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Rebranding: It's More than You Think

April 4, 2013
by Terry L. Stawar, Ed.D.
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“A rose is a rose is a rose.”
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Over the past week I’ve talked to CEOs at two organizations that are planning to  rebrand. When I think of rebranding,  I always associated it  with  roses. I know this may sound  like loose thinking, but please bear with me.  Consider Shakespeare’s line from Romeo and Juliet about how a rose by any other name would smell as sweet and Gertrude Stein’s verse: “A rose is a rose is a rose,” in her 1913 poem, “Sacred Emily”.  I suppose both are arguing that changing a name is not the same as changing something’s essential nature.  I suppose if something  looks like a fish and …,  well you know.  

Behavioral healthcare organizations change their names, logos, and marketing materials to make themselves more au courant and appealing, but I’m not sure many actually change their brand. That’s a much deeper intervention that requires substantial changes  to the basic value proposition that underlies the business model. Like many behavioral health organizations, we’re on the verge of adding an extensive primary care component to our traditional service lines. I’m not even sure this qualifies as a rebranding, since the things that make our organization distinctive, compared to our competition are not really changing that much. The values we hold and the things we emphasize and deemphasize as an organization are carrying over to the new services we will provide.

I remember a lot of mental health centers back in the 1980s saying that they were rebranding, so that they would not be mistaken for  governmental entities or because they planned to compete with the for-profit sector. Many went “corporate” tried to transform from a poverty/social service agency to a healthcare conglomerate.    

Some changed their names to try to get a fresh start when they reorganized after a financial or PR disaster. Sensitivities change and organizational names were changed in an effort to try out maneuver the stigma that society has often places on behavioral healthcare treatment. By the way I remember hearing a national marketing expert say back then that the term "behavioral healthcare" would never be the replacement for “mental healthcare.” He said people just had too many negative associations with the word “behavior.”

Many of those trendy 1980’s names that tried to be vibrant and “natural” are looking a little shopworn today. It reminds me of the names that some celebrities gave their children back in the late 1960s, like Moon Unit Zappa and Chastity Sun Bono, whom I think could actually qualify as having rebranded.    

We are considering altering our name to better reflect some of the newer things we are doing, but we’ll probably leave our brand alone. We worked hard to get it.

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Terry Stawar

President/CEO (LifeSpring, Inc.)

Terry Stawar

@tstawar

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Terry L. Stawar, EdD, is President and CEO of LifeSpring Health Systems, a community behavioral...