Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Perils of Overthinking in Hospital Branding

As another year comes to a close, we think about all we've accomplished in 2012.  However, it's equally important to think about what we didn't. In fact, our business-oriented list of New Year's resolutions should begin with the "to do's" that remain undone.  There are many reasons in the marketing world why we're not always able to put check marks next to our check-lists.  Deadlines, new project initiatives, changes in staffing, revised business priorities...the list goes on with many items that just can't be helped.  But there's another reason we often don't complete what we've set out to accomplish - "overthinking."

Overthinking.  Admit it, we're all guilty.  There are many examples in the world of hospital branding that fall prey to the symptoms of overthinking. Most center around how we think people will react to strategic decisions and whether or not they'll be able to put "two and two together."  But here's the honest truth - which is sometimes difficult to swallow for people in our business, myself included:

People just don't think about things the way we do. 

Several sources suggest that we've gone from exposing consumers to 500 messages a day to nearly 3,000.  And, according to Yankelovich Consumer Research, "regardless of whether the figure is 3,000 or 30,000, it is clear that businesses need to do something fairly special to be noticed on a large scale.  Even if people do happen to cast their eyes on your messages, whether they actually take any notice or process the information is a different matter."

Here are a few examples in hospital branding that have been the subject of overthinking:

Naming a new hospital or branded enterprise  - We have worked with three organizations this past year that were evaluating name changes and suggestions for hospital facilities or branded enterprises.  A lot of quality research was conducted and in-depth consumer interviews were held. Not surprisingly,  most people liked the names they were most familiar with and expressed the desire to have them incorporated into new branding strategies.  Research can be equally validating as it is illuminating.

Dabbling in social media - This train left the station last year.  Yet, there are many healthcare organizations that continue to think through every possible negative ramification in launching an aggressive digital or on-line strategy.  As a result, they never got off the dime and competition now owns keywords and a strong digital presence.

Graphic Standards - Does the line come under the name or does the name come over the line?  Graphic standards are paramount for growing organizations, however, most are developed with the company in mind, not the consumer.  Focus group participants clearly report:  "Tell us who you are and where you are" and "keep it simple."

Internal Branding -  Stakeholders want to be educated about various marketing initiatives.  After all, it's the "fun" part of the business and who doesn't enjoy seeing their organization's name out in the community.  But they also want to be inspired, and have a better understanding of what it means for them in their daily work activities.  

There are many other examples of key initiatives that often get caught in our own analysis-paralysis.  Just remember the number from Yankelovich - your consumer audience is hit with over 3,000 messages every day.  Job one is making ideas clear, relevant, and simple - and not overthinking the story we want to tell as hospital branders.

Other reminders that make our messages more memorable:
  • Engage, don't sell - branding is a heartbeat not a chest beat.  Remember "feature benefits, not features."  Ideas around love, money, health, career, hopes, and dreams are what get people's attention.
  • Use media effectively -  if consumers are bombarded with messages, select media channels and strategies that are most relevant to those you want to reach.  Traditional and non-traditional media can be highly targeted to better the odds of messages being noticed.
  • Be innovative and creative - people will notice your messages if they stand out and capture their imagination.  Same old, same old is, well, same old.
Happy 2013!  May the New Year bring you health, happiness, love, success and money (see how it works!)  Here's to more doing and less overthinking.

Rob Rosenberg is President of  Springboard Brand and Creative Strategy, a brand strategy and communications firm located in the Chicagoland area. For more information on Springboard or to discuss this and other ideas, please contact Rob at 847.398.4920 or at rob@springboardbrand.com

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Modern Families Require New Thinking About Your Target Audiences

Since the mid-80's, when healthcare marketing first burst onto the scene, "women, 35-64" were considered the 'sweet spot' of consumer audiences for marketing communications programs.  She represented the heavy user, influencer, and the primary decision maker for the entire family.   However, in the last 30 years, with seismic shifts in lifestyles and household compositions, this traditional view of the "classic demographic" needs to be re-examined to take into account non-traditional family dynamics.  And this represents a great opportunity for healthcare marketers to capture these emerging households.

As Springbrand Brand and Creative Strategy (happy now SEO department) engages in more focus group panels across the U.S. on behalf of hospitals and health systems, one message is consistent:  people want to see themselves ("people like me") reflected in advertising and communications campaigns.  This should be welcoming news to marketers trying to represent their organizations in more transparent and genuine ways in support of the overall mission.

So who are these new households and what dynamics should be reflected in your marketing initiatives?  Take a look at some of the changes that have occurred during the last 30 years:
  • Mixed marriages have more than doubled
  • The divorce rate is nearly 50%
  • Over one-third of children are in single parent households
  • There are more working women and stay-at-home dads than ever before
  • Inter-faith marriages are up 50%
  • There's been tremendous growth in the number of same-sex households
  • People are living longer
All of these changes have tremendous implications on how marketers should look at their customer groups.  Certainly some U.S. markets reflect more of these shifts than others, but the traditional perspective of "women, 35-64" should be challenged and new target groups reached through many alternative media channels and social networks.

Here are some ideas to get you started:
  • Re-examine your marketplace - Evaluate how these shifts might be impacting families in your region and how their compositions have changed.  If consumer's want to "see themselves" in your marketing messages, make sure you know who it is you're talking to and who comprises their family situations.
  • Align your customer service strategies -With satisfaction scores becoming a key metric to reimbursement and hospital ratings, now is a good time to also re-examine your customer service protocols and amenities.  For example, if your market has a higher incidence of male heads-of-households, what types of services might they need from your organization.
  • Evaluate research methodologies - Accurately reflect these new dynamics and demographics in your focus groups, telephone surveys, on-line surveys and other research studies.  Learn what's important to these segments and what you can do to win their business.
  • Push your service-line strategies - Determine if there are new opportunities to strengthen and enhance your service lines.  One of Springboard Brand and Creative Strategy's clients in Maryland developed a new Senior's ER to meet the growth of seniors in its region.  Equipped with non-slip floors, warm robes, and large remote controls - to name a few of the amenities - this new service has been very well received and opened a new customer niche for the hospital.
  • Reflect the marketplace in your creative - Take an objective look at your creative materials; advertising, collateral, and on-line to determine if, in fact, it accurately reflects the real families in your marketplace.  Represent the diversity that exists; not every familial unit consists of a "mom, dad, two kids, and a dog!" 
  • Continue to explore new media channels and networks - New dynamics of audiences can be reached in so many different ways, with digital, traditional, social, and on-line strategies.  What a great opportunity to engage consumers in their environments to win market share and gain long-term advocacy.
Today's modern family is more than a hit TV show.  It's a new composition of your customer groups, and you have an opportunity to make a greater impact with your marketing and creative strategies.  If consumers want to see "people who look like me," accurately reflect them in your messaging and reach out in genuine and authentic ways.

Rob Rosenberg is President of  Springboard Brand and Creative Strategy, a brand development and communications firm with offices in the Chicago and D.C. areas. For more information on Springboard or to discuss this and other ideas, please contact Rob at 847.398.4920 or at rob@springboardbrand.com

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Hospital Branding - What Goes Around, Comes Around

Since we're in the middle of "Conference Season" - yes, that time of year when squeeze balls and personalized pens go flying off the exhibit tables - I'm pleased to report that the topics of branding and strategy are, once again, in the conversation.  For the past couple years, or so it seems, break-out sessions and keynote addresses have centered on the "hot picks" including social networks, digital media, and mobile technology. And while these subjects are still the bullseye of marketing agendas, the context is brand strategy and, at least for now, the dog is back in charge of wagging the tail.

There are several key factors and forces which appear to be influencing this shift in context, away from tactical marketing to strategy and branding.  Based on the conferences I've attended thus far this Fall, here are a few:

