May 2016 Special Section

UF Health: Rebranding in Action

Written By: Sophia Karnegis

Three years ago, the University of Florida’s academic health center rebranded itself from UF&Shands to UF Health, creating a new umbrella brand reflecting the health system’s strong ties to the university.

The move to UF Health grew out of extensive research and represented the next stage in the organization’s evolution. The rebranding effort helped position the organization more powerfully among peers and competitors as a respected regional and national healthcare resource with a focus on world-class outcomes.

UF Health pursued the goal of obtaining broad name recognition to attract and retain the most talented physicians, nurses, faculty, staff and students as well as secure research funding. That translates to better care, better health and better outcomes for patients.

“The impetus for rebranding was part of an effort to connect the hospital with the University of Florida more closely,” said Melanie Fridl Ross, the chief communications officer for UF Health. “We are capitalizing on the strength of what our academic health center really stands for. The discoveries our scientists are making are translating into new treatments aimed at improving outcomes for our patients. We are leading the way from the bench all the way to the bedside.”

The rebranding process began with the “Invisible Connections” campaign, an emotional appeal used to emphasize the not-so-emotional concept of medical research. The campaign focused on the quest for leading-edge scientific advances that typically occurs behind the scenes, away from the hospital beds. Ultimately, patients may not know who conducted the research that led to their treatments, thus the concept of the invisible connection.

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“The Invisible Connections campaign allowed us to showcase the research that occurs at UF Health every day and share the benefit of those outcomes through real patient stories,” said Stacy Beers, the marketing director for UF Health. “It is an honor to share success stories that portray how unique research impacts a patient or family’s life even if the researcher and patient never knew each other.”

The Invisible Connections campaign, which introduced UF Health as the new brand, ran from May 2013 to June 2015. The campaign employed a variety of mediums, but one in particular fully demonstrated the concept behind the invisible connection. The commercial showed a mother with her infant at the park. The infant, who was saved by a cooling technique developed by a UF physician, is now leading a healthy life. In the 30-second spot, the doctor and patient unknowingly cross paths without realizing their connection. By eliciting viewers’ pathos, the commercial made the research more tangible.

Rebranding is an ongoing process. In fact, the marketing department for UF Health is still working to familiarize people with the new brand. In September 2015, a second campaign was launched to further expand upon the success of the first by creating more direct connections with physicians and the patients they care for. The No Two Alike campaign emphasizes the personalized treatment provided by the medical team at UF Health.

“It’s a story that focuses on the fact that we see each patient as an individual,” Beers said. “The campaign continues to showcase the individualized treatment we offer paired with superior outcomes.”

As with any rebranding process, it will take time for people to stop referring to UF Health as Shands or UF&Shands, but evaluative research from the National Research Corporation indicates that the name is really starting to take hold among the general public. The Invisible Connections campaign alone increased awareness of the new brand by 11.7 percent during the first two years of the rebranding process. The No Two Alike campaign, which launched in September 2015, has also had similar success. After analyzing the first six months of the campaign, Beers has found that the numbers are continuing to grow in terms of awareness and familiarity with the UF Health brand, and they are starting to see preference, utilization and advocacy increase as well. The campaign is still running and is expected to end mid-2017.

“We’re proud of where we have come,” Beers said. “We have a lot of work left to do, but we are very fortunate to be in a place where we can offer this level of care and share our many success stories to help others.”


Bio: Sophia Karnegis is a third-year public relations student at the University of Florida. She currently works as an intern at Advantage Publishing and enjoys learning the ins and outs of the editorial process. In her free time, she reminisces about her home in Miami and the love she left behind — a black and white miniature schnauzer named Oreo.

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