Coming Attractions

Kandace McLaughlin Doyle, for HealthLeaders Media, December 31, 2008

Click for larger image.The red carpet is in place and the paparazzi are swarming. But it's not the typical Hollywood A-listers the photogs are after and this scene isn't taking place in Hollywood. A recent campaign launched for St. Joseph's Hospital and HealthEast brought a taste of movie star fame to its patients and the St. Paul, MN, community.

In an area that is flooded with healthcare advertising, with an impending open house for a renovated facility looming, St. Joseph's had a common problem. It needed to break through the clutter to raise awareness in an interesting way.

"They didn't want to start by advertising the open house, they wanted to try to raise awareness for the hospital in anticipation of the grand opening," says Chris Bevolo, president of Interval, St. Joseph's agency in Minneapolis and author of "A Marketer's Guide to Brand Strategy: Advanced techniques for healthcare organizations."

The branding initiative included faux movies, which were actually patient documentaries. The faux movies took patient testimonials to the next level, starring patients that represented three of the facility's top service lines: cardiology, neurology, and the facility's Cyberknife technology. "We decided to turn [the patients] into heroes, which they already are," Bevolo says. "Everybody loves movies and there's so many ways to go about announcing one, from movie trailers, to posters, to previews," says Bevolo. "We chose to use all of those things as the propelling tools to get people interested."

Each element of the campaign was done in a teaser-like way with the information about the facility and patients styled into the movie-marketing. The call to action drove viewers to microsites. The unique approach turned heads. After a few months, the microsites had more than 16,000 unique visitors, 25% of which clicked through to St. Joseph's' Web site. The concept was also carried through to the grand opening which was designed around a movie premier complete with a red carpet, paparazzos, and the release of the patient documentaries. The event brought in over 5,000 attendees.

"It's difficult to do something different, especially in healthcare," Bevolo says. "There's a lot of looking across the street and being conservative. To come out with a creative idea like this, there were some risks . . . but they also realized the challenges of getting out there, not looking like everybody else, and they were willing to take the risk. And it paid off."

Kandace McLaughlin Doyle is an editor with HealthLeaders magazine. Send her Campaign Spotlight ideas at 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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