Mercy Health Partners [Ohio]

Using brand insight to create a more competitive organization

For more than 150 years, people in the Toledo region have turned to Mercy, Ohio’s largest hospital system, as their go-to healthcare provider. Despite continually evolving to provide state-of-the-art practices and technologies, and despite earning consistently high ratings for quality of care and patient outcomes, Mercy was held back by a soft-edged and somewhat stereotypical story—while others in the region gained ground.

Healthcare reform became the catalyst Mercy leadership needed to acknowledge that their organization was at a critical inflection point. What would Mercy stand for and how would it operate in this new landscape?

Positioning around patient understanding. Following an intensive phase of internal engagement and stakeholder research, Applied Storytelling recommended elevating the customer intimacy dimension of Mercy’s philosophy of care to a central role in its brand story. At a time when patients overwhelmingly want to take a greater role in their healthcare decisions, this focus strongly resonated with customers. Better still, it stood out as fresh and unexpected. Concurring, Mercy leadership committed to revisiting its business strategy to look for opportunities to align business and brand still further.

Building the brand beyond marketing. From articulating the story, Applied Storytelling provided Mercy with the insights and strategies to to implement the brand across key communications channels. The organization’s brand efforts might’ve ended there. Recognizing competitors’ ability to outspend Mercy in mainstream channels, however, Applied advocated a brand-building mindset through the entire organization. By doing so, we knew Mercy could bring a new level of alignment and focus across functions and roles—and turbocharge the organization’s ability to deliver on its promise.

To keep the operationalizing effort on track, Mercy created a new position: VP of Patient Experience. At the same time, employees are exploring how the brand promise connects their role to Mercy’s overall success across their specific roles and functions. The brand story now serves as a powerful tool for talent recruitment, assessment and retention as well as a filter for making decisions and allocating resources in a wiser, more focused way.

“In business segments where a standard mythology prevails, brands can easily become generic: Hospitals should be caring. Banks should be financially secure. Law firms should be trustworthy. To get anywhere at all, however, you have to anchor the brand in something beyond the easy truths of the category.”

“Mercy needed to zero in on the things that made it stand out. Operationalizing the brand was critical to Mercy’s ability to move ahead against competitors with significantly bigger marketing budgets.”