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Branding: It’s Planned Parenthood’s Own Damn Fault

May 17, 2011

Photograph courtesy of Clix

Maybe Planned Parenthood simply has a branding problem.

In the wake of the Indiana government ending state funding for Planned Parenthood, I’ve seen many people up in arms about how so many women will not be able to receive the proper health services such as birth control and OBGYN exams.

To be honest, I wasn’t aware that Planned Parenthood even offered these services to women until about five months ago.  Why?  Who’s fault is that?  And you may say, “Well, you’re a guy, so it makes sense that you didn’t know anything about the great services of Planned Parenthood.”  Two things about that, 1) Planned Parenthood is labeled “Parenthood” and not Planned Womanhood or Planned Ladyland or Planned Feminista (as a result of some research I have come to discover that Planned Parenthood actually offers some services for men, so why are women the only ones up in arms?); and 2) Women I’ve spoken with about the new law didn’t even know about Planned Parenthood’s free/affordable services for women.

So what does this mean?  It means Planned Parenthood either does a lousy job of marketing or they are proud of their pro-abortion label and didn’t really care to market the other “services” that they offered.  From my perspective, it seems more likely that they only offered the other services to lessen the blow of offering abortions.

It seems to me that this is really about branding.  When you are an organization such as Planned Parenthood with such a vast marketing reach whether it’s paid advertising, public relations, or news media exposure; communicating your brand should not be difficult.  However all I’ve ever known about Planned Parenthood is their indefatigable efforts at promoting and providing abortions.  Right or wrong, that’s the way it is.

So whose fault is it that Indiana has taken away Planned Parenthood’s state funding?  I think it’s their own fault.  Because of poor branding efforts, they have let themselves be labeled as an abortion at any cost hub.  And if they are something different, why haven’t they made a better effort at letting everyone know?

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4 Responses to Branding: It’s Planned Parenthood’s Own Damn Fault

  1. j on May 18, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    Brand is pretty relevant to the respective market. Attributing this to overall branding is a little… Short sighted…

    As a male who never lived without health care, I’ve known about these services for 20-years because I knew women who didn’t have the resources and needed what they had to offer. They don’t care about branding. They found out about the services just fine. When you’re in need of something specific, you research it or ask around. Just because you never had the problem of finding affordable services that they happen to offer, then don’t simply say it’s a branding problem or “it’s their own fault”.

    What they provide is indispensable to so many that you may have not met or have little reason to identify with. Spend time in that target market, and you’ll find that brand is stronger than you may expect because of how and what they offer.

  2. Jackodile on May 18, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    The problem is that PP needs to brand to everyone and not just their constituents. Because they didn’t think about providing a clear message to those who only see them as an abortion provider, they didn’t have the support of many who ride the middle ground. As a result, they lost their funding here in Indiana and soon probably many other states too. Instead of controlling their brand, PP let others (media, conservatives, right-to-lifers) define the PP brand.

    From my perspective, this was intentional on PP’s part. They want to be strongly associated with abortion. And while they want their constituents to know about all their services, they should want everyone to know… decision makers especially.

    Thanks for reading and commenting. I’m always glad for quality dialogue.

  3. Elisabeth VarnHagen Lugar on May 21, 2011 at 5:27 am

    In response to J’s comment, “What they provide is indispensable to so many that you may have not met or have little reason to identify with. Spend time in that target market, and you’ll find that brand is stronger than you may expect because of how and what they offer.” I wonder who PP’s target market is?

  4. j on June 6, 2011 at 9:34 am

    In response to:

    “From my perspective, this was intentional on PP’s part. They want to be strongly associated with abortion.”

    This is a state level, not-for-profit entity with relatively low levels of funding. Their marketing budget probably mostly goes to printing costs of brochures, web administrative stuff, and other things more passive in nature than actively promoting a brand. They don’t have the luxury of marketing initiatives or engaging in reactive PR.

    Let’s consider the link between their brand an abortion.

    If it were intentional that they wanted to be associated with abortion, then wouldn’t it be offered at all or most locations? In fact it isn’t offered many places, and they don’t consider it a core offering. It’s an option presented to a segment of their patients.

    Because they mostly serve a lower income, less educated segment without access to quality health care (i.e. their target market), there will be a higher incidence of abortion than higher educated, higher income segments who generally reproduce less (birth rate) and have a higher chance of utilizing birth control. This is where they become more associated with abortion, and the possible link to being a part of their brand can come from. It’s more guilt by association.

    If they did actively market their brand, they’d get grilled for spending money on marketing. When they don’t, then you get this situation. I’m not lumping you into the same group of politicians mis-representing what PP actually does (BTW it was already illegal for federal funds to go towards abortion, so they weren’t receiving Medicaid money for abortion anyway). This is an academic-type argument.

    But if brand is the discussion, then it’s back to perception. You perceive their brand as abortion. I perceive their brand to be an offering of services to mostly women surrounding the notion of birth control. Your idea is based on what you read in the media. My idea is based on past secondary experience.

    Who is right? Neither one of us is “right” since what constitutes a perceived brand is subjective in nature.

    What moved me to really respond is the notion that sometime an issue being boiled down to brand based on media perception, which is rarely based on actual experience or the market they serve.

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