Health Care Branding: How One Suburban Medical Center Developed Its Brand Promise from the Inside Out

November 29, 2018

// By Lisa D. Ellis //

The latest marketing efforts at Newton-Wellesley Hospital in Massachusetts have a very important goal: to engage employees to do whatever it takes to provide the very best experience for patients.

Tackling a Challenging Market

While most health systems recognize the importance of internal engagement, Newton-Wellesley’s approach — which includes seeing the employees as “brand ambassadors” to extend the system’s vision into the community — is particularly essential, explains John F. Looney, MSM, vice president of marketing, communications, and public affairs at Newton-Wellesley Hospital.

John F. Looney, MSM, vice president of marketing, communications, and public affairs at Newton-Wellesley Hospital

John F. Looney, MSM, vice president of marketing, communications, and public affairs at Newton-Wellesley Hospital

Looney says that’s because the medical center, a member of Partners HealthCare and affiliated with several well-known area medical schools, is in a suburb less than 10 miles outside of Boston, and therefore competes with several prominent medical institutions for local market share. This means the hospital needs to maximize all of the resources available to draw area residents through its doors. 

The Need to Create a “Brand Story”

Looney joined the staff at Newton-Wellesley about 18 months ago, and back then he immediately recognized that the medical center wasn’t positioning itself to take full advantage of its assets. But determining how to address the problem took longer to assess.

The health system had all of the right components: a hospital, ED, four ambulatory centers, and an urgent care clinic. It was also a leading provider of personalized, high-quality services, designed to meet the needs of the people who lived and worked in the surrounding communities. Yet despite all of its attributes, the medical center was falling off the radar screen of some potential consumers, particularly for services that went beyond routine care. In fact, Looney points out that many residents were trekking into the city for any complex medical need, even though Newton-Wellesley has several key partnerships to bring Boston-based experts right into its suburban facilities.

You can’t turn your employees into brand ambassadors if you don’t have a recognizable brand. That was Looney’s immediate challenge. “We interviewed more than 150 people from many levels of the organization to understand the brand image and what the challenges were,” he says. In those conversations, it became clear that people didn’t know what Newton-Wellesley stood for. Now 18 months later, the new brand has been launched, and it’s already gaining traction internally and externally.


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