Embracing the Cincinnati Children’s Brand Renewal

Even though it was almost seven years ago, I remember my final job interview at Cincinnati Children’s as though it happened yesterday. I’m guessing that not many people can say they walked directly from their son’s hospital room into a job interview, but that was me on day seven of what would turn out to be a 10-day hospital stay for our four-year-old son.

While this was the day that my worlds collided, it was not my first experience with the Cincinnati Children’s brand.

My first experience was strictly professional. It was 2008 and, I was working at an advertising agency charged with developing a campaign to open the new Liberty Campus. As a client, Cincinnati Children’s had me at hello. What’s not to love about creating advertising for a children’s hospital? Not to mention, I was an older-than-average new mom (who, by the way, is still NOT over the label “advanced maternal age”), so I was highly receptive to all things baby and kid related.

My relationship with the brand got more personal when our son had an outpatient procedure at 11 months old. It wasn’t serious or life threatening, but as you know, nothing is routine when it involves your child. When we were called into the recovery room, and I saw a nurse holding him as tenderly as I would myself, I fell in love with Cincinnati Children’s a little more. So much so, that when an open position came up in the Marketing & Communications Department, I was interested in taking a closer look.

After 22 years of working in the ad agency world, I thought I might be ready to try something different. I had a lot of experience with health care clients in addition to Cincinnati Children’s, and I had a high regard for those mission-driven organizations.  Maybe my advanced maternal age was catching up with me or maybe becoming a mom had changed my world view. Either way, I was “exploring opportunities,” as they say, and I threw my hat in the ring for the position here.  I had made it through the first two rounds of interviews and was a finalist when “it” happened.  I had one of those moments in life that turns your world upside down and shakes you to your core. One of those moments where the universe seems to be sending a clear and direct message.

Smack dab in the middle of the interview process, our four-year-old son became suddenly and seriously ill. He had a very severe form of pneumonia along with an infection in the lining of his lung. It was a potentially life threatening combination that landed him here in the hospital for 10 days. He had a chest tube for most of it, and we were in isolation due to the nature of the infection. Everyone involved in the interview process was, as you would expect, wonderfully understanding and supportive. All thoughts of a career change were put on hold as my husband and I hunkered down to care for our son.

On that seventh day, he was finally on the mend thanks to our wonderful care team, and there was no doubt in my mind that this was where I was supposed to be. Hello universe, I hear you loud and clear. I literally walked from his hospital room over to the S building for the final interview. I had a heart full of gratitude and an up-close-and-personal experience of what makes Cincinnati Children’s special.

Fast forward seven years. Our son is now a healthy and fast-growing 11-year old.  You could say the same about Cincinnati Children’s – healthy and fast growing! I didn’t fully appreciate until I worked here, just how much Cincinnati Children’s has grown over the last 10 years and just how transformational that growth has been. So much so, that our leadership and Board of Trustees made an important decision that it’s time to evolve the Cincinnati Children’s brand to more fully express who we are today and who we aspire to be in the future.

There are many definitions of “brand.” Some think of it as a name or logo, and that’s certainly part of what makes up a brand.  But it goes deeper than that. A brand is everything you do as an organization and everything you say. So, we dug deep. It’s been nearly two years of careful consideration and thoughtful re-examination, including input and feedback from more than 500 employees, patient families, community members and other stakeholders. I’m just one person on a team of dozens of colleagues and patient families working together to create a new expression of the brand in a way that builds on the past even as we look to the future. And, yes, at the heart of this new expression is a new brand mark or logo.

I’ll put my marketing hat on and tell you that we did lots of research to validate that this new mark is communicating our brand attributes of collaboration, innovation, compassion, family inclusion and patient centeredness. I’ll put my mom hat on and tell you that for me it feels like a warm and caring hug. In fact, it is symbolic of two figures moving toward each other in an embrace, with the larger half-circle – the adult figure – lifting up and supporting the smaller half circle – the child. Some people see caregiver and child, others see parent and child. Some even see mentor and mentee. There is no right or wrong answer here – our hope is that you embrace the new mark on your own terms.

