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Looking for a Heartbeat?

Kandace McLaughlin Doyle, for HealthLeaders Media, February 11, 2009

Click to watch video.Are you finding that your campaigns are flat-lining? A change of strategy could be just the thing you need to reconnect with your target audience. A campaign for St. Thomas Hospital in Nashville, TN, increased preference and awareness with a simple strategy and a few paper hearts. And the best part: St. Thomas didn't have to spend a lot to make it happen.

The goal of the campaign was to increase awareness and preference for St. Thomas's cardiac services and to position the hospital as the market leader. Of course, to obtain that goal St. Thomas needed a new strategy, a unique message, and it also needed to identify one point that really differentiated it and its cardiac services from the competition.

"We really like to plan our entire message around that one single point of interest," says Steve Castle, vice president of St. Thomas's agency, D S Tombras in Nashville. Through some market research the team found that St. Thomas was seeing the most heart patients out of any facility in the country. "People in the Nashville area have known I think that St. Thomas was the market leader, but I don't think they knew to what extent. This point really kind of hammered it home."

Using that strong differentiator to their advantage, the team decided to create a campaign that would focus on that message and that would deliver it in a unique and memorable way. "This market is very competitive," says Castle, "to the point where St. Thomas at the time was being out spent 2 to 1 by other hospitals in the market." The spot that was created didn't require a large investment but did manage to break through the clutter.

Featuring a downtown that the people of Nashville could relate to, the TV spot showed thousands of paper hearts raining down over the people of the city. In the background uplifting music plays while the campaign's message is delivered through a voiceover. The spot's tagline: "The hospital with heart," is shown before a shot of St. Thomas's logo and branding.

Creatively the spot is simple, yet the team found it to be remarkably effective. Though St. Thomas was being outspent 2–1, the team found that after the TV spot ran St. Thomas was preferred 2–1 over other hospitals in the region. "By using the strategy we did, we basically were able to flip the results," says Castle. Preference scores went from 50% to 56%. Overall, survey results showed that St. Thomas had a 230% increase in calls to its physician referral line and that top-of-mind awareness increased 64% over the previous year.


Kandace McLaughlin Doyle is an editor with HealthLeaders magazine. Send her Campaign Spotlight ideas at kdoyle@healthleadersmedia.com If you are a marketer submitting a campaign on behalf of your facility or client, please ensure you have permission before doing so.

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