What's in a logo? According to St. Mary's Hospital in Passaic, NJ, everything. About four years ago hospitals in Passaic, NJ, were struggling to survive. The last thing any of the beleaguered hospitals were thinking about was advertising and branding. When St. Mary's emerged from the fray as the area's sole facility, it needed a refreshed image to go with its fresh start.
"When I was hired, my first charge was to rebrand the hospital," says Vanessa Warner, director of marketing and public relations for St. Mary's. "I needed to begin with the most easily identifiable part of the brand, which is the logo. A logo is a very valuable commodity. Of course our logo is much more than [just an image]," says Warner. "It's an image of the Virgin Mother. It's a sacred image and, because of that, rebranding required a great deal of respect and prudence on top of strategy and planning. Because of that we decided not to eliminate the logo altogether."
Though a lot had changed for the hospital, what hadn't changed was the core of the facility's mission and its Catholic sponsorship. St. Mary's gave the Princeton Communications Group in Pennington, NJ, the challenge of modernizing the brand's image with specific guidelines for their creativity. The new logo had to be blue, with an image of Mary, and it had to include the facility name.
"They did a fabulous job," says Warner. "It was fascinating seeing how the visual image changed. We strove to make Mary more accessible and approachable. We wanted the image of the Virgin Mary [in the logo] to reflect the caring that goes on here. The new logo is modern while keeping the sacred quality."
In addition to the logo, St. Mary's needed a strong tagline. "Before we hadn't consistently used a tagline," says Warner. "Taglines are important. Internally, they can serve as a bonding team-model. Externally, they're important because they tell potential clients who you are and how you want to serve them." After conducting internal and external research, St. Mary's chose the tagline "Not just Healthcare. Human Care."
The hospital launched its new brand image in a print, TV, and grass roots PR campaign.
"This was a deeply gratifying project," says Warner. "It was less time and money than any project in my career but there was such enthusiasm from the facility and the community it was really inspiring."