  • The "Steve Jobs" Effect - Maybe it's the surging stock price of Apple, or the upcoming one-year anniversary of his death, but Steve Jobs has certainly been top-of-mind. In fact, many of the conference sessions that I've attended have included his quotes - and here's my favorite to-date:  I'm more proud of what we don't do than what we do.  Apple is all about brand and strategy and this comment in Business Week gets at the core of his wisdom.  Strategy means sacrifice and not being "all things to all people."  This translates again to the strategy of branding and the opportunity for a company, product, or service to be clearly differentiated from competition and carve out a unique personality in their respective industries.  Apple demonstrates this philosophy in all aspects of its brand, from product design, packaging, usage, store displays, and even the attitude and dress of Apple employees. The lessons he left us, and the products we enjoy, are one very real reason the context of conversation has shifted from tactics to strategy.  
  • No More "Me Too" - It's taken a few years, but now that we're past the early adopter stage of social media, marketers have realized that the personality of the brand needs to shine, and not the personality of the social media poster.  In the context of brand, all Tweets, Facebook posts, LinkedIn messaging, and other posts should be in support of the strategy, not independent ideas that reflect the mood of the social media representative or the quote of the day.  I found this especially refreshing to hear during marketing conferences as it speaks to the consistency of the brand story and standing apart from what competitors are also posting.  Speakers referenced integrated social media plans (akin to marketing plans) as an excellent way to identify, months in advance, the social strategy for your organization in support of various services, promotions, and other strategic initiatives.
  • The Value of the Brand Dollar - Without a doubt, many conference speakers and industry representatives offered their two cents on the cost efficiency of a brand strategy versus that of independent service-line promotions.  The economy has definitely fueled the desire and need for brand marketers to create an overarching strategy that supports many products and services.  Branding has long afforded this efficiency and in light of tight budgets, marketing departments are re-evaluating this approach to get more of that proverbial "bang for the buck."  
  • Branding is Not a "One and Done" - Iconic brands - and you know who they are - have demonstrated the value of a long-term, consistent strategy.  That's why the slightest change in strategy will often upset the Apple cart (pun intended).  Look what happens when Diet Coke changes its packaging, or the parent brand changes its recipe.  How about when Burger King continues to change its tagline and goes back to the original.  Or when FedEx realizes it's not technology that people are buying, but the promise of "absolutely, positively" being delivered.  Branding is not a "one and done."  Plain and simple.  Hospital marketers have notoriously checked this "to do" off the list and moved on to other strategies, and I'm glad to hear that it's sill very much on the agenda.
What goes around, comes around.  Brand marketers lost sight of the value of branding - both strategically and financially - in favor of the tactical applications of new media and technologies.  They've now realized that without the context of a brand story and unique market differentiation, these tactics are just like the ones down-the-street.  I'm glad to hear that branding is back in the forefront and, next to squish balls and iPads, is at the center of many Fall agendas.

Rob Rosenberg is President of Springboard Brand and Creative Strategy, a brand development and communications firm with offices in the Chicago and D.C. areas. For more information on Springboard or to discuss this and other ideas, please contact Rob at 847.398.4920 or at rob@springboardbrand.com  Hospital Branding


Monday, August 27, 2012

Internal Marketing: The Transformation from "Touchy-feely" to Hitting the Bottom-line.

Like everything else, it seems that internal marketing is undergoing a transformation - moving from the "touchy-feely" era of benefits to those that really hit the bottom-line hard.  Especially in these times of acquisitions, affiliations, and other cooperative arrangements.

Several summertime events have reinforced what we've thought all along - the value of building brand knowledge on the inside has immediate and very tangible results.

First, a personal experience from a recent summer trip that included a hotel scheduling snafu.  For some reason, the Marriott hotel I thought I was booked into, was actually sold out and did not have my name on the list.  Even with my usual "song and dance," the receptionist could not accommodate.  But, instead of sending me and my travel companion on our way to a competitor for four nights, she provided us a list of other Marriott branded properties in the area and called a special hotline for availability. She found one nearby and those four nights provided a nice four digit return to the corporate organization (a drop in the bucket, but those drops add up).  We've all shared this type of experience, but what struck me most was, what I'll call the "No Flinch Rule."  Instead of being flustered and randomly suggesting nearby hotels and other thoughts, this receptionist didn't flinch.  She immediately took out her list of affiliated hotels and began making phone calls.  Oh, and did I mention the complementary van ride to the other property.  She was in charge of the transaction.

Other recent, and work-related, experiences.  Here at Springboard, we have been knee-deep in planning for several clients and part of our Brand CURE process includes internal interviews with organizational leadership, board members, community leaders, and for healthcare organizations, physicians.  In almost every client situation, the lack of organizational knowledge surfaced as a key issue and is resulting in the loss of real dollars for the corporate brand.  In one case, a group of employed family doctors was referring specialty cases to a competitive brand because they did not realize the hospital had an affiliation with a different cardiology practice.  In another case, a "spoke" community hospital was not referring patients to the tertiary "hub" because nurses and case managers did not know about the transfer protocols/transportation provided to its patients. 

In both cases, the amount of immediate, downstream, and potential lifetime revenue lost for each patient would more than pay for the entire internal marketing effort!

In the battle for wallet share, the importance of the internal sell is greater than ever before.  It's no longer enough to reach employees and other stakeholders with a "feel good" message about the organization to instill a sense of pride and enthusiasm.  While these are hugely important benefits, they may or may not produce financial returns.  Today, organizations must educate the entire workforce on the value and composition of the brand.  For hospital networks, staff needs to know which entities are part of the system and the financial responsibility they have to keep patients on the inside.  

