Sometimes Branding Is an Art in More Ways Than One

June 5, 2019

What besides advertising could contribute to a children’s hospital brand experience? It could be a friendly bear, a playful dog, a rocky wolf, or a little girl with a perpetually broken leg.

// By Peter Hochstein //

Peter HochsteinThere’s an enormous bear. And he’s just outside the front door of a children’s hospital. And with his right paw, he’s waving at the kids going in.

Well, so okay, the bear, all 12 feet and three tons of him, is a teddy bear, not a real bear. And he’s got a bunch of alphabet blocks in his lap. And he’s there to do a job. For just a moment, during a day that can range from somewhat disagreeable to downright scary for a kid, the giant teddy bear offers some respite.

Bear with blocks

Skipper, the giant bear at the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center, Boston.

This particular bear is planted smack dab in front of the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center, a name that, according to Rhonda Mann, Tufts Medical Center’s director of communications, harks back to the days when the hospital was aboard a ship, and ocean air was considered healthy for convalescing children.

A Bear Switches Careers

These days, the hospital is a landlubber — except perhaps for the bear, who has a nautical name. He’s called Skipper.

And how did Skipper get there? Mann says that he originally stood in front of the Boston branch of FAO Schwarz, the famous toy store. (In fact, the bear’s alphabet blocks bear the letters F, A, and O.) When the toy shop closed down, Boston’s mayor held a contest for the city’s kids to decide where the bear would go. Floating Hospital for Children was the winner. Skipper has been engaged in his new hospital career ever since. And he does more than simply wave hello.

Skipper is just one of a several hospital mascots that illustrate why a hospital brand can consist of a lot more than what the institution says in its ads.

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