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Can We Use Humor to Advertise Our Hospital? Don't Make Me Laugh.

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer
Small thumbnail of man looking at color swatches

Swatches

[Hospital Advertising Success Story: Part One] Using humor in advertising—especially healthcare ads—is both difficult and dangerous. It’s difficult to find the precise balance between being funny (which makes it memorable), and communicating a product or service message (which makes it effective).

What’s more, many health issues are no laughing matter. Potentially, it can backfire.

But despite these and many other challenges, Texas Health Resources [Dallas-Fort Worth region] created a series of television ads that effectively use humor to raise brand awareness and name recognition, and to make people aware of valuable health services. It’s a case example of successful hospital advertising that is clever and amusing…with an approachable personality.

The Texas Health Resources brand now unites 25 facilities in North Texas. But, until recently, the 15-year-old company—the largest healthcare system in the area—had little name recognition with the general public. We talked with Deena McAllister, Texas Health Resources Director of Marketing, who provides this background.

“Using humor is part of a positioning strategy that evolved out of the organization’s effort to unify under a single brand name in 2009. Texas Health had been operating under three different brand names from legacy hospitals. When Texas Health Resources made the decision to re-brand under a single name, it created a unique opportunity to develop a brand personality from scratch.

“We identified one characteristic shared by all three legacy brands: a reputation for friendly, service-oriented caregivers. Texas Health endeavored to build a brand personality known as progressive, collaborative and compassionate. We believe that the use of humor helps deliver on that personality and helps the brand come across as approachable people who treat you well.”

Using this theme also differentiated Texas Health from a primary competitor that was generally perceived as respected, but institutional and serious. The approachability brand position was unique in the market.

Here’s one ad example…

If you live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, you’ve likely seen some of these television commercials. The Texas Health Resources brand-level campaigns have emphasized traditional media and have enjoyed a fairly robust broadcast exposure. But if you haven’t seen the spots, here’s one from the continuing series titled, Color Swatches: Women and Men Are Different [:32]

Humor in hospital advertising is not suitable or appropriate for every marketing situation. But the work by Texas Health Resources is a winning case example of mastering the challenges and risks, and presenting a brand message of healthcare that has a friendly and human touch.

In Part Two, Deena McAllister discusses how their approach to humor evolved, how physicians and the general public have reacted to this approach, and—perhaps most importantly—what measurable results have been achieved.

Lonnie Hirsch

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