The double-duty health system brand campaign

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Incorporating service-line messaging into your brand campaign messaging

If a brand campaign does its job well, you won’t need separate campaigns to promote your strategic priority service lines. It seems to make sense, but it requires discipline to stay the course.

The reality? It takes 18-24 months of a campaign running continuously in market before the awareness and preference levels move, according to Cheryl Stone, President of Cheryl Stone & Associates, a market research firm specializing in healthcare. But, the proper budget to stay the course, competing health system priorities, and, sometimes impatience-induced boredom of health system leaders, prevent brand campaigns from realizing their true potential.

A brand campaign that can accomplish two things at once – promoting both a health system’s brand position and its service lines – can help healthcare marketing leaders keep their organizations on track. There’s no secret sauce. It’s really just a choice between two different go-to market strategies.

Brand position promotion

Typical health system brand positioning claims include wellness, convenience, innovation, patient experience and capability. A brand position must be true, relevant and meaningful to your target audiences. And, it requires a well-rounded discovery process to determine where your brand is positioned.

Newly formed, Advocate Aurora Health has solidly claimed an untapped position in its service area – wellness. Now, as one of the nation’s largest health systems, Advocate Aurora Health is introducing its brand through its “Make Healthy Happen” campaign. The creative shows scenes of simple, everyday healthy behaviors – playing sports, singing out loud in the car, even petting animals.

The campaign follows a classic trick from an older playbook. In his 2011 book, “Joe Public Doesn’t Care About Your Hospital,” Chris Bevelo discussed the importance of claiming wellness as a viable position. Why? Wellness is relevant to everyone. And, if you increase your relevancy to a mass market, you will immediately be top-of-mind when more serious healthcare needs arise.

It’s possible that Advocate Aurora Health’s “Make Healthy Happen” campaign strategy will evolve to promote specific service lines over time. And, it’s important to note that this strategy is a sound one for a newly formed health system looking to make an immediate impact in the market. Advocate Aurora is building relevancy and trust first, before it introduces service-line messaging.

Brand position promotion leveraging service-line messaging

Mid-sized health systems often see greater benefit from the double-duty brand campaign approach. Through this approach, health systems promote their brand positions while infusing specific service-line messaging.

After a thorough discovery process, Cape Regional Health System in Cape May County, New Jersey, needed to prove it was capable. Just as capable as its Philadelphia competitors at taking care of some of the most serious medical conditions. Instead of touting awards, technology and affiliations to academic medical center affiliations, the health system communicated its capability by showcasing Barbara’s triumph over breast cancer and George’s journey to heal a tibia and fibula.

This approach is often most beneficial to mid-sized health systems because:

  • It’s more efficient. You can satisfy the need to promote both your brand position and your service line through one campaign theme.
  • It’s a natural catalyst for storytelling. Telling a patient story about wellness or innovation is more emotionally compelling if it’s told by a patient or a physician. And, that patient or physician will be able to tell that story best through their experience with a specific service line.
  • It’s enduring. The brand campaign is only limited by the number of service lines and stories your health system has to tell. (Always include your strategic priority service lines first and make sure they have a presence throughout the life of the campaign.)
  • It can help provide a platform for highly targeted campaigns. Not every promotion can or should appeal to a mass audience. If, for example, your health system wants to promote its fertility clinic, you can leverage the brand position and campaign theme to maintain consistency with mass messages. Then, you can customize specific service-line messaging and your media buy to appeal to this highly targeted audience.

Regardless of the go-to market strategy you use, the most important thing to establish before going to market is your brand position. Without this important element, it is difficult for your brand to gain traction in today’s crowded marketplace.


Stephanie Burton, APR is the Director of Healthcare Marketing at Core Health.

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