What We Can Learn from the Circus

One of our favorite marketing lessons comes from the circus–or, more accurately, a quote about the circus. In his book, The 1-Page Marketing Plan: Get New Customers, Make More Money, And Stand out From The Crowd, marketing expert Allen Dib devised a clever way to talk about all of the different disciplines within the field of marketing.

Here’s what Dib says:

“If the circus is coming to town and you paint a sign saying “Circus Coming to the Showground Saturday,” that’s advertising

If you put the sign on the back of an elephant and walk it into town, that’s promotion. 

If the elephant walks through the mayor’s flower bed and the local newspaper writes a story about it, that’s publicity. And if you get the mayor to laugh about it, that’s public relations. 

If the town’s citizens go to the circus, you show them the many entertainment booths, explain how much fun they’ll have spending money at the booths, answer their questions and ultimately, they spend a lot at the circus, that’s sales

And if you planned the whole thing, that’s marketing.”

With our years of marketing experience, we noticed a little something missing from this otherwise comprehensive analogy. Later, when people are reminiscing about how much they enjoyed the circus, that’s branding!

What is Branding?

What do you remember most from attending the circus as a kid (or adult)? Or seeing the circus on TV? Is it the elephants and peanuts? The rings of fire? The fun red and white striped tents?

Your brain latches on to something–and that’s branding. Red and white tents have been around for hundreds of years–long before the invention of the modern circus (which itself is usually dated to 1825-ish). After years of close association (and savvy marketing), those red and white stripes became synonymous with tents and clowns and trapeze and everything else that makes the circus what it is.

That’s an important lesson to learn, because the same principle holds true for your own medical and healthcare company branding.

What if I Just Ignore Branding?

Let’s say you’re not convinced. Maybe you have enough on your plate with the promotion, publicity, and sales side of things. You can’t be bothered with branding, too. 

We’ve seen clients ignore branding in the past. In those cases, the two likeliest outcomes are:

  • Your brand, ultimately, means nothing: You constantly change logos, or color schemes, or messaging, and you pay no attention to your branding whatsoever. Ultimately, your brand will mean nothing–and your patients will have no idea what you stand for. You won’t stick in their head. You’ll be forgotten (which will ultimately make your marketing more challenging).
  • Your patients will decide what your brand is: This is far more dangerous than you might think it is. You might be tempted to say: that’s fine! I’ll deliver great service and my patients will decide that’s my brand! But what if your patients decide that your brand is cheap… or brisk, or suburban? They’re not necessarily bad things–but they can limit your growth. Then you’re stuck. Patients simply won’t accept a price increase or a more comprehensive experience.

At PatientX, we can help you create the branding tent. We can also help ensure that everything under the tent–from advertising to promotion to sales–is working well, too. 

How Do I Do Branding?

Okay, so, we’ve convinced you that branding is important! Which means we don’t have to bring out the clowns. (Whew!)

The question becomes, how do you strategically perform branding? At PatientX, we always work with clients to see branding as something that goes well beyond a logo. (To be sure, a logo is super important, and can often be informed by your fundamental brand strategy. But it’s not the end of the road.)

Modern branding can also include:

  • Messaging: What values do you want your marketing and advertising to touch on time and time again? Create brand identity touch points that your message can refer to again and again.
  • Appearances: What are your employees wearing? What color are your walls? It might sound trivial, but these things communicate. If your exam room has raging red walls, you won’t get many reviews that compliment your relaxing atmosphere.
  • Patient experience: What do your patients feel when they walk through your doors? How satisfied are they when they leave? A great patient experience can turn those patients into brand ambassadors–helping to spread your primary messaging and brand touchpoints.

Think about it like this: branding is how you want to be remembered. It’s how you want people to look back on their experiences with you.

Work with Branding Experts

Considering it touches on every aspect of your marketing experience, building a branding strategy can be challenging. It’s usually beneficial to work with a company that’s done it before (you wouldn’t want to swing on the trapeze with a rookie)! With the right strategy and an experienced guide, those high-wire stunts don’t feel nearly as risky. 

Contact PatientX today to start building your brand–and welcoming more patients into your tent!

POSTED ON: November 14, 2022
By Becky McElroy | Branding
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About the Author:


At her core, Becky, Chief Marketing Officer of PatientX, is a creative, but there’s much more to her than meets the eye. She was formally trained as an artist with an emphasis in graphic design, but her curiosity and passion for learning have had a great influence on her career. Becky claims working in design and marketing has been like an encyclopedia to the world, because she’s learned many things she wouldn’t have picked up elsewhere. She has found her greatest enjoyment in learning about people and ideas, fostering relationships with clients, and creating meaningfully designed campaigns. Thanks to her depth of experience and mastery of design and strategy, PatientX is transforming healthcare by using marketing to improve the patient experience.

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