What’s Behind These Recent Healthcare Rebrands?

Written in collaboration with James Heaton

The healthcare sector is no stranger to rebrands. In fact, just a couple years ago, 80 hospitals announced name changes or other rebranding efforts. With consumers’ increased access to information and reviews, healthcare brands now have to attend to brand marketing in the same proactive and competitive way that other sectors have had to for decades.

For many healthcare organizations, rebrands have become a means to stay relevant and help build a Brand Idea strong enough to drive the kind of preference and patient loyalty that consumer brands have always striven for. Consumers are less resigned to using what’s put in front of them and are increasingly empowering themselves with information that informs a conscious choice of which healthcare provider to use. In major urban markets, where the options are extensive, the competitive landscape can be so overwhelming that it leads to a healthcare version of the paradox of choice. It’s all the more reason to get serious about your brand.

As food for thought, here are some summary observations on the underlying rationale for four recent healthcare rebrands.

You are busy and you may not read to the end, so let’s start with our own work for the Visiting Nurse Service of New York.

Healthcare rebrands

Visiting Nurse Service of New York rebrands to VNS Health

After more than 125 years of care, VNSNY’s recent transition to VNS Health effectively united its full range of health services under a single brand name and visual identity that’s more easily understood by the public. The move, shepherded throughout the team here at Tronvig, reflected the organization’s commitment to simplifying the health care experience and has set the brand up for future growth and continued expansion.

In addition to the name change, VNS Health’s rebrand included an updated visual identity system, organizational alignment, and a new tagline—“The future of care. The comfort of home.”—that clearly articulates its value as a home- and community-based health care organization.

Within an industry that’s notorious for being confusing, healthcare organizations need to communicate their complex offerings in an immediately graspable way.

“Our ultimate goal,” said VNS Health President and CEO Dan Savitt, “is to make it as easy as possible for the people we serve—as well as our provider and health plan partners—to understand that we offer a full range of programs, services and solutions that will help them along their healthcare journey.”

Insight: Branding is a tool of communication and, therefore, should always aim to be easily understood by the audience. Within an industry that’s notorious for being confusing, healthcare organizations need to communicate their complex offerings in an immediately graspable way. That’s what Tronvig sets out to help our clients do, and we’re proud to have helped VNS Health achieve it with their rebrand.

View our full case study for VNS Health here.

Anthem looks to “elevate” and “advance” as Elevance Health

Marking its second rebrand in less than a decade, health insurance provider Anthem’s change to Elevance Health officially took effect in June 2022. The name came from the combination of the words “elevate” and “advance,” which is mirrored in their tagline: “Elevating whole health and focusing on advancing health beyond healthcare.” I think our tagline for VNS health is better. I’m still a bit puzzled. A tagline should not try be too clever for its own good.

While the company’s last rebrand in 2014 was focused on improving clarity (WellPoint was formed from a 2004 merger of WellPoint and Anthem, then later became Anthem to better represent the Anthem products their customers were familiar with), the latest change reflects its growth beyond traditional health insurance.

Companies innovate and evolve to stay relevant but sometimes, this leads to the brand no longer adequately representing the company.

“Anthem’s family of companies has evolved to offer products and services beyond traditional health insurance. Through its digital capabilities, pharmacy, behavioral, clinical and complex care assets the company is able to address consumers’ full range of needs with an integrated, whole-person approach.”

Insight: To stay relevant and maintain growth, companies are expected to innovate and evolve. Sometimes, this leads to a point where the brand no longer adequately represents what the company is doing. Elevance Health’s rebrand illustrates an attempt to create a new name that aligns with its expanded mission and offerings. It’s easy to be critical when you are outside of the process, but the risk, of course, is incomprehensibility. Coinages like this one are very difficult and expensive to insinuate into consumers’ minds, especially in the nonprofit space, where brands tend to be much weaker than consumer brands. So a name like Febreze makes good sense at a Proctor & Gamble but may not be the right path for you, if you don’t have the financial wherewithal to invest in filling that coined word with meaning out beyond the confines of the boardroom.

Henry Ford Health System drops the “System”

In March, Henry Ford Health System announced they were eliminating “System” from their name, explaining that the word brought a sense of “formality” that didn’t resonate with consumers. Without “System,” the emphasis is now on “Health” and the company’s devotion to its patients’ health journeys.

The new branding also included a new logo that abandoned the auto tycoon’s signature—which had been part of the logo for over a century. Replacing it was contemporary typography in three shades of blue, designed to modernize the brand and make it “easier to read on a sign or a billboard.”

Not all rebrands require drastic transformations. The slightest details can affect the perception of a brand.

According to former CEO Wright Lassiter III, the rebrand’s overall goal was “to present the company in a way that attracts new talent, connects with people in the community and gives the hospital system a competitive edge in Michigan’s shifting health care market, which was dramatically altered by the coronavirus pandemic.”

Insight: Not all rebrands require drastic transformations. Though a seemingly simple change, Henry Ford Health’s approach demonstrates how seemingly minor details can affect the perception of a brand. This example is also a move toward simplicity, which is generally good as long as it does not cause confusion. Most consumers probably never used the word “system” anyway, so this looks like a very smart move.

On a parallel path, when we rebranded the Healthcare NGO Helen Keller International to Helen Keller, we were following a similar trajectory, which has served them very well.

Methodist Hospital of Southern California aligns healthcare with academia

On July 1, 2022, after two years of discussions and approvals, Methodist Hospital finalized its name change to USC Arcadia Hospital in a move that reflects its affiliation with Keck Medicine of USC and its network of hospitals and clinics in Southern California.

The change highlights the two institutions’ active partnership, which will bring the San Gabriel Valley community “expanded access to a full range of physician specialties, technology and clinical services that will benefit our patients, employees and physicians.” Keck Medicine is set to invest $200 million in USC Arcadia Hospital’s equipment, infrastructure, and services over a five-year period, to assure that the promise of an academic medical system is not an unfulfilled promise.

For the well-established community hospital, the rebrand and real-world service and specialty upgrades are a real benefit, but this must be carried out with sensitivity to the 120-year legacy of the community hospital. By expanding its capabilities and solidifying its link to Keck Medicine’s resources, USC Arcadia Hospital hopes to grow into a “one-stop” hub that provides its community with greater care and groundbreaking treatments than before.

Healthcare companies can leverage the power of their collaborators in order to strategically reposition and strengthen their own brand.

Insight: This kind of merger of a community hospital into a prestigious university hospital is something that’s happening all over the country. USC Arcadia Hospital’s recent rebrand showcases how healthcare companies seek to leverage the power of their collaborators in order to strategically reposition and strengthen their own brand position.

There are delicacies in this process. Longstanding community hospital systems may have dramatically different organizational cultures than a large academic hospital. As we learned in our own project with the community hospital system Ingalls Health as it was incorporated into the University of Chicago Health System, the brand roll-out timeline is of some importance. It’s not just a matter of swapping logos but making sure that the promise of the new brand is operationally true before the name actually changes and new signage goes up.

Despite how common it is, truly effective rebranding efforts at large institutions like these are massive undertakings that require deep introspection and a clear understanding of why the change is needed. Not sure whether rebranding is the right next step for your organization? Here are some questions and a rubric for consideration as you make the risk-prone and nearly always expensive prospect of an organizational rebrand:

*AI statement: We, Therese Nguyen and James Heaton, attest that we are the authors of this article, but generated an outline and draft version of the content using ChatGPT 4. We then edited and rewrote the post in order to align the article with the standards for this blog.

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