Our world is now saturated with branding. It's becoming ubiquitous. If you're in any doubt, do a little experiment. Count how many brand names you are exposed to before you even leave your house in the morning. You'll be surprised. All of them – from your smartphone to your cereal to your toothpaste – are trying to give you a message about why their product or service will make your life better.
Despite this overwhelming deluge, many of us would struggle to define exactly what a brand is, which is odd, because we're all well trained to respond to brands' messages without even knowing that we're doing it. Whoever invented those ‘Spot the logo' games noticed this and is either a genius or a sadist. "Hang on, I know that one. It's on the tip of my tongue!"
If we want to have a strong, professional brand, we need to be consistent
Well, a brand is an experience. Its strength is dependent on the quality and consistency of that experience. A visual identity (a logo, a typeface, a colour palette) is a promise that helps people recognise they can have the same brand experience whenever they see it. Advertising is the reinforcement of this association between the visual identity and the brand.
It's handy for us all to get our minds around these distinctions. Whether you are caring for patients in a corporate pharmacy, rising to the challenge of running your own pharmacy or doing your ward rounds, these things are far more important than you might think.
What can we do to make sure the pharmacy brand is as strong as possible? We can work hard on the experience that the public have when they come into contact with the pharmacy profession. Every time, everywhere. That's something we can all have a big impact on immediately.
Watch Gavin hit the streets of London to learn why people use pharmacies and how much they know about the services available
If you are what you eat, then you are what you experience, too. We react to the world around us based upon our experiences. They guide us when we decide what we want more of and what we want less of, what is good for us and what isn't. When we do the same things over and over, we expect to have similar experiences. So, if our experience of care within a pharmacy setting is easy and enjoyable, we'll expect the same thing again and we'll think of pharmacy as a good experience, a good brand. We're likely to move towards that kind of experience again. If it wasn't so good, we'll remember that, too.
If we all focus on what our patients experience when they come into contact with us – and that means everyone in the pharmacy team, including those who aren't patient-facing – we'll start to see our brand becoming stronger. Most of us work hard on this every day, but maybe we need to work even harder to be consistent. Consistency is the key to branding: if we want to have a strong, professional brand, we need to be consistent no matter which company we work for or in what area of pharmacy.
Have a think about your patient's experience. I'll do the same. Then the logos and the typefaces and the colours will mean something. They will stand for pharmacy.
Gavin Birchall is operations and marketing director at pharmacy group MedicX Pharmacy. He believes pharmacy is misunderstood and can represent itself better, so he started his Face of Pharmacy project to address this. Share your thoughts on the profession with him here; Gavin promises that if you start the survey with a drink you'll have completed it by the bottom of the cup, "unless you have a lot to write or a very small cup". Follow this blog, @faceofpharmacy and visit www.thefaceofpharmacy.com.