When does a hospital know it's time to rebrand? 5 marketing execs share tips

Rebranding a hospital or health system is a major, often expensive, undertaking hospitals can be unsure whether to pursue. Below, five chief marketing officers answer the question: When should a hospital know it's time to rebrand?

Editor's note: Responses have been edited lightly for clarity and style.

Nick Ragone. Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Ascension (St. Louis). When we decided in 2015 to rebrand the Ascension system, it was because we were in the process of integrating our clinical care and operations and we believed the time was right to have an integrated brand identity as well across our 2,700 sites of care. 

Rebranding a system — particularly one as large as Ascension — is a major undertaking and requires full stakeholder alignment, both internally and externally. It's more than just swapping out signage or changing the color palette; it's about making it easier for consumers and patients to navigate your sites of care, it's about a consistent branded experience, it's about communicating with one voice in advocating for affordable and quality healthcare. And it's an inside-out process. There needs to be consensus, alignment and commitment from internal stakeholders to make it work before it can be fully realized. 

Sandra Mackey. Chief Marketing Officer at Bon Secours Mercy Health (Cincinnati). A brand is so much more than a logo or tagline — it’s a reflection of what your organization stands for and a measure of your reputation. While a logo is a visual expression that represents your organization, it’s also an important wayfinding tool. There are many schools of thought about when and how to rebrand. It’s my belief that brands are created from the inside out and should tell a story that reflects who you are and what you stand for. 

One example of an appropriate time to rebrand is when a healthcare institution transfers ownership. It’s critical to listen to the voices of the community, as well as evaluate the culture, to understand brand perception and barriers. A hospital with negative brand attribution can benefit by rebranding to signal change — but only if there’s equal commitment to improving operations and the patient experience while meeting the needs of the community.

Chris Roth. Chief Marketing Officer at UW Health (Madison, Wis.). Many people think a rebrand is associated with trying to move away from a bad event or "damaged" brand. For those cases, identifying the need to rebrand is not all that difficult. In reality, most rebranding is a positive (but still difficult) process of growth for a hospital or a health system where how they talk about themselves is playing catch up to the expansion of care they provide and their growth aspirations. 

How do you know whether you’ve outgrown your old brand? Your patients come from all over the world, but your messages sound more like a local hospital. Or, your patient base is growing, but your facilities are a sorted collection of localized and very custom names that don’t travel well.

Suzanne Bharati Hendery. Chief Marketing and Customer Officer at Renown Health (Reno, Nev.). Constantly. You constantly need to be sure your brand is aligning with what matters most to your customers, differentiating you from competitors, delivering on the intended brand value and not being copied. The strength of a strong brand shows in improved loyalty, growth and reputation metrics quarterly, and helps you achieve your annual strategic goals. 

Got a new strategic plan or a major change in the works? If so, it’s time for a "brand check up." You want to keep pace with the dynamic winds of change to stay top of mind and relevant to key customers.

Tricia Geraghty. Chief Marketing Officer, Children's Wisconsin (Milwaukee). Does your existing brand match both your strategy and the overall experience you offer patients and families? If the answer is no, it’s time to put rebranding on the table — but it’s important to make sure the experience you’re offering lives up to what the new brand is communicating.

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