Bringing “life to brand” with a powerful human connection
TriHealth, one of the largest health systems in Cincinnati, was in the uncommon position of having done rigorous culture building work for several years, uniting their team around a clear mission and vision, fully-embraced values, and “always behaviors.” They asked Core to help them define their brand strategy and bring their brand to life in a new campaign to outwardly reflect their exceptional and differentiating culture.
They also asked us to help them build the brand on the foundation of their population health success. The organization is several years into a deep commitment to population health and has impressive results to prove it, including diabetes control 22% better than the market average, colorectal cancer screenings 15% higher than the market average, and costs that are 11% lower than competitive health systems. Many health systems are talking about population health; TriHealth is living population health.
Defining a unique brand of care in a saturated market
Cincinnati is a highly saturated healthcare market with several other large healthcare systems. Overall, the brands are not highly differentiated from each other and consumers often confuse them. Our first, crucial step was to do deep listening and observation inside TriHealth to discern its unique brand of care.
In meetings and interviews within the organization, we felt a qualitative difference: a unique degree of warmth and humanity that is not always consistently present in healthcare systems. Leadership and front line team members alike expressed a heartfelt belief in the importance of treating patients like human beings rather than numbers, ensuring that they feel seen, heard and deeply cared for.
Finding the sweet spot between the brand’s differentiating strength and audiences’ deep desires
We also fielded online focus groups with diverse groups of TriHealth patients and Cincinnati consumers who were patients of other systems. Patients echoed their positive, human treatment at TriHealth. (And in one area where they did not, TriHealth took immediate action towards improvement.)
It was not the first time we’ve heard people asking for more human treatment from healthcare providers; it is a frequent theme in our research. It was, however, the first time we’ve gleaned this particular insight:
In order to believe that they are getting the best health outcomes, people must feel seen, heard, understood and connected as a person.
Some went so far as to say that they would “stay broken longer” in order to have a better, more human-feeling healthcare experience. TriHealth was uniquely positioned to deliver on this desire to be seen and heard.
“Be seen. Be heard. Be healed.”
The consumer insight led to the strategic platform for the campaign, the idea that TriHealth’s surprisingly human care drives the best health outcomes. We brought this strategy to life with the brand theme, “Be seen. Be heard. Be healed.”: an expression of both the humanity of the experience and the healing that results. Campaign executions were crafted to maximize the human warmth and feature emotionally moving moments when the people of Cincinnati are healed.
Prior to production, TriHealth quantitatively tested this work to ensure its relevance. It performed extremely well against competitive benchmark ads, generating outstanding “ad appeal” ratings.
Articulating population health in consumer-relevant ways
Much of the typical messaging that health systems use to talk about population health is not very consumer friendly, and the label “population health” itself is too “inside healthcare” for this context. Therefore, we led with the most salient consumer benefits to position the brand in the most compelling way and wove additional population health messaging in as support.
Our focus groups revealed that the most resonant population health ideas were the elements of equal access to healthcare for all, and proactive care, so those messages are utilized in the campaign, and will be front and center in other communications in selected channels.
TriHealth is living it, not just saying it
One of our most fundamental beliefs here at Core is our say it. live it.® philosophy. When it comes to excellent, business-building branding, it is not enough just to “Say It.” Your brand’s actions and experience have to align with your words; that is, you must “Live It.” TriHealth is an excellent example of this philosophy in effective action.
TriHealth leadership nurtures the brand-aligned culture in many ways, including open, human-feeling communication, specific and disciplined behaviors and constant reinforcement over time. They invest substantial resources and energy in cultivating leaders at all levels of the organization and across all parts of the system, and connecting them to the mission, vision, values and culture of TriHealth, to ensure that they are lived, everywhere.
To connect leaders and team members with the new brand and encourage them to continue to “Live It,” TriHealth executed a series of rollout meetings including unveilings to the Board of Directors, the Executive Leadership Team, the Integrated Leadership Team, its Leadership Development Institute, and all employees via a virtual town hall. Core participated in all of these rollout meetings, and created experiential campaign extensions for the Leadership Development Institute launch meeting, an in-person gathering of 800 leaders from across the system.
TriHealth made the event incredibly fun and engaging for its leaders, with local sports team mascots and a t-shirt cannon, joyfully wielded by CEO Mark Clement — a first for us at a rollout meeting, and a huge hit with the team. Core and TriHealth together outfitted the event lobby with campaign signage and a table for feedback and discussion. Each team member received a new campaign-themed badge pull and a “look book” highlighting the strategy behind the campaign and how to talk about it with team members.
Through insightful internal, customer and competitive research, Core was able to hold a mirror up to TriHealth’s true identity in the market. With that knowledge, Core guided us through a collaborative and thoughtful process to bring that identity to life through our marketing and to rally our 11,000+ team members behind it. In the end, we developed a unique, credible and impactful brand position and creative platform that resonates with both healthcare consumers and our team members.
Galvanizing employees — including prospective employees — by reflecting the core cultural truth
As a brand strategist, there is no higher compliment than a client or their team members saying that we captured the essence of their organization. We were honored to receive feedback from dozens of team members during the employee town hall meeting:
“I absolutely love the new brand. This is exactly how I feel and why I do what I do.”
“Love the brand promise! It’s who we are! Incredible!”
“It’s so great to have our branding truly match our culture of care.”
Many team members also proclaimed the level of pride they felt upon experiencing the new brand campaign.
Shortly after the internal brand rollout, the brand launch video created by Core was shared with a specialist who was considering joining the TriHealth team. In an extremely competitive talent market such as this, a powerful brand can make a huge difference in talent acquisition. In this case, the video moved the specialist, who said it looked like the kind of care she wants to be able to deliver.
All of this was, of course, made possible by our incredible partners at TriHealth. Their openness, diligence, warmth and drive for greatness are a gift and it is our honor to serve them and support their important work.
A few questions to ask yourself
As a healthcare marketing leader, we know you face many challenges and that brand is a big one; it can be hard to know where to start. Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you evaluate how to strengthen your brand.
Is your brand an accurate reflection of your culture and style of care?
Does your brand strategy address deep consumer desires, to move and motivate?
Does your brand strategy respect the feelings and needs of your employees? Will it inspire employee pride?
Do the behaviors of your brand align with what you say about it?
Is the execution of your brand communications powerful enough to move people?