São João University Hospital Center

São João by the numbers

How Communication & Marketing transform one brand.

Written by Jorge Jorge, Marketing Brand & Communication Director of São João Hospital University Center

I believe brands have the power not only to change individual lives but to change the world. I also consider that brands can be the most valuable business asset within the health and life sciences industry.

A brand is more than just a symbol, slogan, or trade name. It transcends logos and visual identities. Brands are living business assets that come to life across all touchpoints when created and managed properly. They establish identity, provide differentiation and, most importantly, drive economic value.

Why are brands particularly important to hospitals?

Highest Notoriety Index
São João is the Portuguese Brand with the Highest Notoriety Index in the “Hospitals and Health Clinics” category
São João University Hospital Center is on the Top 4th brand with highest reputation

First, brands have the unique ability to transform attitudes. Our industry sells products and services that consumers don’t necessarily want to buy – products and services that tend to remind them that health is not permanent or force them to confront their mortality. The role that brands play within the health & life sciences industry is not to simply identify a particular product or service but rather to transform patients’ attitudes towards the treatment or solution being offered. In effect, brands need to create a positive association, and, in some cases, a sense of hope.

Second, brands are capable of engaging consumers and healthcare professionals by providing them with a much-needed sense of clarity – highlighting both rational and irrational points of differentiation amongst other products and services. By leveraging brands properly, manufacturers will be able to give patients a reason to use products and services that goes well beyond “my doctor said so.”

Finally, brands can connect emotionally with their respective audiences. A well-managed brand finds the connective tissue between the functional and emotional responses of the patient—linking the head and the heart. Purchasing products and services require patients to make intimate and, in some cases, life-changing decisions. Brands can play an instrumental role in guiding them through what can sometimes be a difficult and emotional decision-making process.

Given this understanding of the importance of brand in people’s lives, it is past time for us to evolve the role of brand in the health & life sciences industry. A brand can no longer be seen as strictly a promotional/ communications tool.

It must be recognized as a core business driver – one that directly influences a manufacturer’s business strategy from the very beginning. It must be seen as a way to emotionally connect with customers, drive long-term loyalty, and generate revenue.

Look at “my" brand with a critical eye

Our industry, unlike others, is experiencing value-driven transformational change at an unprecedented rate.
Our complex, disparate and demanding customer groups (payers, providers, consumers) are at the core of this change. Payers are working to drive down costs, while providers are being required to address the needs of consumers more directly via superior clinical results. To add to the challenge, consumers typically shy away from what most healthcare companies are offering, yet with an increasing level of discernment and savvy when they do. (See Figure above)

{Healthcare has a unique customer dynamic unlike any other industry}

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Furthermore, the industry has recently experienced considerable M&A activity, downsizing, integration, and diversification of portfolios.
In the coming years, pharmaceutical companies will face patent expiry and loss of exclusivity on a number of the blockbuster brands that drove revenue streams in previous decades. End users will demand more targeted therapies and pharmaceutical companies will experience less demand to deliver potential blockbuster products that once dominated their portfolios.

We believe this has led to a significant change in the role that the brand can and does play within our space, whether it be strengthening the product brand proposition or bringing the corporate brand into play for the first time. The role that brand plays at both a product and corporate level is rapidly changing to meet the needs of the newer commercial models.

Many manufacturers are recognizing and responding to this transformational change by shifting their focus from a product-oriented value offering to a more solutions-oriented value offering. Additionally, solutions-based offerings are increasingly aligning to the brand proposition of the corporation or enterprise. While this shift has been apparent throughout other sectors, it is just now beginning to have an impact on the health & life sciences sector. This current trend is forcing many manufacturers to bolster the strength of the corporate brand to create differentiation from competitors.

Is your brand model aligning with the changes in your commercial model?

It is up to those leading the health & life sciences sector to challenge the current brand model. The focus can no longer be solely on promoting product brands through a “house of brands” approach. Rather, industry leaders should use brands – all brands (corporate, product, category) – in a smarter way. And, in some cases, this may involve industry leaders changing their respective brand models altogether.
Some industry leaders will be inclined to shy away from exploring alternative brand models due to the risk associated with linking the corporate name to the products. But the proliferation and acceleration of traditional media, combined with the instantaneous consumer dialogue of digital/social media outlets, are making our world and our industry increasingly transparent. As such, the separation between product and manufacturer can no longer be maintained. Industry leaders need to recognize this and understand that they can benefit from a more aggressive approach – one that elevates the role of the corporate brand and capitalizes on the upside gains and loyalty that such an approach can create.

"The role of brand within the health & life sciences industry is to transform attitudes towards the products and services being offered."

{ São João Hospital Center Stakeholders }

Does your corporate brand promise match your long-term business strategy?

For those health & life sciences leaders who fully dedicate themselves to leveraging their respective corporate brands, the rewards will be numerous. In recognizing brand value as a strategic business and financial asset, they will be able to drive demand, loyalty, retention and purchasing power for their respective organizations – all of which will subsequently translate into an analytical measurement of downstream economic earnings and shareholder value.