And because our brand is so very much more than a logo, we’ve spent even more time building a strong foundation for this brand renewal in a set of five beliefs – 

and a purpose statement. It may be cliché, but a picture is worth a thousand words, so I hope you’ll watch our purpose video below – it’s a powerful expression of what we stand for. And please, share this with your friends and family and your social media networks. Help us spread the word!

You’ll start to see the renewed brand coming to life when you visit us this month in small and large ways. We’re phasing-in the transition, so you will see both the old and the new side-by-side for a while. We’re good with that – we will always honor our past even as we embrace our future.

We all wear multiple hats in our lives – even when I’ve got my marketing hat on, I’m still a mom. So, when I think about Cincinnati Children’s, I think about our son in that hospital bed and all of the people here who worked together to help pull him through. I think about the patient families I’ve met over the years who fought even harder and more bravely, but didn’t get a happy ending. I think about the brilliant researchers who are dedicating their lives to breakthroughs that give more families hope for a happy ending. I read the beliefs. I see the embrace. I watch the faces in the purpose video. And I ask myself, as a mom first and a marketer second, did we capture the heart and soul that is Cincinnati Children’s? I am proud to say that I think we did.

 

Julia Ward

About the Author: Julia Ward

Julia Ward is Senior Director of Marketing and Brand at Cincinnati Children’s and mom to 11-year-old Harris. Julia, her husband Todd, and Harris love all things outdoors and spend much of their free time exploring with their "glamper" in tow.

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Comments

  1. Julie June 07, 20:32
    Updating a beloved brand mark is never an easy thing. This is a beautiful expression of what this brand stands for today. Love!
  2. Mark June 07, 20:32
    What a beautifully written story, thanks for sharing and for all you do at CCHMC!
  3. Betsy Slone June 08, 07:02
    Very cool and inspirational, both the brand and your message. You must be so excited to launch this! I have to admit, I had to look up glamper. :-)
  4. Joyce Ann June 08, 09:15
    Beautifully written. Thank you for taking the time to share your own personal story. Inspiring, and deeply moving.
  5. Tina Harris June 08, 10:14
    Like the author, this story and mark embody the magic that is CCHMC. Well done! This is a lovely, visual expression of the energy and life in this wonderful place!
  6. Nana Lori June 08, 15:37
    I love your story! You are right, the Brand means so much more than just the brand mark. The new brand mark, absolutely embraces everything CCHMC stands for. I know first hand. Only a month ago, "It" happened! Our world, as we knew it, was turned upside down. My 8 year old grand daughter was diagnosed with Leukemia. My daughters only child. I can't thank the enormous care team enough for the magnificent care that has been provided. The heart and soul that is Children's Hospital has benn captured! Thank you!
  7. Bonnie June 08, 18:22
    Very well said! Interesting perspective from both a mother and a marketer.
  8. Bonnie June 10, 13:06
    Stunning!
  9. Carol June 10, 13:48
    What a lovely piece - and branding/rebranding is never easy for a company or its clients. This blog reminds me of a statue my parents bought me, when they first heard I was pregnant, of a mother lifting a child with joy. There's no feeling like it - powerful, protective, tender and spontaneous. I think your logo hits well on your core value relationships and brand beliefs. Congratulations to you and your team!
  10. Carolyn June 17, 16:40
    I have loved Cincinnati Children's since my niece was born almost 14 years ago. It's not only always there when we need it, but the all the people there are so caring and knowledgeable. I will miss the old brand, but I love the new one. Your article is so touching and I've had your feelings about CincinnatiChildren's many times. Thank you to everyone at Cincinnati Children's for your calling and caring for all
  11. John June 18, 13:03
    Knowing that this new logo campaign stems from a personal experience from a mom makes it far more meaningful. I think many employees were taken aback with the new logo, because we all thought "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." I think rebranding CCHMC transcends efforts to "stand out" or "make a statement," it really speaks to our practice. Learning that the individual who is responsible for creating the new logo had a personal experience here at CCHMC as a mom, transcribed that experience into an abstract image that is open for all to interpret is stellar, but beyond that truth. What I see in this new logo is family-centered care, as here at CCHMC the family is what centers our practice as health professionals. I see a mom, whose 11 month old baby is being held just as lovingly by a nurse as she would lovingly hold him herself. I see a community and work force encircling an institution that has always meant more than healing, it's meant loving and caring. I see a new dawn to a sunny and happy future!