The Powerful Role of Purpose in Times of Change and Industry Upheaval

By Ray Baird

In Part 1 in our series dedicated to healthcare brands and branding we explored new ways to measure and track brand performance to justify marketing spend. In Part 2 we discuss the softer side of branding: the use of core statements – Purpose, Vison and Mission – and their power to inspire and unify.

The fractured and fragmented US healthcare industry is undergoing profound change. The $2.8 trillion industry is not just consolidating, it is dramatically reshaping itself in unexpected ways.

Health insurers are trying to cut medical costs by playing a more direct role in medical services, arguing they can save money by shifting patients to cheaper, more accessible locations for routine or non-life-threatening emergency medical services.

Aetna is being acquired by CVS Health, a national chain of neighborhood drug stores, as part of a drive to expand medical services at CVS pharmacies to include more preventative screenings such as for vision and hearing.

UnitedHealth is now moving from a pure insurance play to diving deeper into the provider market with its recent purchase of DaVita’s primary and urgent care services for $4.9 billion, adding to UnitedHealth’s 250 MedExpress urgent care centers and its 200 surgical centers.

The blurring of traditional industry boundaries and the creation of business models begs several fundamental questions – what are these companies becoming, how will they define themselves, and how will it impact their brands?

Most people understand CVS as a neighborhood drug store; UnitedHealth to many is a plain old-fashioned health insurer.

The questions they both have to answer are: What is our new purpose in the world, where are we going, and how will we get there?

For many healthcare brands, the subject of “core statements” – Purpose, Vision, and Mission are tangled in confusion.  To help bring some clarity and structure we find the following set of definitions as a guide.

Purpose: Why you exist?

Vision: What you aim to achieve?

Mission: How you plan to achieve your vision?

While each is a separate driver of strategy the three should be integrated. Based upon the development of these core statements you can begin to align and develop Values and Brand Positioning in a coherent and holistic framework.

A few tips to bear in mind when developing core statements:  be powerful; be inspirational; make it short and memorable. Remember, the human attention span is less than that of a goldfish.

They should also be built for the long haul. Purpose, the anchor statement, should be inspirational but unattainable – always just out of reach.

UnitedHealth’s current mission statement is: “To help people live healthier lives and help make the health system work better for everyone.”

CVS says: “We are a pharmacy innovation company with a simple and clear purpose: Helping people on their path to better health.”

So, you be the judge – do they hit the mark, do they inspire, are they memorable?

Our view is that both organizations would benefit dramatically by revisiting and evolving their core statements to be in line with their new place in the shifting world of healthcare.

We welcome your opinions, participation and questions.

Next in the series: we introduce the concept of buyer-types and the powerful role they play in building brand preference.