Ahh, the adrenaline rush that accompanies an acquisition decision is hard to beat. We’ll be bigger, better and stronger together. Our patients will have access to more services, closer to home. Our care teams will be able to learn from one another. Look how compatible we are!

In the excitement of figuring out how an acquired system will be integrated, many health care organizations neglect to tackle one of the most important considerations of an acquisition: how to integrate the systems’ brands. Brand strategy is often considered post-deal. By then, systems have lost a valuable opportunity to share a compelling story about the value the merged systems offer, and likely have created consumer confusion in the process.

So how should systems get started? Begin by gathering insights from the five dynamics that impact your brand strategy:

  1. Business strategy. Where is the system going, in the short- and long-term? What needs to happen internally and externally for it to get there?
  2. Brand equity. What perceptions, equities, strengths and weaknesses exist within the systems?
  3. Culture. What are the similarities and differences? Do the systems share similar values and behavioral norms? Is one system’s culture stronger than the other?
  4. Competitors. What is the value proposition for the merged system? Are there care gaps that it fills?
  5. Cost. What is the capital and/or operational cost of changing the brand identity, naming or visual representation?

Together, these elements should drive brand strategy for your newly-merged system.

Next, determine the best model for the brand and its architecture. The following approaches offer different strengths and, when combined with the insights gathered in step one, can help point you in the right direction:

  • Absorb. In this model, the acquired system adopts the acquiring system brand, or vice versa. The key here is determining which system has best equity and using that brand to your advantage.
  • Blend. Here, the systems merge brands, using elements from each to communicate shared equity.
  • Segment. In this approach, each system retains its brand to communicate distinct value propositions.
  • Transform. With this model, a new brand identity is adopted to signify a new course for the merged system.

Each of these models has distinct advantages and risks. A perfect model – one that ensures seamless, painless and speedy integration – does not exist. Take the time to consider each and its impact on your system’s many stakeholders. Will your approach create clear value that could expand your patient base? Will it communicate the perceived or actual gaps in care that have been filled? Will it create confusion among patients and the community, or among employees? These are all important discussions to have before determining the right direction for your system’s brand. As the personification of your health care system, it pays to invest in getting brand integration right, right from the start.

Of course, brand integration isn’t complete without activation. Check back to learn more about how to bring your new brand to life for your patients, communities and employees.

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