5 Ways Brands Can Stand Out in Healthcare's Sea of Sameness

Plus, 5 companies that are doing it right

The world of healthcare is in desperate need of support. A global battle with Covid-19 has exposed cracks in the systems we rely on most. With record-high waiting lists, overcrowded facilities and neglect of "non-urgent" conditions, there's a dire need for alternative ways to help care for people around the world. This is about preventing as well as treating conditions. Health is 24/7. So the door is wide open for brands to step in, and step up, in all aspects of our lives. 

But to make a mark in health, you need to stand out—which is undoubtedly what GSK will be aiming for with its recent global relaunch. So, what are the biggest trends we can learn from in this rapidly evolving space to ensure brand survival? Here are five ways your health brand can make an impact and stand out—and five brands you can learn from.

Break existing codes.

Many industries are prone to homogeneity, with brands that are indistinguishable in terms of their messaging, tones of voice, color palettes and logos. But health is the ultimate sea of sameness. The industry has converged toward an ever more corporate, sanitary look and feel. As a result, looking within the health category for inspiration leads to a dead end. The value of looking at health brands is in identifying which codes to break. 

Apple breaks the codes naturally, extending its brand into health through its responsive technology and intuitive services. Leveraging its role as the central connector in people's lives, Apple aims to put the "future of healthcare in your hands," feeling distinctly tech-first in a way that's helpful and enabling rather than clinical. 

Be optimistic.

Health involves difficult topics. Unlike most other industries, the work being done in this space really is a case of life or death. But the issue is that brands tend to focus on the latter—the conflict and suffering experienced by people and the size of the challenge at hand. This shows up in language and visuals that depict health brands as fighting a losing battle. In this context, brands can stand out by feeling active and front-footed.

23andMe avoids framing its gene analysis service as a way to identify underlying health issues. Instead, its narrative is unmistakably positive, with the brand being built around health ownership, understanding and action. This sense of empowerment is captured by its slogan: "Welcome to you." 

Tell your unique story.

There's a vast range of work being done in health, optimizing and innovating everything from doctor's appointments to genomic sequencing and vaccine distribution. Every product or service brought to market has a unique origin story of its own. To stand out, brands should reflect the authentic technical and human aspects of what they do—their unique combination of science, technology and talent—in order to tell the stories that make them truly special. 

Deepmind grounds itself in its formative successes in computer games. Initially testing its A.I. on 49 different Atari games back in 2010, its AlphaGo program went on to be the first A.I. to beat a professional Go player; a feat described as a decade ahead of its time. Today, the gamified feeling of solving challenges with new types of intelligence permeates everything it does. 

Celebrate the collective.

Due to the complexity of health, and the way it touches all aspects of our lives, no single brand can (credibly) claim to meet our needs single-handedly. This became crystal clear during Covid-19, where the race to find a vaccine and then deliver it to populations at scale required smart collaboration above all else. Brands that stand out put their ego aside and hero their partners. 

Babylon Health talks boldly about the importance of partnerships in connecting patients to online doctors. It describes other brands as its "partners in care," heroing the role that governments, companies and individuals play in their mission to make high-quality healthcare accessible and affordable for everyone on Earth.

Be proud.

Health is highly regulated—the processes to create and trial products, the standards to provide services, the systems to manage data, and the patents to protect innovation. This has created a culture that minimizes risk and prioritizes nuance, diluting the innovation and impact communicated by brands. To stand out, talk with authority and conviction—celebrating the wins, big and small. 

Headspace isn't short of ambition. Its mission is to "improve the health and happiness of the world." It uses accessible stats to communicate its value—including the scientific evidence of its impact and the scale of its reach. Regularly published articles on topics such as mindfulness, sleep and stress solidify the company as an expert in its field, without needing to say so explicitly, and clever heroing of reviews lets happy customers do the talking on its behalf. 

Globally, people have a newfound appreciation for our healthcare systems and the contributions they make to individuals and society. The spotlight on healthcare issues has also never been brighter. This is attracting brands, old and new, to try and make their mark. 

But just diving into the existing sea of sameness will not give your brand the best chance to stand out and thrive in this burgeoning sector. To be successful in health, you must be prepared to break existing codes, stay optimistic, search out and tell your unique story, celebrate the collective and, most important, be proud of the difference you make.

It really can be the difference between life and death.

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