Friday, September 19, 2008

Pump Up This Promo

More Than a Band-Aid Solution
By Betsy Cummings

Hennepin County Medical Center recently launched a marketing campaign to shed its reputation as being only an urban trauma center. Our expert provides the prescription to extend its message even further.

Being ranked among the nation’s best hospitals for 12 years in a row is no small feat, as executives from Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis surely can attest. It takes a lot of work, constant improvement and seamless medical care delivery to achieve those kinds
of accolades year in and year out. So it’s not surprising that the center’s team of executives was somewhat surprised and frustrated to learn through focus groups that the Minneapolis community didn’t necessarily have the same impression. Instead, the medical center was seen as mostly a trauma center, a downtown facility known more for its intake of accident victims – as was the case after the collapse of the I-35W Mississippi River Bridge last August – than it was for its nationally recognized birthing center and other medical facilities.

To change that, two years ago, the center began a plan to revamp that image. Executives hired Russell Herder, a Minneapolis brand strategy and advertising firm, to help them launch a community-wide rebranding effort. “The community perceived them as mostly a trauma/acute care center,” says Brent Doering, vice president of client services at Russell Herder, who works on the Hennepin account.

That nugget of information and others were mined in multiple focus groups Russell Herder conducted after a nearly two-year drought of marketing efforts by the medical center, Doering says.

Out of the focus groups came a primary goal of letting the Minneapolis community know that, despite its status as a county hospital with teaching facilities and an academic focus, Hennepin is a downtown medical center focused on serving a far-reaching, “multicultural audience,” Doering says.

The first step was to change the center’s logo. Doering’s team did that and created a new tagline as well: “Every Life Matters.” Then, to drive that message home, Russell Herder developed a series of community marketing strategies to create awareness of various services and programs the medical center has to offer.

One of those marketing efforts was a personal, grassroots type of effort where teams of individuals blanketed local community events and passed out packets of tomato seeds printed with the medical center’s logo and tagline on the front as well as a URL on the back that people could go to for more information about Hennepin’s offerings.

This year at several events – a May Day event, farmer’s markets, a Juneteenth celebration – where some 12,000 seed packets were distributed, staff hired to hand out the seeds and target a diverse audience would try to get in a few words about the medical center’s better features, service offerings and the general idea that Hennepin is far more than a hospital with a high-end trauma center and fully functioning ER. In some places, for example, they would hand out brochures about Hennepin’s birthing center along with the seed packets. The idea was to extend an offering from one community neighbor to another. “What people don’t realize is that Hennepin is kind of a hidden jewel in downtown Minneapolis,” Doering says. The idea being, “if they’re that good in a time of crisis, guess what they could do in a ‘normal’ situation?” he adds.

Word of mouth, he says, is the best promotion there is.

Betsy Cummings is senior writer for Successful Promotions.

No comments: