When you hear the word “Alzheimer’s” what comes immediately to mind?
For most of you, the answer will be memory loss. And you’re correct. Memory loss is a major aspect of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s societies and associations even use the forget-me-not flower as their icon.
This is great branding. It gives all of us some knowledge and understanding of the disease. For my husband, David, and I, his memory challenges were what inspired us to organize detailed testing and confirm his diagnosis.
But, now in year five or six of living with Alzheimer’s, I’ve learned it is so much more than memory. In fact, when I look back at those early days, I have to admit that memory loss was the easy part.
And this has me thinking about the power of branding. It has me asking myself some big questions about my own brand, the information it delivers and the limitations it creates.
How has Alzheimer’s inspired big questions about my branding? And does this also apply to you?
Branding: The marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products.
The branding created by Alzheimer’s societies and associations is so strong, so powerful that, until we have personal experience with the disease, we regard it only as memory loss.
But it is so much more.
Even though I attended a six-part course for caregivers, and David and I participated in one for couples, I struggled to hear/understand/appreciate the full scope of this disease.
The memory part, while challenging, is manageable with systems. We had lots of signage around the house, lists, consistent conversations and gadgets. My favourite was our MedReady pill dispenser. It eliminated a daily conversation that started with: “Did you take your pills today?”
As the disease progresses, it can morph into … anything! For us, anxiety is now the major characteristic. David, a man who was primarily calm and cheerful, is now haunted by worries about projects and deadlines that do not exist but are very real to him. He hears the conversations and sees the people. The strength of this anxiety has kept us sleepless for days on end. It even briefly baffled our family doctor as we searched for a way to help him (and me!).
Alzheimer’s can manifest anything from extreme joy to outrage. One woman shared with me that her husband began to believe he was blind and eventually he simply stopped opening his eyes.
These possibilities were all discussed in the courses I took, in the information I read, but I didn’t really “hear” it. I was focused on the brand: on memory loss. In retrospect, I should have had more conversations with doctors, nurses, partners, children and caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s. I should have listened to their stories. I should have gone beyond the brand.
And this has me thinking about my own branding. When you think about “The Phone Lady” what comes immediately to mind?
For most of you, the answer will be phone communication. And you’re correct but there’s so much more. So how do I make sure my “more” is “heard”?
And what about you and your brand? Is there more? And how can you help your clients and prospects go beyond your brand?
Alzheimer’s has also delivered valuable lessons on communication and work/life balance. You can read more in these posts: