How to become one of the world’s most admired healthcare companies – there is a secret sauce

Every waking moment, brands are vying for our attention, blasting information our way with firehose-force. It’s getting tougher and tougher for these brands to break through, which makes the businesses on the annual World’s Most Admired Companies list, produced by Fortune and global organizational consulting firm Korn Ferry, all the more impressive.

While the healthcare companies on the list have plenty in common with other beloved brands that made the cut — Apple, Starbucks, and Southwest Airlines among them — a distinct thread ties these healthcare businesses together. If you want to be an all-star healthcare brand, the companies on this list show that you should build your brand around three big ideas:

1) Stand for something bigger.

MedTech powerhouse Medtronic manufactures biomedical hardware as its bread and butter, but in recent years has also taken a very public stand on the egregious costs of delivering healthcare in America. Through its “Transforming Healthcare” campaign, Medtronic has become an active champion of the value-based care model that many believe could help turn the tide on healthcare spending — demonstrating thought leadership on the topic while establishing new partnerships that strive to move the needle. This approach has both elevated Medtronic’s overall profile and helped to expand its business into global consulting services.

Key Takeaway: Especially in super competitive markets – like MedTech – articulating the why that guides your work separates you from the pack. And what better way to do this than to enlist your company in addressing a fundamental challenge within your industry. As a hospital executive, wouldn’t you rather buy a cardiac stent — one that at this point is essentially at parity with every other stent – if you knew its manufacturer was tangibly addressing a problem you are expected to solve?

2) Be bold.

In September 2014 CVS Health announced that it would become the first national retail pharmacy chain to stop selling tobacco products in all of its stores. The gamble paid off in more ways than one: It made a marked impact on public health, and it helped CVS pivot from a narrower consumer-retail focus to become a broad healthcare services business. CVS has since continued to build its extraordinary healthcare services brand by doubling-down against Big Tobacco — resigning from the US Chamber of Commerce over its stance on smoking, committing $50 million to youth anti-smoking efforts, and much more.

Key Takeaway: In the face of incredible stakes, it can be tempting for a company to stick with its tried-and-true. But that’s not how heads are turned or how corporate legends are made. The most admired healthcare companies take the opposite tack, diving head-first into the fray with some of their boldest approaches ever.

3) Resonate with your audiences that matter.

The pharma company AbbVie uses the mantra “People, Passion, Possibilities” across all of its digital touchpoints, working strategically to define and emphasize the specific nuances of the statement that resonate with each audience. Outreach efforts to prospective employees are just one example. Potential recruits experience “People, Passion, Possibilities” everywhere they look — from the #AbbVieLife hashtag on employee-focused social media posts (people!) to its Scientists Rock! blog series on its website (passion!) to the employee profiles on sites like Glassdoor that repeatedly convey the meaningful work the company is tackling (possibilities!). By constantly and consistently tying back the unique aspects of its culture to its stated ethos, I would bet good money the company has an easier time pulling in like-minded individuals who are ready to enroll in its quest.

Key Takeaway: Admired brands are really good at answering the question “Why should I care?” And it can’t be one-size-fits-all. By drilling down their core message to the audience level — and then weaving this point of resonance into every piece of content — they draw engagement and commitment from those audiences in return.

So how can you transform your corporate brand into one that turns heads? Invest some time in thinking about how your company can uniquely embody these three big ideas — stand for something bigger, be bold, and resonate with audiences that matter. Once your strategy is set, don’t forget about implementation. It takes continual reinforcement across audiences and channels to shift perception, but it will be well worth it when your brand starts opening doors for you.

Want to build your healthcare company into a great brand? Waterhouse Brands is here to help. Contact us to talk about how to ALIGN™ with these three big ideas and cut through the communications noise. And, for a more in-depth exploration of the various healthcare sectors that made the Fortune list, click here.

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