Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Hospital Naming in Muskegon

Jeff Alexander of the Muskegon Chronicle has an interesting article about the challenges officials at Hackley and Mercy are having to come up with a new name for the combined hospitals.

Lots of good comments in the article. I chat with Roger Spoelman, the Mercy CEO, at 5Ks and other lakeshore races in the summer. He's a good manager, and I'm sure he and others will come up with something good. But there are two things about the article that I question:

1. Why are all those who are quoted in marketing? All due respect to those mentioned, including my colleague Professor Benet from GVSU's Seidman College of Business, but why not talk to some of the region's Advertising and PR folks? Lots of the trade publications and books debate whether branding is a function of marketing, advertising, or PR. I think all three are involved--all three perspectives would have been nice.

2. Why so much emphasis on the name? As some quoted remark, naming or renaming 'creates an image.' Yuck. That's not what we do in PR. We build relationships. Branding is more than a name and logo. It's a promise, an experience. We need to work on reputation, which is based on behavior, not merely image, which is based on words and visuals.

Alexander has an extensive and interesting article on this. But readers--including many of your bosses and clients--will have the unfortunate reinforcement of the notion that logos and names are all that matters. They are important as first impressions, but those impressions have to be matched with reality. So, discussions about names should not center only on what WE want people to THINK about our organizations. They should be an accurate reflection of what we actually DO and what people EXPERIENCE with our organization. That's honest and creative, and more likely to resonate and be effective. Otherwise, we're just sellin' snake oil.

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