Rebranding amid a pandemic: Strategies from Memorial Health, Bon Secours Mercy

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Rebranding a hospital often begins years before a new name is announced or an updated sign goes up. Becker's spoke with hospital executives about how they prioritized and budgeted for rebrands amid the COVID-19 pandemic, when hospitals had to be increasingly selective with their resources.

Springfield, Ill.-based Memorial Health originally planned to unveil its rebrand in spring 2020, but the pandemic put the efforts on hold. Aimee Daily, PhD, chief transformation officer at Memorial Health, told Becker's that in January 2021, the health system began discussing its strategies coming out of the pandemic. Memorial executives concluded that the brand integration effort was the key to driving its plans forward. 

Petersburg, Va.-based Bon Secours Southside Medical Center was acquired by Bon Secours Mercy Health in December 2019. The system's marketing team began the internal branding process immediately, but efforts had to be put on the back burner because they were "not a top priority" when the pandemic first hit, Sandra Mackey, the system's chief marketing officer, told Becker's.

More than a name change

At Bon Secours Mercy Health, rebranding always begins as an internal exercise. It's a way to leverage the system's mission and ensure each patient experiences what the brand promised them, Ms. Mackey said.

"We want to be known for our mission and the way that we provide care," she said. "If we're inconsistent about the way that we position ourselves across markets, then it leaves a lot in question about what a consumer can expect. 

"Making sure that we come together in a way that consumers know who we are and understand who they're doing business with allows them to make informed choices about the healthcare systems that they select. If that's not consistent, then it's just another name with nothing behind it. "

At Memorial Health, a rebrand was a vital aspect of its goal to organize all its hospitals under one system.

"It wasn't logos, a name and sign, it was really about the integration opportunity to pull together all the various parts and pieces of the health system under one umbrella, both visually and conceptually," Dr. Daily said.

Before Memorial Health's rebrand, the health system's hospitals operated in silos. Each hospital had different logos, signs, identification badges, uniforms and colors. During a pandemic, uniformity helps keep patients transferring between hospitals from feeling they've been handed off. When shuffling nurses or security guards between hospitals during COVID-19 surges, having one ID badge portrays a unified message to patients.

Navigating budget concerns

To afford Memorial Health's $3.85 million rebrand, the health system set a budget. It split the costs as a capital expense over several years. While nearly $4 million might seem expensive, Dr. Daily said putting off the rebrand is also costly.

"Every time our graphic designers would make a logo, then they have to make it again for the other hospitals," she said. "Every time you go to print birthday cards or business cards, you have 15 different layouts, because this one uses this logo, and this one uses this color. That's expensive."

Dr. Daily said a rebrand is a return on investment "not only from a consumer perception standpoint, and from a brand recognition standpoint, but just from the amount of work to maintain 100 different signs that all use different types of lighting and different types of brick. Our facilities' teams love that we're saying, 'This is the brick you use, this is the color you use, this is the lighting.' Over time, the economies of scale that exists because of that are going to be the type of things that healthcare needs to look at to reduce cost."

Moving forward with a rebrand

Once the healthcare industry adjusted to operating amid the pandemic, Bon Secours Mercy Health went back to work on finalizing the rebrand of its hospital in Petersburg. Bon Secours Southside Medical Center formally unveiled its rebrand Oct. 14, The Progress Index reported.

A 2018 merger brought together Marriottsville, Md.-based Bon Secours Health System and Cincinnati-based Mercy Health, forming Bon Secours Mercy Health. The system maintained the Bon Secours naming convention in regions that had historically carried the Bon Secours brand, doing the same in regions that were accustomed to the Mercy Health brand. That decision was made after the marketing team conducted a brand equity study for the two brands, finding consumers had "a strong attachment" to each.

Through market research, Memorial Health examined the reputation of its brand and what might hinder the rebrand, Dr. Daily said. The health system selected Oct. 1 as the official rebrand launch date.

"There's never going to be a perfect time," she said. "[When choosing a rebrand date], there will always be the next big project or the next initiative or the next thing going on. You just kind of have to decide. We said, 'You know the return here is going to be worth the work and the risk and and we just need to push forward with it.'"


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