Summer 2012

Name That Hospital

Branding campaign ups the profile of Tufts Medical Center in a competitive market

By Bruce Morgan

Once upon a time, hospitals didn’t need to advertise. Life was simple: Your doctor referred you to a place, and you went there dutifully. But as medicine has grown more competitive and patients are more involved in their care, a lot has changed. Hospitals need to set themselves apart from the pack. That is why, starting in 2009, Tufts-New England Medical Center hired PARTNERS + simons, a Boston brand communications agency, to help position itself more favorably in the crowded Boston health-care market.

The first stage involved creating a new logo, a new look and a new name—shortened to Tufts Medical Center—and promoted online, on the radio (in one spot, a cabdriver with a Boston accent genially informs his passenger that Tufts-New England Medical Center no longer exists; it’s called Tufts Medical Center now) and on billboards around town. Fresh signage was also put up everywhere inside the hospital.

A year later, in 2010, the campaign expanded to include TV spots designed to drive viewers to online video clips that featured short, pithy cameos by some of the hospital’s more affable physicians. “We chose people who were telegenic and had a good story to tell,” says Tony Cotrupi, president of PARTNERS + simons. “Our research has shown that something happens when you meet a doctor for the first time—it’s either positive, or it’s not. The reaction is almost chemical.” In effect, the ad campaign tried to tip the scales in the hospital’s favor by putting a friendly human face on the institution.

Something worked. Over the past two years or so, the hospital website has drawn some 325,000 visitors who spend an average of two minutes each on the site, according to Cotrupi. “In our business, we call that ‘engagement,’ ” he says. Public awareness of Tufts Medical Center has also risen. Cotrupi’s agency conducts an annual quantitative survey of 600 health-care consumers to see how well its messages are being absorbed. In the most recent testing, when consumers were asked if they had seen any advertising for Boston-area hospitals in the past year, Tufts Medical Center was cited third most often among the dozens of possibilities.

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