leave a voicemail. We read it with all the names. “Hi, this is Lynne from PhysicianOne calling to follow up, please give me a call when you get a chance.” Naming has to pass a visual test.

Bill: Looking good on a sign or on a conference room, but it also has to pass a verbal test. And so the name within this process PhysicianOne and the logo urgent care was designed to lean into our positioning of doctors and medical and clinical excellence being a differential characteristic that this brand sought to build on. It was reflected again in what consumers said they were seeking, the level of confidence they were seeking from their provider of choice in the urgent care market, and also the uniqueness’s of the founding and operational story of this brand new company. Very different, not saying better or worse, but it was our belief that this was a different take on naming compared to FastMed and MedExpress and others who were really defining the category. This was designed to build a brand.

Bill: You have the urgent care descriptor to define the category so you’re missing an opportunity if you don’t try to assert something with the name. Now the logo in this case is a proprietary icon, uses that sort of medical cross and I know that everyone litigious so there were a couple different things they needed to do to get that by the Red Cross folks but uses that familiar medical marker but with a one, a contemporary color palette that was deigned to pop on signs and in waiting rooms and on uniforms and on business cards and tested to do that across those variety of examples of use. And so PhysicianOne Urgent Care became the brand, became the identity.

Bill: A couple others that we’ve worked on recently in and around the category. This is a company called SouthStar Urgent Care. I won’t bore you with the entire backstory, I only have 22 minutes, but Lafayette Louisiana based. Different than Connecticut. Really the first mover in their town. Acquired by private equity, having growth strategy throughout the Gulf Coast in the Southeast, into markets that are historically underserved. So in this case urgent care provides that description and they place a slightly higher level of responsibility on educating their patient base what urgent care actually is.

Bill: But the founding story of this company, family business, strong southern roots, strong military background with incorporating social responsibility as strong level support for military causes and folks who are returning from tours abroad. They also were in a market where the primary existing urgent care businesses are delivered through hospitals and health systems. So the naming approach here, SouthStar. South to anchor in it’s geography, to convey something about Southern roots and family. And star to suggest excellence, to nod back to that sort of military tie and that really fundamental backstory. As well as data shows alliteration is more easily remembered and more fun to say. So SouthStar Urgent Care.

Bill: Another one that’s fun. They’ve got a table right out here, they got a sticker on my laptop that we’ve come through recently is with your friends at Experity. DocuTap PhysicianOne becoming one, the naming process very fast, very emotional as you might imagine. Experity in this case was designed to do a couple of things. One, as noted, the purpose of this company, this merger, is to power the patient centered healthcare revolution. And we were speaking through the lens of providing positive patient experiences every day, and in every way. And so Experity is drawn from the notion of experience, not just service, but providing a great experience to patients and providers. Experity, expertise, agility, integrity, this is analogism meaning it’s a new word so it’s legally available, and so the goal was to create a flow, a syllabic balance, a rhythm, and an embedded meaning that would enable Dave Stern and others to tell the story of this really powerful company. So that’s a little bit about naming.

Bill: Obviously when you think about the practical benefits of how to execute, you got to think about some things like signage. PhysicianOne was a very strong town center sort of retail. Not medical office tower but retail experience so we needed something that would work across the range of signage applications. SouthStar similarly and so a lot to think about. I know you have design folks who help you think through this and within our processes. Really important to be practical and to in the case of PhysicianOne, we held it up, we held the last couple logos submitted in that process up on boards and our team drove by at 30 miles an hour to see what popped, because it had to. That’s the real estate strategy for them.

Bill: My last section before I pause for questions is about patient experience. A little bit about this story. We had gone through the branding process with PhysicianOne and Lynne had got hired, and the investor came back to us a few months after launch saying, “All right, now’s the time that we’re going to being to expand.” And so we believed in order to expand quickly and effectively, sort of need a prototype. What do our centers look like so that it’s easy to build the next one? And the next five and the next ten.

