Feb 26, 2013 Categories: Newsroom Tags: Branding, Communications Program, Current Events

By Richard Craver • Winston-Salem Journal •

Novant Health Inc. is putting its corporate brand out front to connect the dots for consumers within its four-state territory.

The not-for-profit organization said Tuesday that each of its 13 hospitals will be known as Novant Health followed by its current name, such as Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center.

The name change, along with a purple-and-white logo, goes into effect April 17. The change also will affect specialized health facilities, such as Medical Park Hospital, and physician practice groups, such as Twin City Pediatrics.

Carl Armato, Novant’s president and chief executive, said the branding change is a “logical step to tie together the multiple, distributed points of care across the region” of the Carolinas, Georgia and Virginia.

Armato declined to say how much the brand campaign would cost. “It’s going to be an investment, but I am looking at our return on investment as saving on money and resources going forward with one brand,” he said.

Since Novant was formed in 1997, it has expanded from four to 13 hospitals. It also has more than 100 outpatient facilities and more than 350 physician practices.

However, many people in Winston-Salem may not be aware that the Presbyterian hospitals in the Charlotte area are affiliated with Novant, and vice versa with Charlotte residents and the Novant facilities in the Triad.

“Over the past 15 years, Novant Health has grown into a sizable regional health system,” Armato said. “With this step, we’re assuring patients they will get consistent care no matter where they seek treatment or services in our territory. They also will clearly know they are in a Novant facility.”

Jesse Cureton, recently hired as Novant’s chief consumer officer, said the brand change “will allow us to be one culture internally and present one face to our communities.”

Novant’s brand extension comes nearly two years after Wake Forest University rebranded its health care system by dropping “university” from its corporate name and for the main hospital campus.

For its divisional units and affiliations, the system uses Wake Forest Baptist Health as the main brand and the unit name afterward, such as Wake Forest Baptist Health – Davie Hospital.

Wake Forest Baptist also introduced a new logo of a DNA strand with a “W” woven in. The system spent $3.5 million over two years on the brand change, including the cost of a consultant.

Shortly after Dr. John McConnell arrived as Wake Forest Baptist’s chief executive in November 2008, he said a brand change might be necessary to gain a bigger reputation through national rankings, create more peer awareness of its research and attract “rock star” researchers, such as Dr. Anthony Atala and his regenerative-medicine group.

John Sweeney, director of the sports-communication program at UNC Chapel Hill, said that even a subtle name change can carry weight in the short term.

“The organization of a brand is an important part of marketing and basic logistics,” Sweeney said. “It means you have a single identity for everything from stationary, basic collateral, web and digital platforms and regional media purchasing. This saves money but also creates organizational simplicity. You have one office managing a campaign that combines everyone.”

That said, Sweeney cautioned whether the brand expansion is worth the money.

“Like moving to a new office, these kinds of organizational decisions may just be expenses,” Sweeney said. “But they set the stage for a more efficient, singular future.”

George Sopko, a vice president for Stanton Public Relations and Marketing in New York, said he understands Novant’s strategy of having one brand promoting its quality of care.

The challenge with the move, Sopko said, is that people tend to get emotionally attached to the local name.

“It will take a lot of time, effort and resources to establish that emotional connection to the Novant name in place of the local hospital and physician practice name,” Sopko said. “It won’t be a light switch, but rather a process.

“I’m a little surprised they’re not keeping the local name up front and tagging it with ‘A Novant Health Inc. facility.’ What will help their effort is getting employee buy-in, particularly when they move about in their communities.”