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Proven precision: How AU Health used Market Insights to validate its advertising strategy

Augusta University Health (AU Health) has an eminent standing in the Augusta, Georgia, area. But all the same, the world-class provider of comprehensive primary and specialty care experienced a common challenge for health systems—brand-identity confusion.

The issue stemmed from a slew of changes within the AU Health organization. Four name changes in five years, plus several consolidations, left the region’s consumers somewhat confused about what AU Health has to offer.

To clear the confusion up, the AU Health team needed to solidify the organization’s standing in the Augusta market. They wanted to focus the organization’s messaging with an eye toward robustness and precision.

That’s why they turned to NRC Health’s Market Insights platform.

Capturing the benchmark

With respondents in 310,000 households across more than 300 markets, Market Insights is the single largest healthcare consumer database in the country. AU Health’s team used customized surveys—delivered to targeted demographics in the Augusta region—to uncover the root causes of their customers’ confusion.

Low top-of-mind awareness was one problem. Only 21% of Augusta’s consumers were aware of AU Health as an academic health center. Considering the prestige that such centers confer on healthcare brands, this became an important priority for intervention.

Another issue was lagging awareness of AU Health’s affiliated organizations. AU Health offers a broad array of services to consumers, but Market Insights discovered that many patients didn’t know it.

Only one third of consumers, for example, knew that Georgia Cancer Center, a locally preeminent specialty hospital, was affiliated with AU Health. Similarly, only 47% knew that the well-known Children’s Hospital of Georgia fell under AU Health’s umbrella.

Testing the message

If AU Health was to correct these branding shortfalls, they could not afford to squander their efforts. Only a focused and precise messaging campaign could achieve what the brand needed: to simultaneously differentiate AU Health from local competition and clarify its service-line offerings.

The team developed a series of print and video ads that strongly declared AU Health’s refined brand identity.

AU Health video →

To ensure that their messaging hit the mark, AU Health’s team rigorously tested the campaign against Market Insights surveys.

“Market Insights is how we can gauge consumer perceptions and reactions, and how we at AU Health can take action with our marketing campaigns,” said Brianne Clark, AU Health’s Senior Marketing Analyst.

Results from the Market Insights test audience were promising: 91% of them said that the ads effectively communicated AU Health’s offerings; 84% said that the ads improved the way they saw AU Health; and 84% reported that they better understood AU Health’s roles in cancer care and pediatric care, and position as an academic health center.

Proving the results

With objective data in hand, AU Health confidently premiered its advertising campaign in the marketplace. It was time to see if the campaign, validated by Market Insights data, would translate into real-world results.

In short order, the team noticed an impact. After ten months of consistent campaign effort, top-of-mind awareness for AU Health as an academic medical center went from 13% to 34%.

Likewise, even in the crowded field of providers in the Augusta area, AU Health’s brand emerged as one of the region’s most prominent. AU Health logo recognition went from 54% to 64%—putting it behind only one competitor in the area.

Finally, the campaign also improved public awareness of the breadth of AU Health’s offerings. Awareness of AU Health’s affiliation with both Georgia Cancer Center and Children’s Hospital of Georgia increased by about 10%. This meant that, for the first time, most Augusta consumers now knew about the relationship between these institutions.

Much more to learn

Aubrey Hinkson, AU Health’s AVP of marketing, has made clear that the organization is far from finished with its branding work. For every step forward, she plans to use Market Insights data to guide the way.

“At AU Health, we’ve now made it so that every new creative that we do, we have ad testing completed through NRC Health,” she said. “There is no more question of whether we have the time or the resources to do it. It’s just part of our process. Those consumer insights drive our creative strategy.”

No doubt, that strategy will continue to evolve as AU Health’s team learns more and more from Market Insights.

What they’ve learned so far, however, encompasses far more than what appears in this blog post.

Our AU Health Case Study is much more comprehensive, including insights like:

  • Why Market Insights data motivated smoother internal decision-making
  • How awareness-boosting advertising tactics translated into bottom-line results
  • And more!

Get the full case study here. You’ll see how Market Insights empowers organizations to refine their identities—a crucial task in the consumer-driven healthcare marketplace.

This AU Health story was one of the sessions offered at the recent 2018 NRC Health Symposium. Check out the agenda for this year’s 25th Annual NRC Health Symposium here. We hope you will join us August 14–16 in Nashville, TN!