When To Downplay the News of a Name Change

February 11, 2021
Laura Pierce, manager of marketing and communications, Tufts Children’s Hospital

Laura Pierce, manager of marketing and communications, Tufts Children’s Hospital

“In some cases, letting your ads ignore the news about [your hospital’s] name change can be a smarter move than headlining it,” notes SHCM contributor and veteran copywriter Peter Hochstein.

While this may seem hard to believe, he makes his case with the real-life story of the hospital formerly known as the Floating Hospital for Children. Here’s an excerpt from his new article:

It all seemed like a brilliant idea back in 1895. Fresh sea air is good for you, right? All that bracing oxygen and salt spray! So why not medically treat some of Boston’s sick children aboard a ship that plied Boston Harbor, the kids inhaling healthy sea air while doctors eyeballed their tonsils, peered into their ears, and treated what needed to be treated?

It was such a good idea at the time that the Floating Hospital for Children pretty quickly traded up to a larger ship. [Eventually], the hospital merged with Tufts Medical Center. Then the children’s hospital evolved into a landlubber, and the new children’s hospital’s name became a difficult mouthful: The Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center.

And therein lay a problem, according to Laura Pierce, manager of marketing and communications at the chilren’s hospital.

The current day pediatric hospital, with 115 licensed beds and handling roughly 53,000 clinical visits a year, had a name that was dragging the hospital’s anchor. People got it wrong. Or shorthanded it. Or got an anemic impression of it. Or nearly no impression. All of which contributed to low brand awareness.

On the other hand, when the name was hypothetically shortened to get rid of its nautical flavor, good things occurred. The hospital did some market research in November 2019, Pierce says. Various configurations of the name were tested and, Pierce adds, “More than half of those who responded connected [the name] Tufts Children’s Hospital with the brand attributes we were looking at. And the least favored name involved ‘Floating.’”

In short, she says, when an institution’s name is “exclusively wrapped up in history, it can trip you up.” And so the hospital shortened its name to Tufts Children’s Hospital.

That’s something you’d want to advertise, right? Not necessarily.

Read the full story now: Your hospital changes its name. Should it advertise that fact? Or spend its ad dollars on something else? Don’t answer until you read this.

Best regards,
Matt Humphrey

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