During my experience in Beijing I was involved in an interesting collaboration at OASIS International Hospital.
Being sick is never a nice experience, especially when you live abroad but if you live in China it can be a nightmare. As someone who has lived the best part of 10 years abroad, I have first hand experience of nightmare hospital trips. Before OASIS, if you wanted to avoid language barriers and dodgy hygiene standards you really only had one option in Beijing.
At the time I started to work at Oasis, the hospital wasn’t yet open to the public.
The first day there the marketing director said to me: “a few months ago I was working at United Family Hospital” (one of the most famous and popular international hospitals in Beijing and direct competitor of the brand-new OASIS.” He continued: “The CEO of OASIS was working at the United Family Hospital up until a year ago when, thanks to wealthy Chinese investors – and in China you can find many – he had the financial backing to fund OASIS and called me.”
The United Family Hospital had operated in the city for more then 10 years and had a mixed reputation among the expat community. The general feeling was positive and the hospital retained a strong presence in the market.
How we can win against this strong competitor? OASIS offered almost the same services and the same hygiene and professional standards. One of the promises was to always keep the price lower the any direct competitor in Beijing. But could it be enough? Probably not.
When you can not win on lower price, quality service is the best way to offer a better experience. Most of the time people buy products for an experience, rather than for the product itself. If you have a good experience you think less about the price.
First a short introduction about the target audience: The international community in a cosmopolitan city such as Beijing is quite fragmented and varied. Due the high price of the services provided by the hospital the primary target audience was executive expats. The highest proportion of executives in Beijing are Americans, followed by French and Germans.
The secondary audience was the remaining expat community which would use the hospital for emergency services, usually through their insurance.
I was an expat myself in Beijing and was closer to the secondary target. When you live abroad in a country like China you crave the standards that you would receive in your home country. Air quality, food security and basic health and hygiene can be everyday problems. For a well-travel person like myself, these problems are less daunting but I can imagine the face of a rich American executive during his first day in Beijing!
What do all of these people need? an OASIS.
Imagine you have been sent away, perhaps with work, to a huge alien metropolis, far from your country and even your family in some cases. Like a traveler in the desert you need fresh water, an Oasis. Thus OASIS Hospital was born, probably this idea was influenced by my time spent in the Middle East.
This was the first step for the rebranding:
SERVICES VS PATIENT GRUOPS
One day I was in the hospital talking with a doctor whilst standing next to a board which had the list of the services OASIS Offered. The list constituted about twenty services and the doctor explained to me all the different and sophisticated machines for each of them. He insisted to put this infinite list on the website and all the promotional materials.
I was completely bewildered and lost in that huge hospital full of signs that didn’t help you understand anything. Technical and medical words, horrible deseases and complicated treatments. I am not a doctor and like a patient I don’t know and I don’t want to know technical and medical words until it is really necessary.
Back to my desk. I started to design some website mock-ups which incorporated elements of the infinite list. It was easy to realise the infinite list was the wrong approach. Working in that way I completely forgot about my user and the needs and expectations of his/her family: family, kids, women, men. This became the 4 elements of the organisation of the website.
THE SMILING DOCTORS
Next step was to analyse the advertising and websites of competitors. All of them used images of smiling doctors! My point was proven, people don’t want to be intimidated by scary words and terms, they just want to meet another human being who is there to comfort them and advise them in their time of need.
I always place myself between the two sides: inside the company and out-side with the audience. I went a step further than a smiling doctor. I wanted to reach out and emphasise the community. The doctor and the community were essential to the rebranding. We held events, during which we captured real photos of real people, satisfied and happy with the service they had received. This created a strong community and trust not just among patients but also among the staff.