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3 Successful Strategies Behind Tufts Medicine's Rebrand

Analysis  |  By Melanie Blackman  
   August 14, 2023

Christine Madigan, the chief consumer officer at Tufts Medicine, shares insights into the Boston-based system rebrand and its successful outcomes tracked so far.

Within the competitive Boston market are many well-known and nationally-ranked health systems. There is Mass General Brigham, Mass General, Beth Israel Lahey Health, and Tufts Medicine—to name a few—all competing for potential patients and workforce recruits.

How does a health system stand out in such a saturated market? Christine Madigan, SVP and chief consumer officer at Tufts Medicine recently shared the strategies behind the system's successful rebrand and how it's helping the health system stand out in the competitive Boston market.

Before the brand changed to Tufts Medicine in March 2022, bringing together the system's hospitals, home healthcare business, and integrated physician network under the unified name, it was known as Wellforce. Wellforce was essentially a holding company for the different entity partners of the organization, Madigan says.

"When COVID came along, all the parties within Wellforce started working together. They started sharing PPE [and] other scarce resources, they started consolidating buying power. That opened up a lot of eyes," she says.

When a rebrand was introduced, it was not only welcome, it validated the system's ongoing collaboration, Madigan says. It signaled further integration, which extended to system-wide platform use and standardization, including executing Epic across the system in one day.

"For us, it is all about a digital revolution to take the friction out of our healthcare experience. The fundamental truth about a digital revolution is you have to have one standard process to be able to digitize," she says.

"Change is tough, and a rebrand is tough, and that can be something that is hard to sell in," she says. "But I think so many people saw the opportunity of aligning together, aligning our strengths, and aligning our culture, and having everybody work as a part of one system."

1. Abide By Brand Guidelines: Consistent Communication is Key

Madigan joined Tufts Medicine in January 2022 from New Balance where she most recently served as VP of New Balance Athletics Global Licensing. Other roles she has held include serving as director of global marketing and brand management for Polaroid and brand management of Diet Coke for Coca-Cola.

"When I came on, I put a lot of the basic guardrails in place around the brand," she says. This was step one.

"When you do a rebranding as we did, you always put brand guidelines in place. You need to have the most consistent communication and experience. We put together a brand house [guide] that talks all about our personality and our assets and our differentiation. If we're in a consumer's mind why would we go to one place over another?"

Consistency is key in marketing, especially in healthcare where there are so many smart and strong voices coming together from across the system.

"Having all of those voices makes it hard to be consistent. For a rebrand to be powerful, for you to be able to elevate brand awareness, be highly efficient, and reaching consumers and patients and bringing them in, needs to be consistent and needs to be one name brand," she says.

"The real power is behind consistency and simplification in branding," she adds.

2. Research, Test, and Ask for Feedback From Internal and External Stakeholders

A lot of research went into coming up with a new name for the system, Madigan says. Many names were tested with different groups, including internal stakeholders, private and employed physicians, and consumers.

When testing new names, the system asked about likeability as well as if the physicians thought a specific name would help them grow their business better. "Across the board, people thought they would come to a system that was named Tufts more," she says.

"We went with Tufts Medicine and that signaled academic strength," she says. "It signaled science. There are many world-class institutions that have "medicine" as part of the name and the Tufts name has such a great reputation from the University and its Medical School."

Since launching the new brand in 2022, the system conducted brand tracking which resulted in the Tufts name successfully conveying academic leadership, science, and high reputation, she says.

"When we did our brand tracking at the end of last year, [having] only launched our brand March first, in that time we were #2 in the market in every single one of the brand funnel measures: awareness at the top, consideration, preference, and loyalty," she says. "When you think of the Boston market … to be #2, that's such a testament to so many people and what our physicians and care teams do day in and day out. I do think the name is a little bit of a part of that too. That recognition helped elevate [us] in top-of-mind consideration for consumers and patients."

3. Engage Your Consumers to Create Brand Loyalty

Madigan's background in other sectors helps her bring a new and different perspective to how the system can look at patients as consumers.

"It's still a controversial decision that we talk about consumers and not just patients," she says. "I get that and my CEO gets that too, but we're trying to make the point that consumers do have a choice. They have more choices now and they're voting with their pocketbooks, they're voting on experiences, they're looking at reviews more than they ever did before. It's a different game and thinking about it as consumerism is different than just solving the near-term needs of the patient that happens to be in front of you."

"We talk a lot about anticipating consumers' needs," she adds, saying that Amazon is a great example of that. "How do we do that in the healthcare industry and in my system where we're trying to get better at anticipating needs and then making it frictionless to fulfill them?"

The system has a lot of internal collaboration and a warm consumer experience, Madigan says. "It is the type of place where our teams work well together, from physicians, nurses, care team members, across the board. As a patient and a consumer, you feel that, and it is that warmth that you're looking for that you don't often get in what can be a really tough, really cold experience."

"My background is in consumer marketing and direct to consumer (DTC)," Madigan says. "In DTC, you want to find the highest lifetime value consumer to bring in and keep loyal. You want to try to measure that as to how many times are they going to come back and what their cart size is going to be."

While it's a little different than in healthcare, she says, it's still interesting to think about the patient and consumer journey. "Where does the consumer come into your funnel or in your pathway? Is it through primary care, maybe even OBGYN? With the changes in the last two or three years, it could be urgent care. It could be a Tik Tock video for a younger consumer. There are so many different pathways in, and understanding where they are and then understanding the lifetime value of those consumers of those patients, that's one thing that I'm trying to bring in here."

"What would benefit healthcare is to have those consumer profiles and the consumer personas that best match their brands and best match where they want to go strategically, and that's what we're trying to do at Tufts Medicine," she says.

And while the system will never turn a patient away, it's still helpful to know who to target and who would choose Tufts Medicine over other competitors, she says.

"It's my job to figure out how to target those consumers to do that. I think that's a way that the whole industry can elevate itself is starting with that."

“[Healthcare] is a different game and thinking about it as consumerism is different than just solving the near-term needs of the patient that happens to be in front of you.”

Melanie Blackman is a contributing editor for strategy, marketing, and human resources at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.

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