Analyze your brand – how a hospital’s new logo can make you a better digital marketer

At Search Discovery, the very first thing we do when we work with a client is focus on their customer or client. Our early work with every client is about understanding the industry, brand, and micro need/workflow from their customer’s perspective, often temporarily sidelining discussion of the client’s product or service until we feel we can understand it from a consumer’s perspective. This Kool Aid avoidance helps us see the site, the marketing, and the offering itself in a more objective sense, often giving us a radically different perspective than the business we’re working with, as they have been in the day-to-day focus and grind, which often makes it very difficult to step back.

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while, but I was struggling to find a concept to really anchor it to. Today, on my commute to work, I noticed that a hospital I drive by every day had just redesigned their logo and updated their signage. I love logos, because when done well, I think they often give you a really interesting view into how a brand thinks of itself. The typography, colors and certainly whatever images are used really paint the picture.

The new logo for Piedmont Hospital certainly doesn’t disappoint in this regard:



The tagline that accompanies this new logo: “It’s time to get better.

Nice, huh?

But look more closely. I think this logo tells us a lot more about how this hospital thinks about itself than how a patient thinks about a hospital.

Presumably, the square is an allusion to wellness. The dark red is a very strong color, synonymous with pain, blood, suffering, etc., and I’m guessing this represents a patient who is unwell. The remainder of the illustration is that patent’s path to wellness, a series of progressively less severe colors in a course Piedmont guides you through on your way to getting better.

So far, so good. But here’s where the hospital’s view of their business and the patient’s view diverge radically: the hospital sees wellness as cyclical. Where is this path of wellness leading? Right back to being unwell.

Now, statistically speaking, the hospital is 100% correct (and you probably are, too, if you see your audience in a similar way). When they look at you or me, they see someone who is either well or sick, and someone who is nearly 100% likely (statistically speaking) to get sick several times in the future. Doctors, pharmaceuticals and the like will tell you they are recession-proof. They say people who have beaten cancer are likely to see it return, so say their statistics. People with broken bones are likely to break more or have new things happen to them. The hospital is somewhere you will be back to, and when you come back, they’ll heal you up and wait until your next sickness.

But that’s not how we see ourselves or our wellness. We see our lives as linear, and illness is a temporary detour on our path. We want a hospital to send us back on our way down the path we see, that the yellow line doesn’t run right back into the red but instead hops right around it and goes on.

Now, this is really picking something apart and I could quite frankly be seeing this logo in a different way than its creators did, but I don’t think it’s a stretch. If you simply put arrowheads on each of these colored segments, it would be startling.

This hospital knows the truth the statistics tell. Often, analysts do exactly the same with their clients and brands. Is this how you think of your customers, too? Do you look at reports, trends, create models, and predict their behavior? Do they know you think about them this way (it’s probably a lot more obvious than you think)? Is your site, your marketing, your social messaging built around your view, rather than your customers’ needs? If you think that doesn’t affect your brand or your bottom line, you’ve officially misplaced your marbles. Yes, it’s good to understand your audience, but don’t lose sight of them as people, especially when they see the world differently than you do.

This is why we start with seeing clients’ industries and businesses from their customers’ perspective. How a brand communicates about itself and its philosophies through logos is one thing. What we see as analysts and digital marketers is no different: how a brand communicates itself through marketing messaging, landing pages that stick users in a hallway with no exits (except the back button to Google), pricing schemes that are intentionally confusing and intimidating, pushy vendor salespeople and web sites selling movie sets when customers think they’re buying real buildings.

I don’t believe these things businesses do are medium and long-term winning strategies, even if the multivariate test last week said they are short term gains. Be smarter than that. Your risk isn’t a foregone opportunity to increase conversion rate. Your risk is a newer, consumer-centric competitor doing it a better way, swooping in and taking your whole kingdom away while your ex-customers rejoice in leaving you behind.

When we did the logo design for Satellite (and made the tool, itself), we wanted people to see speed, motion, the future, clean thinking. Our competitors put images of tags and HTML characters in their logos. We think you want speed and elegance, not tags and markup. If you could forget about tags completely, wouldn’t that be a good thing? We think so, too, and we don’t want to have to redesign our logo once you get there.

How are you seeing the world? Through your business’s eyes, or your customers’? Give the other side a try, if you haven’t already. What do your customers and clients want from you? My guess is if you give it to them, things will go very well.


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    You have got to be kidding me about the “square” as wellness!!!! You must be the marketing company that created this logo. Where in the WWOS does this portray healthcare? It looks like a plumber’s LOGo for looping water or AC for air, but Healthcare?? What was wrong with the old LOGO for Piedmont, a healthcare cross? This portrayed a medical facility, not a “google” site. Peoplr like to know they are going to a healthcare facility for healthcare and not a software store.
    Also not only a new logo but what was the cost for Piedmont changing the logo. I estimated it to be at least 5-7 mil. What about jobs during this economy?
    Sorry My Opinion.

    Posted July 31, 2012 at 5:20 pm | Permalink
  2. Haha, don’t be sorry! I’m not sure why in the hell you would think I made this logo when I’m sitting here talking about how stupid it is.

    Posted July 31, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Permalink
  3. S. Mark

    Hi. Interestingly, I’m a graphic designer with a passion for branding but I work as a nurse at Piedmont. When the rebrand was launched, I heard doctors and nurses commenting widely on the new logo. I kept my ears open and my mouth shut so I could learn from the inside the employees’ perspective on such a big brand launch. Sadly, few people spoke positively of the mark and most seemed to be confused by it. I, too, was surprised by it’s simplistic techy-ness. I wished the former logo, which held so much equity from it’s 33 year reign, could have been freshened up. As with any new logo, people are going to laude and criticize, but I’m thankful that I got to be working at Piedmont when such a big brand launch happened. It’s given me some new perspective.

    Posted August 20, 2012 at 10:47 am | Permalink

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