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Rebranding a Healthcare Facility


Charlotte Memorial Hospital, a medical center and teaching facility, was in the process of upgrading, updating, and refurbishing its physical plant. A new maternity bed tower was under construction and a new parking deck had just been completed when Stephen Hawley Martin was called in to work “Brand Power” magic.


Stephen’s initial research indicated the changes and improvements enjoyed fairly high recognition within the medical community, but almost no awareness existed among the general public. It soon became clear that Charlotte Memorial suffered from the kind of image endemic to large, public, urban teaching hospitals. It was viewed as an inner city, primarily indigent-care facility for critical care and trauma patients—so much so that potential patients socioeconomically able to afford health insurance routinely selected its competitors, such as Presbyterian Hospital and St. Mary’s.


Following completion of the internal phase of the brand research, Stephen conducted a series of focus groups with consumers that fit the socioeconomic and demographic profile of the target audience. As a result, it became obvious that something drastic had to be done to make it possible for the refurbished and upgraded facility to reach its ambitious occupancy and revenue goals.


Particularly disturbing were the prospects for the new maternity bed tower. Given a choice, middle and upper-middle income families with employer-supplied health insurance said almost unanimously that they were highly unlikely to choose Charlotte Memorial. They would only select the facility if there were indications there might be complications that would require proximity to a neonatal intensive care unit.


Stephen came to the conclusion Charlotte Memorial had to undergo a total image overhaul—nothing less was going to do the trick. To make a long story short, as step one he recommended changing the name of Charlotte Memorial to “Carolinas Medical Center.” As you may know, Charlotte is located in southern North Carolina—some of its suburbs are in South Carolina—and so it made sense to use the plural, “Carolinas,” in order to be inclusive of the area served.


Stephen also recommended that the name-change be accompanied by a multi-media campaign to get the word out about the new name and about the massive building projects underway. The goal was to alter perceptions to reflect his client’s true stature and its growing presence as a major medical center and state-of-the-art teaching hospital. Below is a TV spot from the campaign:



TV spots for the new maternity bed tower were also created that pictured healthy newborn babies and happy mothers cuddling them in welcoming, comfortable, and homey surroundings. The commercials radiated that critical ingredient, perhaps the most fervent emotion of all—love. Here’s one of those spots:



The campaign was slated to run three months along with public relations activities. Among other tactics, orientation programs and tours were instituted for medical personnel from around the city and the region that may or may not have had dealings with the medical center in the past. Tours were also created for expectant parents to view the new maternity facility.


The campaign was much more effective than anyone anticipated. Halfway into the three-month schedule, the new maternity bed tower was full to capacity and had a waiting list. Tracking studies showed awareness of the new name and refurnished facilities was just about universal. The Center itself had become so popular that management found it necessary to refer many non-critical patients to what had formerly been seen as competitive health facilities. This had become necessary in order to have room to care for patients with critically acute problems. 


As a result, the second half of the ad campaign was cancelled. Stephen’s strategy and plan was so successful the marketing staff found themselves with nothing left to do.


If you’d like to have a conversation with Stephen Hawley Martin to discuss the possibility of having him create a roadmap that will lead to increased sales for what you sell, send him an e-mail. There will be no obligation on your part, it won’t cost you a thing, and who knows where it might lead.


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