Today's new world of internal marketing requires a few shifts: 

  • Internal marketing is not just "rah rah"- Employee forums and organization-wide meetings should be transparent about the composition and value of the brand, and the financial responsibility to keep customers "on the inside."
  • From "Marketeers," to "Transactioneers"- Your workforce needs to move from the promotion of the organization to the selling of the organization.
  • It includes everybody; from the front lines to behind the lines - Oftentimes, referrals and transfers are driven by employees who work behind the scenes.  In addition to the front line staff, who are trained on "greeting and treating" customers, the back-room staff must be included.
  • Transparency means transactions - Be open about expectations and the value an "in house" referral brings to the entire organization.
  • Connect the operational dots - if you're expecting employees to keep business in-house, then the house must be in order and able to accommodate these situations.  The Marriott receptionist had a hotline to facilitate our reservation and a van to transport us to the other property.  That's internal marketing!
Rob Rosenberg is President of Springboard Brand and Creative Strategy, a brand development and communications firm with offices in the Chicago and D.C. areas. For more information on Springboard or to discuss this and other ideas, please contact Rob at 847.398.4920 or at rob@springboardbrand.com  Hospital Branding

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Hospital Branding: The difference between branding and selling - A Heart Beat vs. A Chest Beat

This month, Springboard celebrated its 10-year anniversary.  The number of well wishes and thoughtful remarks were much appreciated and gave us "cause for pause" and the opportunity to reflect on the last decade. Obviously, much has changed in the healthcare and marketing industries; from the invent of social media to the real inroads of healthcare reform. Amidst all the changes, there is a consistent thread that has remained woven in the fabric of consumer buying, and has for decades. Yes, the concept of branding is alive and well and remains at the "heart beat" of reaching and motivating customers to choose one product or service over another.

That's it - heart beat!  After spending so many years describing the concept of branding and all the text-book definitions, it comes down to these two key words.  And when contrasted with the words "chest beat," used to describe branding's first cousin, selling, it really ticks!

A brand strategy makes an emotional statement for a product, service, or organization.  It creates a promise to the marketplace that places an emphasis on user benefits, not features (another attribute of the "selling" family tree).  And the benefits usually make our hearts beat; whether it's how we feel, dream, hope, perform, or even how others view us as a result of using our favorite brand.  All heart beats.  Not chest beats. Perfect examples:  Levi's makes the heart beat with the feeling of freedom and relaxation, not with thread count and fabric data.  Coke makes the heart beat with rejuvenation and refreshment,  not carbonated water, sugar, and caffeine.

Another important trait of branding versus selling is the type of communication that takes place with customers.  These days, branding is so engaged with social media and web/mobile interactivity, that it really is an ongoing dialogue with loyalists.  Whereas selling is still very much a monologue with buyers, telling them what you want them to hear (aka chest beat) often in intellectual terms, not emotional ones. Notice the difference in audience descriptions - branding talks with loyalists, selling talks to buyers.

The same differences between branding and selling apply to internal marketing, too.  Since employees are the number one audience that needs to become engaged with a brand - especially in service industries - they have to feel the heart beat.  There has to be passion in the words they use to describe their organization to friends, family, and future loyalists.  Perfect example:  Next time you want to present a new brand campaign to internal stakeholders, don't just inform them (aka chest beat), inspire them!  Use sight, sound, and emotion to build a sense of pride and professionalism.  Demonstrating how each and every employee contributes to the success of the enterprise - as well as the communities in which they live - offers real tangible benefits in terms of satisfaction, retention, and even customer sales.

