A Children’s Hospital in Boston Pulls Out All the Emotional Stops. Result: Striking Increases in Web Traffic, Enhanced Staff Enthusiasm, and a Powerful Brand Image

September 6, 2016

Notable Health Care Advertising

// By Peter Hochstein //

Peter HochsteinIn most other markets, the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center would be in the catbird seat. The 94-bed hospital is part of a larger teaching hospital. It’s connected to a prestigious medical school. And it has won its fair share of awards and honors.

There’s also that memorably unique hospital name—harking back to pre-1929 days when the institution was actually aboard a ship.

But in Boston? All that is no big deal. Not when Floating Hospital is squeezed by a rival behemoth, the 305-bed Boston Children’s Hospital, which has two Nobel Prizes and five Lasker awards among its honors. Not to mention Boston Children’s concerted advertising effort (covered in our May 2014 issue.)

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9 words and a striking picture say it all. Floating Hospital’s rallying cry explains the photograph, and vice versa, while positioning the hospital as a small but competent and caring place.

“Nobody in the market was talking about how they have to steal share [of market] from Floating Hospital,” says Jeanette Palmer, Head of Client Services for Nail Communications, Floating Hospital’s advertising agency. “They were all talking about Boston Children’s.”

Another problem was that Floating Hospital hadn’t done any branding advertising in years, largely confining its advertising expenditures to supporting affiliated community hospitals in the region. And the available media budget for Floating Hospital wasn’t likely to crush the competition, either. Laura Pierce, Floating Hospital’s Manager of marketing and communications, estimates that it was in the “low to middle” range compared to competitive children’s hospital advertising.

Little wonder an annual brand tracking study showed that Floating Hospital’s brand awareness was low.  “That,” says Pierce, “was the number-one reason behind launching a brand campaign.” So Floating Hospital turned to Nail Communications, in Providence, Rhode Island, an agency whose work often tilts toward emotions.


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