October 10, 2014

Hospital rebranding mistakes to avoid

I recently toured the grounds of a university healthcare organization that had gone through a hospital rebranding five months earlier. I was impressed by how well the new brand looked on the monument signs near the heavily traveled entrance to campus. The large Illuminated signs near the tops of the main buildings also looked great.

At first glance, the hospital rebranding seemed to be a success. Then, sitting at a four-way stop, a hospital shuttle bus filled with employees, patients, and visitors passed by. I immediately noticed the old brand was still on the shuttle bus. As I turned right to get to the visitor parking lot, I noticed the old hospital brand on monument signs nearby. Brand implementation sleuth that I am, I investigated further and discovered only half the signage had been rebranded. None of the shuttles, security vehicles, emergency vehicles, or window signage had even been touched during the hospital rebranding.

After five months, the hospital rebranding should have been completed. I ran through the possible causes of the healthcare system’s rebranding mistakes in my head.

  • Was the unfinished hospital rebranding related to complex brand architecture issues? The new brand reflected both the university healthcare system and the individual hospital, not just the old hospital brand. The brand architecture seemed pretty straightforward.
  • Was it a budget matter? It could have been, but the costs for brand treatments on shuttle buses, emergency vehicles and other transportation touchpoints were minimal. Even if the new transportation brand treatments used vibrant colors and/or larger images to have more impact and increase brand exposure, which is common during a hospital rebranding, the overall rebranding budget increase would have been minimal. In fact, because transportation assets are seen on and off hospital grounds, we encourage clients going through hospital rebranding initiatives to leverage their vehicles given the relatively low rebranding costs.
  • Was it a lack of rebranding experience? This wouldn’t be the first time an in-house hospital rebranding team missed key steps because brand implementation was outside its area of expertise. In an effort to get back to day-to-day job duties, overworked employees do what they can to finish quickly at the lowest cost possible.

I think the hospital rebranding mistakes ultimately came down a failure to plan the entire rebranding before starting. The hospital rebranding process that yields the best results from a cost and timing standpoint is the “pull” approach described in a previous blog. In this case, it’s possible the rebranding team, in a rush to rebrand, remembered the monuments signs at the entrance to the campus, but forgot about the other signage. Sounds a lot like cramming for exams, doesn’t it?

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