A colleague and I were doing focus groups in New England last week and conducting brand association exercises with female healthcare consumers. We asked the participants to compare various hospital brands to well known retail stores. This is a classic brand association exercise. So, for example, does a given hospital remind you more of Walmart, JCPenney, Target or Macy’s? We left it up to the consumers to select the appropriate retail outlet. It was amazing to see how many hospitals ended up being Walmart or Target. (The choice of Target usually means that it is fairly pedestrian but nicer than Walmart.) At one point, one woman compared one of the area hospitals to REI – the store for outdoor enthusiast that is known for its customer service and has been listed on FORTUNE magazine’s list of the “100 Best Companies to Work For” since the list was first started. The hospital being compared to REI was in a rural area, offering high quality services and a consistently positive experience for patients and visitors. Something about that comparison struck me as being powerful. I’d much rather have my hospital compared to REI than Walmart! To that end, it was one of the most positive comparison’s of the evening.
When I was reviewing a recent ad campaign my firm launched for Southwestern Vermont Health Care (SVMC), I was reminded of the focus group. Of all the hospitals my firm works with, SVMC is the one I would compare to REI. The two brands both evoke similar positive feelings for me.
Part of the challenge with this new campaign was conveying the tonality of the brand effectively, communicating the hospital’s excellence, all while demonstrating the strong connection to the community. You can review some of the ads below and see what you think. One of the things I love about this campaign is that it celebrates the employees of the hospital – the individuals who make the organization what it is.