Here are some core questions you should ask yourself as you assess the value of your current brands:


How can brands create value for your organization and its shareholders?


Does your corporate brand promise match your long-term business strategy?


Has your commercial model changed significantly in the last 3–5 years? Does your brand model properly align to any change in your commercial model?


Are you maximizing the revenue potential of your product, portfolio, and corporate brands?


Are your people (employees) fully engaged with your corporate brand? Do they live the brand?

How we answer these questions—not in words but, in our actions— will go a long way in determining whether we lead the inevitable evolution of our industry, or lag behind. Put simply: The future of health & life sciences branding is here. Let’s embrace it together.

{ São João Hospital CenterCommunication Strategy }


The Bigger

Biggest Hospital in the north of Portugal



One of the biggest companys in Portugal

3.5 M.


3.5 million direct customers (1/3 of Portugal)

{ São João Hospital Center Blood Donors Campaign }


Campaigns / Year

Developed to create awareness, reputation and transform consumer behaviour


Brand Reputation

Average of the last 10 years.

8 M.

Press Results

8 million in Adverstising Equivalent Value Annually

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Healthy Competition

Six Brand Principles to Compete in the New Healthcare Ecosystem

The role of Brands is expanding rapidly for healthcare decision makers and consumers. While it is increasingly clear that brands powerfully affect how physicians, third-party payers, and
health customers make choices, it has often been less clear in the healthcare C-suites just what role brands should play and at what levels of corporate and product strategy. I believe in bringing the discipline of branding to the business of healthcare. I have witnessed the impact it can have on the bottom line. As we assist our clients in competing in the increasingly complex healthcare ecosystem, we have seen six guiding principles emerge as “must-haves”— key prescriptions for building great healthcare brands. 

Based on these guidelines, how healthy is your organization’s approach to creating and managing brand value?


Treat brands as business assets, not just communications tools

Brands are far more than trademarks, logos, symbols, or slogans. Instead, they are living business assets—the perception of a company, product, or service. When it is managed well, a brand drives premium, preference, and loyalty. And in healthcare, most companies are realizing that brands are becoming differentiators more than in the past, especially in areas such as pharmaceuticals where intellectual property (IP) has slowed. Your brand, simply put, demands executive attention. If managed properly, it can effectively differentiate your organization and/or product from competitors in ways that customers find meaningful.
Strong companies view their brands as more than just marketing or communications tools. To these organizations, the brand is an expression of business strategy. Consequently, a strong brand strategy should pervade all levels of an organization—from compensation strategies in human resources to incentives for R&D.

Brands bring consistency, differentiation, and inspiration to both what you offer and how you provide it. Just as the C-suite weighs in on major undertakings regarding financial and physical assets, such as plants and equipment, brand decisions must be made with senior management guidance.

The business strategy should drive the brand strategy, and when this is made a top priority, strong corporate brands have the potential to drive future business strategies more successfully.


Communication & Marketing

Plans developed / year


Brand Awareness

Portuguese Brand with the Highest Notoriety Index in Hospitals and Clinics category 



8000 minutes/year of lecture in internal contents


Be discerning about what you choose to brand

Healthcare has been slow to recognize what many other industries already know and practice: it is more efficient to bring a few strong brands to market than to introduce a plethora of less significant ones. Too many healthcare companies support far too many individual brands, each telling different and often conflicting stories. Gone are the days when healthcare companies had only one or two products going to disparate customers. Today, healthcare companies market broad portfolios targeting the same customers. Consider the depth of your brand relationships instead of focusing on the breadth of brands your organization offers.
Your corporate identity can be a unifying force for your key product brands. The impact of corporate brands on purchases is increasing faster in healthcare than in any other sector. Interbrand research is showing that the role of corporate brands ranges from 10 percent to more than 40 percent in influencing the choice of pharmaceuticals, and from 25 percent to more than 50 percent when it comes to selecting medical devices. Business models have changed drastically in healthcare, and brand models must respond accordingly.

Many corporate healthcare brands, having been built myopically and with a narrow business-to-business or investor focus, are poorly equipped to support product competition. A strong corporate brand, with a reputation for supporting certain issues or values, can help differentiate a product whose features and benefits closely resemble those of earlier market entrants. 


Be clear on your brand’s role in your customers’ lives

Far too often, healthcare companies create brands with an attitude of “this is what we make, come buy it” versus “this is our critical role in your world.” As a result, we see many product brands built on purely functional attributes and corporate brands positioned as innovating for a “healthier world.”

Today’s strongest healthcare brands tell stories about their impact on customers. What does your corporation or product brand do to improve the lives of your customers? What role do you play in their world? How does this role connect meaningfully and authentically with your customers’ core concerns?