Bill: And I think they thought and I think we thought that that was primarily an aesthetic exercise. It was about fixtures and finishes, waiting room furniture and other things. And what we found actually when we did our research, and this was fun. We did surveys with patients from the last two weeks. We did walk around focus groups. I was walking around with six patients that had been there within the last week holding a clipboard while I took us through the journey, the experience, telling us what they liked and what they didn’t.

Bill: What we found was that it was less the stuff, I could see us all sitting at a table agonizing whether over in our waiting room we should have abstract art or third grade local class finger paints. We could agonize over that. What we found, I hope this provides some level of comfort is while we do want a consistent aesthetic because the best brands are consistently deliberate. There’s a reason FedEx trucks aren’t all different colors. The best brand consistency matters but at the same time our research showed it’s not as much the stuff as it is the staff. It’s about people, it’s about how you’re treated. And so we shifted that process and project to really focus on patient experience as opposed to just the aesthetic within clinics. And so the reason why it matters is that breakthrough performance again comes from brands being built inside out.

Bill: The voice of the company is how we live the brand, what matters to us. The voice of the customers, how we get them to love the brand, and that junction point, that overlapping Venn diagram there is where the key customer service principles live, customer experience principles live. And so you all may be familiar with this concept called net promoter score. It’s a very simple thing. Ask folks on a one to ten scale how likely they would be to recommend your clinic to someone else and the way that it’s scored is people who say nine or ten are promoters. They’re likely to be advocates for us on social media or to really give a recommendation that’s emphatic. Those from zero to six are likely to be detractors.

Bill: If you ask someone for a recommendation on where to go because your kid has a pinky that might be broken or whatever and they were a zero to six on this scale, they’re likely to say, “Eh,” or worse. The passives who were seven or eight are in the middle. They’re not strong evangelists, but they’re not going to rip us either. They’re likely to give a eh, it was okay. So the reason that promoter score and the way that you get to win is you take the percentage of promoters, nine and ten, and then you subtract the percent of detractors. And you leave the passives alone. So your net promoter score is the number that comes out of that.

Bill: One of the things that we found within our research and I remember in my own life when my wife was giving birth to our first child, she was at Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia. Going in if you’d asked me what would have constituted a great experience for her, I probably would have said healthy baby, healthy mom. Ten fingers, ten toes, all the normal stuff that were about outcomes. And we got that. But then that first night, she had a roommate who was loud and in pain, whose family was coming at all hours. Because of that they took the baby back, couldn’t sleep with mom overnight and they made me go home. And so coming out of that experience, I wouldn’t have rated it a nine or a ten, even though we got everything we thought that we wanted.

Bill: So patient experience, you get to a nine or ten it’s how people are treated. Not just how they’re treated clinically, not just because you helped them solve the problem or bring clarity. True promoter our data indicates is from how people are treated. So when we went through this process with PhysicianOne, the real focus of this was let’s shift the mindset from customer service to true customer patient experience.

Bill: Customer service is about soling transactional problems. That’s where customer service exists. The wait times too long, or I wasn’t happy with this, or I wasn’t happy with that, or how do I get there, or what are your hours? That’s customer service. That occurs when there’s a problem or a question. That’s what we do, which is fine. We need to be good at that. We need to deescalate situations. We need to reassure people. But customer service is an event. It’s a transaction.

Bill: Whereas, customer experience is always on. It occurs all the time. And it’s less what we do but how they feel. It’s atmosphere that we create. A set of principles that we operationalize. And it becomes consistent over a lifetime. It builds strong and deep relationships. So that process for PhysicianOne was really about a mindset shift from how do we provide service to how do we deliver experience.

Bill: And so I mentioned we went through all this research and I’ll never forget it, walking around these clinics with folks who’d been there within the last week with a clipboard walking through everything. Again, we did ask about waiting room furniture, we did ask about aesthetics etc. but again what we heard again and again was much more about experience than it was about service. Some of those key things and I’m not going to read them all, some of those key learnings were establish practices and site design for check in. In some cases started the visit on the wrong foot. We did a similar thing for SouthStar and we heard people hate bank teller glass as opposed to you’d have to wear a mask. They want to be able to connect with a person.

