Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center prided itself on being a leading academic medical center that conducted many research and clinical trials. But when it asked consumers to describe the organization, they didn't hear much beyond "the place to go for serious care' and "big.' So VCU launched an integrated branding campaign to align internal and external perception. The effort won the 779-bed organization a gold award in branding at the 2009 HealthLeaders Media Marketing Awards.
"By turning the concept of research on its head and talking about ‘discoveries' we were able to present this point of difference in a way that is not only acceptable to consumers, but exciting," marketers wrote in the entry form. "The word ‘discoveries' has two meanings—the actual medical discoveries that are made at VCU Medical Center and the many things we want people to discover about VCU Medical Center."
The campaign consisted of print, TV, outdoor, direct mail, and online elements. VCU worked with Richmond, VA, agency Neathawk Dubuque & Packett to create the effort. Each ad features a real patient, who shares his or her "red letter day'—the day a VCU treatment or procedure improved their ailment.
"The use of black and white photographs with red text on the print, outdoor, and banner ads is attention-grabbing and the use of the large desk calendar cards is clever and intriguing," wrote one judge. "It's nice to see the ads were used on the VCU Facebook page as well. The TV ads are cute, touching, and happy, and blend in perfectly with the print and web elements."
Using a 2006 consumer survey as a baseline, the VCU marketing team was able to measure some impressive results; Overall preference jumped from 68% to 73%, preference for cancer care increased from 48% to 60%, and brand awareness jumped from 26% to 36%.
"The most exciting finding is the ‘lift' in the image related directly to the advertising," marketers wrote. "Those aware of the advertising are more likely to have positive views of VCU Medical Center, particularly in terms of quality of care, than those not aware of the advertising."