Here's to the old juicebox

By Brad Dodge on April 4th, 2009

I'm looking forward to seeing all the exhibitors at HIMSS this year, especially those that are introducing some form of new brand identity. For high tech healthcare companies, branding is an unusually formidable challenge. I watch the companies try to create a solid brand identity through their exhibits, signage, messaging, hospitality suites, client events, collateral, booth "personnel" and on and on. Sometimes their efforts resonate with the market, sometimes not so much. Like the recent article about Peter Arnell in Newsweek, even the brightest branding experts can miss the mark(et). Arnell, as you probably know, is an obsessive, egotistical brand guy that has a long line of consumer brand successes in his portfolio, including Donna Karan's DKNY campaign, Samsung's microwave box and the new Pepsi logo (I'm not feelin' it, Peter). He recently redesigned the Tropicana juicebox packaging, and the critics' revolt can be likened to that of the New Coke disaster from 1985. The newly designed packaging was pulled from shelves and the old packaging is back in the game. (Arnell commented, "It's not my brand. It's not my company. So what the hell? I got paid a lot of money, and I have 30 other projects." Sensitive guy.)

Why the flop? It's not like these mega brands didn't study the market and the opportunity, but sometimes the market prefers consistency, familiarity, and uniqueness over edgy, newfangled and different. Some commented that they couldn't find the new boxes on the shelf. Who'da thunk? Which leads to the challenge of technology companies in healthcare. With tech products, sameness is bad. Healthcare needs products that are new, innovative, game-changing. Companies that are growing, tackling new challenges. So how do you balance that against your brand image, which needs to show consistency, reliability, trust?Innovation and trust are not mutually exclusive. It's easier for a trusted brand to deliver on the need for innovation than it is for an innovative brand to build trust. So, choose trust. Build your brand on excellent customer service, a solid reputation to deliver on your promises, employees that are caring and humble and a passion for quality. With all that in place, the innovation you deliver to the marketplace will be embraced.