Could the concept of branding be this simple and pure?  Probably not, but it doesn't have to be obscure and complicated, either.  Branding is about creating a heart beat, inside and outside your organization. Here's a few suggestions to help get you pumped up:
  1. Beat to a different drummer - your brand has to set your organization apart and provide your products and services with a unique positioning platform.  It has to be true and authentic to your organization and tell a story no other brand can communicate.  
  2. Take the pulse of your market - your positioning platform and brand promise have to resonate with your key internal and external audiences (remember, future loyalists).  Qualitative research has proven to be an excellent methodology for revealing, reviewing, and determining the relevance of brand statements and creative applications.
  3. Reasons to beat (or believe) - brands need intellectual support to tell an emotional story.  Sometimes just one "nugget." Gatorade does this all the time when it creates the emotions of victory and endurance, and supports it with the "reason whys" based on scientific facts.
  4. The beat goes on - branding is not just a "one and done."  Don't just check it off your list and move on.  Stay with it, both on the outside and inside. Your brand essence must live within the culture of your organization.  Successful organizations use their brand strategy as a guide for making operational,  human resources, and customer service decisions that support the promise.
  5. Just beat it - traditional, digital, social...regardless of the media, channels, or vehicles, your brand strategy and creative executions need to be consistent across the board.  Perfect example: sync your social media strategy to your brand promise and require posts to speak to the personality and position of your organization (and not the poster). 
Ten years and counting.  We're proud of the success we've shared with our clients and the work we've contributed to the healthcare marketing space.  It's about "heart beat," and when we keep that in the forefront of our thinking and strategy development, the wonderful journey of brand-building will continue to create new pathways and opportunities for all of us.  

Rob Rosenberg is President of Springboard Brand & Creative Strategy, a brand development and communications firm with offices in the Chicago and D.C. areas. For more information on Springboard or to discuss this and other ideas, please contact Rob at 847.398.4920 or at rob@springboardbrand.com

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Brand Your Art and Copy, Too

At a recent breakfast branding club, featuring those in the business and not famous cereals and toaster items, the discussion popped up about the strategy of owning key phrases and images. In addition to graphic standards, which organizations develop to illustrate proper spacing and color palettes, the conversation centered on the need for companies to create key words, phrases, and images that support their brand propositions. Having once worked on Sealy Posturepedic mattresses, I recalled the "ownership" (and subsequent trademark) of the phrase, "designed in cooperation with leading orthopedic surgeons." Key words that created a franchise and contributed to a 90% awareness of the Posturepedic brand. In addition to this copy, all sales materials and advertising were required to feature the now famous mattress "cut-away," the scientific illustration that shows various layers of ticking, coils, and foam. This combination of art and copy became a hallmark of Sealy Posturepedic and helped to create an iconic brand. Other examples of brands that "own" certain words, phrases, and images include Lexus, State Farm, and Southwest Airlines. Just the mention of these brands conjure up a unique "look and feel" that are associated with their traditional, social, and digital media communications.

Hospitals are getting better at differentiating their organizations. Strategic ideas are shining through in taglines and unique positioning buckets focused on a single-minded platform. But they are also falling short when it comes to standards reflecting branded words and images. No matter the market position - such as patient-centered care, breakthrough technology, or physician expertise - the executions always seem to fall flat and into the undifferentiated abyss of hospital advertising. The words "excellence," "comprehensive," and "multi-disciplinary" are totally "me too." Forget "advanced," "quality," and "leading." In terms of images, try something other than a surgical scene, patient/physician consultation, or a slow-motion shot of a former patient engaged in their favorite activity, UNLESS they support your brand position.

Here in Chicago, there are some excellent strategies in play. However, when strategies turn to execution, the work often turns to mush. And is virtually impossible to distinguish one hospital or system from another for lack of branded words and images.

Here's what you can do to help translate your strategy into execution:

  • Create a list of "branded" words. Those that support your brand essence and tell your story. Use these copy points in all communications; from advertising to social posts to news releases.
  • Develop a library of "branded" photos and images. Again, those that support your position and visually reinforce your organization's specific personality.
  • Include these copy points and art images in your graphics standards manual, or create a separate "Art & Copy" book.
  • Educate service line marketers, and associated entities within your organization, on the words and images that should be used for their promotions if the marketing function is decentralized.
  • Be consistent in all forms of communications; traditional, social, and digital media.
  • And - a separate note for social channels - develop "post" phrases and key words that should be used as the "voice" of your organization and not that of the poster.
Developing a powerful brand is a tough, but rewarding challenge. Once you're there, don't water it down in the execution. Be as creative, disciplined, and rigid with the art and copy as you are with the overarching strategy. Your brand will be differentiated and the recall of your messages will be greatly enhanced. Word.

Rob Rosenberg is President of Springboard Brand & Creative Strategy, a brand development and communications firm with offices in the Chicago and D.C. areas. For more information on Springboard or to discuss this and other ideas, please contact Rob at 847.398.4920 or at rob@springboardbrand.com

Monday, March 5, 2012

Hospital Branding: A Resurgence in Rebranding: Remember, what's in a name?