The most powerful brands connect to customers on an emotional as well as a rational level. This enables them to fend off competitors, or, at a minimum, slow their adoption, even if those competitors show apparent functional advantages. 
A well-branded innovator drug that is first to transform what clinicians can do within a disease category can leave its prescribers with such a strong feeling of empowerment and positive experience that clinicians may be reluctant to part with it, even as new agents reach the market.

An emotional connection can change consumer perception so much that it drives value beyond price. Relevant emotions include things such as trust, confidence, renewal, optimism, authenticity, and a sense of connection with one’s life.

Too often, the pharmaceutical world focuses only on how innovative its products are. For example, leaders of many pharmaceutical companies allow their product teams to focus their strategies on product features: dosing frequency, outcomes data, delivery forms, etc.

While these and similar functional attributes are important, they cannot strongly connect with decision-makers. When a new product comes along, or when a close competitor loses patent protection, influencers and consumers don’t care enough about these functionality-focused brands to resist abandoning them. 
{ São João Hospital Center Campaigns }


Make the brand an experience

A brand should define an audience’s experience, not just shape a communication. This is a new way of thinking for many healthcare companies. By thinking of brands as potential experiences, we recognize the ecosystem in which they live and the different influences that shape where, when, and how they are used. We start to think of how services play a role. Should our product brands behave more like service brands? How does our brand affect the way we set up a conference or how our sales force engages with users? How does it affect our choices of strategic partners and sponsorships?

“Experience” means thinking about where, when, and how the consumer and the brand meet, as well as where their journey will take them. It is about hearing the stories the consumer tries to tell about his/her needs, interests, and concerns. 
It is about the stories that the consumer and the brand create together. It is about a past, a present, and a future.

Today’s reality is that consumers and clinicians seek out and engage with healthcare brands differently than before. In an earlier era, the physician entertained the detailer in his office. Today’s clinicians are frequently in a hallway between examining rooms, cruising the Web from a smartphone or tablet. Yesterday’s physicians relied on monthly journals, but today’s physicians are awash in health information 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Their health information no longer comes to them in the dry, sterile language and technical form of the past; it is served up in the full-color video and shared via Tweets and Sermo posts. And today’s patients are more assertive and knowledgeable.

That means the brand experience will occur in an increasingly transmedia and paperless environment. Pressed for time as never before, clinicians and consumers require Twitter-like compression from brand communications. Ideas must be reduced to their essentials. 


Form an army of brand ambassadors

Once it is clear what your offer is to the market, then it is clear why your employees go to work every morning. So often we see companies shape their brand strategy based on what employees want over what their external customers desire. This is not to say that the employees are not instrumental to the success of your brand, but that your brand must be made relevant and clear so that they can embody and live it every day.
Your employees are a potential army of brand ambassadors.

They are the human face of your brand. They enact the story of the brand in their engagements with others—customers, colleagues, family members, and friends. Your employees are an integral part of building the bond of trust and comfort your organization seeks to establish with decision-makers.

Developing an internal brand engagement strategy takes time and resources, but it will be time and money well spent. Building an internal brand engagement strategy will help bring the brand to life and foster future growth. 



Developed internally / year


Press News / day

São João has an average of 12 appearances on the news / day


Graphic supports

São João has created 25000 communication design


Brands can (and should) be measured

Many large healthcare companies don’t measure or track their brands. While they may conduct some obligatory reputational research, they rarely have a small, defined set of brand attributes that they can measure regularly.
Benchmarking the attitudes and perceptions around your brand strategy can be incredibly effective, not only in shaping your future brand but also in impacting your future business strategies.

Many companies are moving from corporate values and behaviors to branded values and behaviors. They are also starting to link performance around external brand perceptions to compensation, especially at the executive level. How is your company measuring its brand?
// Podcast

The Future of Health Care in Communication & Marketing

/www.thefutureofhealth.care | Amsterdam | 2020

Listen here >


“I am on the news!"

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{ Jorge Jorge | Photo by Marcus Garcia | 2020 | During Covid Season |  Original Photo }
{ São João Hospital Center Communication }

"As early as January 2020 we appointed a crisis office, drew up a contingency plan and tried to prepare ourselves in an organised manner for what would have been the biggest challenge this hospital has ever seen. We changed infrastructure, formed people, acquired equipment, changed the organization of the hospital itself. And that was key to always being one step ahead of the pandemic.”

Fernando Araújo, President of the Board.
Crisis Office Team
// Press

Covid-19: This is "on the record"

All crisis management and communication manuals in times of crisis were sold out in the first few weeks.

Read now >



Presences on TV

120 presences on TV Shows Annually


Events / year

Institutional and Seminars


Mediatic Impact

São João is the Hospital with the biggest mediatic impact


“The world is comprised of three kinds of people: A small group who make things happen, a larger group who watch things happen, and the great majority who don’t even know what is happening.”

Photos by Marcus Garcia, Sérgio Rolando.
Thank you all. (Specially my amazing Team)
Source: see “People” Credits 
Disrupt. Grow. Change. Repeat.