Bill: We also heard that people need to be discrete, or often want to be discrete. They need an area to sort of privately share what it is that’s on their mind. We also heard when it comes to moms who may be coming with a baby carrier or with a big handbag, have a place on the counter to put it down. Little things. Big things and little things. So desk design presented … the waiting room experience contributed to a level of discomfort. Couches for sick people to sit on comfortable close to each other. Fabric seating led our most sort of germaphobic, and everyone is when they’re sick, to think about cleanliness. Exam room experience was the number one driver for folks who were dissatisfied. There were some inconsistent experiences from doctor to doctor, or patients didn’t feel listened to because the computer terminals were desktops that the provider had to turn around to enter information. So even if they were trying to sit and look, connect, and listen, and care, if I said what was wrong. And that felt disjointed and it felt impersonal, despite the best efforts likely of the provider. It felt more like a hospital than a doctor’s office. And again, we were trying to lean into clinical excellence so it made sense that we were nurturing that environment.

Bill: But what the patient told us was a really strong desire for comfort and that balance of competence and humanity. Warmth and competence that drives the day in urgent care. Too many patient handoffs. Five different people in some cases. Discharge was inconsistent, often with a lack of closure. Doctors preferred for obvious lifestyle reasons to wear scrubs as opposed to coats but our entire positioning was about clinical excellence and consumers felt more comfortable and confident when they were seen by someone with a coat. So little things, big things. And so we’re able through this process to implement a bunch of opportunities, again small, medium, and large. As well as to develop that vision mission you saw what must feel like 300 slides ago for the things that we want to emphasize. This is why hospitality and experience was such a big deal that they wanted to elevate to a level of purpose, and mission, and values. Greeting area augmented, privacy screens, process changed.

Bill: They wrote down symptoms instead of having to announce them to all who were waiting. Wait time indicators. Check in desks redesigned to accommodate purses, etc. Some cases little things that make perhaps a big difference. If you’re trying to get to a nine or ten on that promoter score, often it’s a whole pile of little things that get you there. And so ultimately the most enduring I think delivered in this process was a map of the journey. And when we were mapping the journey, this is a very simple journey map. It was designed to be. With each of these five stages of a visit, what are the benefits that the patient was seeking? And then what was the function of that touchpoint? And then what was the feeling that we wanted to happen. And when we found policy differences or process differences that created conflict between function and feeling, we had to sort it out. And so this became a roadmap of how to progress the journey, how to live into that purpose and mission. How to make PhysicianOne all that we intended it to be from the very beginning.

Bill: So I will shut up. Everyone’s oh, bless him. I’m so sick of this guy. Couple key take aways, and then we’ll open for questions. Big ideas if we do say so ourselves within this process. The content of a brand is far bigger than just the external marketing artifacts. It’s more than a marketing endeavor, but it’s a set of organizing principles. Brands are built deliberately and absolutely have to be built inside out. Or in some cases if they’re built outside in, does it matter? Maybe. But we got to elevate both to be consistent and engaged.

Bill: When it comes to naming and other marketing artifacts, I would challenge each of you to transcend that simple definition of species the market already gets when it comes to how we name ourselves, how we express ourselves, how we talk about ourselves, and to really hone in on areas that are distinctive, at least in terms of priority. Easier said than done, but important. And then lastly this overall mindset and process shift from customer service to customer experience will hopefully help us look at things through a slightly different lens and help us strengthen certain elements of what we do in a way that’s ultimately possible.

Bill: Thank you for your time.

About The Author: Bill Gullan

Bill Gullan is the President of Finch Brands. His nearly 30-year (ugh!) career in branding has revolved around naming, messaging, M&A brand integration, and qualitative research. He has been with Finch Brands since 2001.

Access Our M&A Branding Playbook

Click here for a step-by-step review of M&A branding best practices.


Explore Our Blog & Podcast

Gain perspective on key topics shaping brands and businesses.

Sign Up For The Finch 5 Newsletter

Five thoughts, topics, and tips to inspire you.