Have you noticed it in your marketplace? Hospitals and health systems are undergoing a vast resurgence in new naming strategies. Here in the Chicago area, for example, we've seen Central DuPage Hospital and Delnor Health System come together as "Cadence Health." Provena Health and Resurrection Health Care have selected "Presence Health" as their new combined name. From corporate HQ in San Francisco, Catholic Healthcare West has become Dignity Health in their 40-plus markets in the U.S. The Ohio State University Hospital changed its name to Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University. And, just recently St. Luke's Hospital in Allentown, PA announced it will now be known as St. Luke's University Health Network.

These are only a handful of the many name changes happening in markets across the country. Why this surge? The reasons vary; from an onslaught of recent mergers to faith-based practices, from competitive positioning to donor recognition. Regardless of the reason, there are several fundamental branding disciplines to keep in mind if you're considering a name change for your organization.

Equity, equity, equity. Similar to location, location, location in the real estate market, naming strategies all come down to equity. Before abandoning an established name for the sake of collaboration or partnership, conduct objective research to determine the knowledge, attitudes, and meaning your current name(s) have in the market. If merging entities, there's nothing wrong with retaining a current name(s) if it scores well in consumer research and has strong brand equity. Banks do this all the time, nothing fancy about First Third Fifth Fourth Bank, but we know who they are and where they've come from.

We just helped a client develop a naming strategy for a sister hospital facility that will be under construction in a few months. While all sorts of names were tested, the best strategy, as determined by consumers, was to retain the "flagship" brand name and add a geographic descriptor in the name. The equity in the flagship was way too strong to abandon.

New name means new positioning. Since I'm located in the Chicago market, let me use the Central DuPage and Delnor case as an example here. For a couple of years, Central DuPage has had a nice positioning and ad campaign around "always thinking, always caring." As a consumer, I associate that with Central DuPage. Now, along comes this new brand called Cadence and, guess what, they, too, are positioned as "always thinking, always caring." Can you spell confusing? If that tagline didn't score well the first time, I doubt it will improve the second time around. There's a reason that entities merge and a benefit ensues - and that should be reflected in the positioning strategy and tagline - not just a recycle from one of the participating parties.

Be ready to roll day one. Dignity did it right. The day it was announced that Catholic Healthcare West (CHW) was changing its name due to the diversity of its network and subsequent faith-based issues, every hospital was ready to go live with new brand templates, websites, and a well crafted story of its new mission and position. As one of the Vice Presidents from a participating hospital told me, "We worked around the clock to make sure it was seamless. It was amazing what went on behind the scenes getting ready for this announcement."

Don't be disappointed when your new name doesn't register in the market. I have been behind the mirror of many focus groups and watched clients become frustrated when consumers call their organization by an old name. "We changed that name 15 years ago!" After restraining them from leaping through to the other side, I remind them that people just don't pay that much attention to what we say and do. Like a former colleague used to tell me - people have minds like old, rural mailboxes. There's a slot for every type of product and brand and that is where they store information about different brands and services. And the space is crowded!

Bottom-line, consumers don't (over) think about it like you do. When your name changes, there's a great likelihood that you'll still be known by the old one for many years to come. Plan accordingly and be realistic in your expectations.

Explain it first to the people who matter most, your employees. Their family, friends, and neighbors will ask them. "What's with the new name?" If their answer is, "I have no idea," or "makes no sense to me," then you're in for an uphill fight for brand equity. That's why employees and other internal stakeholders have to be in the know, now, before it goes public. Of course, as with other internal communications, it's not just an education - it's an inspiration - getting them to understand and be enthusiastic about the change. Plus, don't forget how far a coffee mug or sweatshirt can go to ignite pride and advocacy. We have found brand books and videos to be excellent ideas to help spread the word internally.

Learn from the past, we've been through this before. Back in the 90's, as integration and the formation of health systems began to emerge, new naming strategies were the norm. The result was oftentimes a computer-generated name that left many scratching their heads. A few years later, disintegration took place and the merged systems went back to their individual hospital roots and marketers had to pick up the pieces and lost time. As it appears the industry is, once again, going through a naming frenzy, keep these lessons from the past in mind and have a contingency plan in mind in the event your organization becomes a stand-alone. How much equity do you really want to give up?

Rob Rosenberg is President of Springboard Brand & Creative Strategy, a brand development and communications firm with offices in the Chicago and D.C. areas. For more information on Springboard or to discuss this and other ideas, please contact Rob at 847.398.4920 or at rob@springboardbrand.com  Hospital Branding