Hospital marketing budgets are tight as a result of COVID-19 disruptions.   Margins are thin.  So healthcare executives continue to explore new ways to capture lost revenue streams.  While there are no easy answers, creating a hospital brand licensing program can help achieve several financial goals.

Why License?  According to the American Hospital Association (AHA), hospital and health systems losses due to COVID-19 totaled $202.6 billion.  Even strong health system brands have not been immune.  When the Mayo Clinic had to stop all non-emergency procedures last March, it resulted in millions of dollars of revenue losses each day.   Lesser know healthcare brands such as regional health systems and hospitals face an even greater hurdle in returning to pre-pandemic profitability levels.   That is why licensing has an appeal to healthcare strategists.

What is hospital brand licensing?   Brand licensing is a means to leverage the cumulative goodwill that is built-up in your hospital’s reputation over the years.  Specifically, brand licensing is when you lease or rent your intangible assets (your brand names and other marketing collateral) to third-parties.   This includes your reputation for excellence among the relevant consuming public.  For healthcare systems, brand licensing is an attractive alternative to system-owned clinics or physician practices that require a substantial capital investment.

The elements of a brand licensing program include:

A.   Identify your brand assets.   A hospital’s brand assets, otherwise known as intellectual property, are extremely valuable.  These include brand names, logos, images, marketing content, service line campaigns, and patient and employee testimonials.   A brand licensing program starts with identifying all of the elements of your brand portfolio that can be legally protected and help to differentiate you from your competitors.

B.   Establish rights ownership.   Most hospitals hire outside agencies to create and manage their branding assets and marketing campaigns.   Yet a majority of health organizations do not own their own creative assets.  This is true, even though they paid handsomely for the work.   Why?  Because by default of law,  the outside agency is the owner unless a work for hire agreement or assignment of such rights is put in place.  Similarly, you should also identify those elements of your brand and marketing campaigns that are not your own and you did not hire someone to create.  Use of this category of creative assets generally require permission from the rights owner in the form of  authorization or license.

C.   Implement a brand assets registration program.   Healthcare organizations often make the grave mistake of not registering their major branding assets with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and U.S. Copyright Office.  The failure to do so not only may result in diminished book value, but result in potential theft from competitors.   To begin, identify your major branding assets based on contribution to  your organization’s identity, reputation, and goodwill.   Second, identify assets that have been created specifically for individual service line campaigns.   Once this is done, a branding assets registration program can be implemented and assets captured on an on-going basis.  Additional tips may be found here.

In our next article, we will discuss the benefits of brand licensing for healthcare systems and how to seek the right partners in your regional community.   While your hospital marketing budget remains a challenge, now is the time to start leveraging the power of your brand.

Note:  To find our more about how you can establish a brand protection and licensing program for your healthcare organization, contact us.