Published April 2006

Everett Clinic: a case study
in re-branding

What do you do when your organization outgrows its brand? The Everett Clinic faced this challenge in 2005, and responded with a campaign that was a far more accurate and compelling representation.

As a result, they were able to change perceptions of their organization from a modest, local clinic to a comprehensive Snohomish County resource, providing state-of-the-art, specialized health care equal to many hospitals in the Puget Sound region and the nation.

As one of the largest employers in Snohomish County, The Everett Clinic boasts a staff of more than 1,300 employees, with more than 200 fellowship-trained doctors covering 40 specialties. However, research showed that many local residents viewed The Everett Clinic as merely a small group of primary-care doctors. They had no idea what impressive resources, skills and capabilities were available within the clinic’s extensive network.

The marketing team and leadership of The Everett Clinic had a big job to do. They needed to change perceptions of the clinic: clearly communicate the depth, breadth and expertise of the specialized care they provide, and convince Snohomish residents that they don’t need to go to Seattle to get top-quality specialty care.

The Everett Clinic accomplished this ambitious re-branding with a multi-media campaign: “The right care for the whole you.” Launched in early 2005, the campaign established a strong and consistent presence in both television and newspaper advertising.

The results to date are encouraging. Web site visits have doubled. Patients are quoting lines from the campaign in conversations with their physicians. In addition, there is favorable buzz in the community about The Everett Clinic, as evidenced in newspaper articles and anecdotal comments from patients and community members.

In short, re-branding efforts have changed the way people see The Everett Clinic. Dr. Harold Dash, president of the clinic’s board of directors, maintains that reputation is the fuel that will power The Everett Clinic to its rightful place as a leading local health-care resource.

Re-branding an organization — and changing the way it’s perceived in the marketplace — is not an easy process, but The Everett Clinic offers some useful lessons on how to get it right.

Gain support from the top down. The decision to embark on a re-branding campaign was made with the full support of the entire clinic’s leadership team, including CEO Richard Cooper. Everyone involved recognized how their target audience’s misperception of the clinic was impeding the growth of the organization.

The leadership team sought more than a flavor-of-the-month marketing initiative. They wanted to tell the story of who they really are and where they are going. They realized that a re-branding campaign was an essential part of how to get there.

Their business objective involved a far-reaching marketing initiative that will largely shape the future success of the clinic. That’s why it was critical to gain the support of each member of the organization to help bring this vision to life.

Research is essential to craft the perfect message. Research is an essential tool if you want to understand your consumer. In the clinic’s case, research showed that if people had an accurate understanding of The Everett Clinic and all its offerings, they would be more likely to visit. This insight helped them to develop new, more relevant messaging.

If your organization is attempting to develop more appropriate messaging, the best way to proceed is to create several different brand messages and test them in focus groups that represent your core decision-makers.

For example, The Everett Clinic talked to female heads of household between the ages of 35 and 65 because research validates that women are the key decision-makers for the family when it comes to health care.

Recognize that employees are the most important audience. After committing to the brand promise of your organization, deliver the message internally. External marketing initiatives are merely a promise. If employees do not believe in and deliver on the brand promise, it will not be successful. Spend the time it takes to educate and equip your internal audience. It will allow them to take ownership of the new brand and will keep its promise alive.

Involve the staff as the campaign takes shape. Utilize intranet tools, newsletters and other internal communications to create a sense of pride and commitment for employees. They will deliver service based on their ownership of the new brand.

Since emotion is such a significant component of any health-care brand, a short, emotionally powerful brand essence video was created for The Everett Clinic to convey the new brand to the staff. This powerful tool compelled employees to see themselves as stakeholders in the organization and delivered sight, sound and emotion far better than any internal memo or presentation ever could.

Deliver the message far and wide. Once the internal audience is equipped to embody and deliver on the new brand promise and embrace the vision, it is time to spread this message externally. For The Everett Clinic, compelling internal signage, a user-friendly and informative Web site, and powerful print and broadcast advertising packed a powerful punch. The Everett Clinic has emerged from Snohomish County as a cutting-edge, quality alternative to specialty-care providers in Seattle.

Invest the time to take a serious look at how you present your brand message to your key audiences. Surround yourself with experts with proven brand initiative experience, and you’ll reap the business benefits that come from telling the right story well.

Bill Fritsch is president of Hydrogen Advertising, a Seattle-based advertising agency whose clients include Aegis Living, The Everett Clinic, Precor, Northwest Orchards, Schnitzer Northwest and Southwest Washington Medical Center, among others. He can be reached at 206-389-9500, Ext. 224, or by e-mail at

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© 2006 The Daily Herald Co., Everett, WA