OSF HealthCare harnesses new advertising research for valuable insights




OSF HealthCare is an integrated Catholic health system founded by The Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis. Headquartered in Peoria, Illinois, OSF HealthCare employs over 24,000 Mission Partners (employees) in 145 locations—including 16 hospitals, two nursing colleges, and a 1,700-provider network—throughout Illinois and Michigan. In 2020, OSF OnCall was established, a digital health operating unit that delivers seamless navigation for the care and services patients desire, when, where, and how they prefer to receive them. OSF Innovation, ranked among the top 10 innovation centers in the country, is a multidisciplinary program focused on the largest healthcare challenges in the industry.



In 2022, OSF HealthCare tested creative impact and effectiveness on a multi-service line brand initiative using NRC Health’s AdVoice platform. Using direct consumer feedback on messaging, presentation, and engagement, OSF was able to refine its creative in real time and test five service lines simultaneously. The valuable feedback validated the work of the original campaign while providing clear direction and insights for upward growth when it came time to refresh the campaigns. Given the important market perspective gathered in 2022, OSF HealthCare tested the new core messaging with the AdVoice platform again in 2023, paying special attention to the primary service line to show quantifiable change.

Compared to the 2022 AdVoice study, OSF HealthCare saw increased engagement for 2023 messaging, specifically for call-to-action engagement such as likelihood to utilize the organization’s website, switching to providers or facilities, and desire to learn more about primary-care services.

Marketing strategy

The OSF HealthCare marketing strategy, beyond market research and consumer insights, puts the consumer at the center of everything the organization does, to drive patient volume and deliver on the organization’s promise to serve with the greatest care and love.

NRC Health’s Market Insights and AdVoice capabilities allowed OSF HealthCare to track awareness, preference, image, reputation, and advertising recall for multi-service-line brand initiatives. To continue to evolve its messaging in 2023, OSF HealthCare tested new core messaging, paying special attention to the primary-care service line. OSF HealthCare saw increased engagement for 2023 messaging—specifically for calls to action (engaging with the website, switching to OSF HealthCare, engaging on social media) and an increase in persuasion (likelihood to recommend). These results informed strategies and helped connect the dots to what matters most to patients, consumers, and communities.

“I think the most successful strategy is always putting the consumer in the center, creating a personal connection between the patient and the services we provide,” says Andrea Bonk, Manager of Marketing Strategy and Research at OSF HealthCare. “All things market research and consumer insights are key to that. We started to really take advantage of AdVoice to compare our creative concepts. We may not always have the time to compare every concept, but we see the most advantage using AdVoice for omnichannel, longer-running campaigns, using the insights to inform how we iterate, test, and change.”

“I think the most successful strategy is always putting the consumer in the center, creating a personal connection between the patient and the services we provide.”

-Andrea Bonk, Manager of Marketing Strategy and Research, OSF HealthCare.

“As long as we put the consumer at the center of everything we do, we’re going to win.”

-Mayura Kumar, Director of Digital Marketing Strategy, OSF HealthCare

Mayura Kumar, Director of Digital Marketing Strategy at OSF HealthCare, echoes that sentiment. “As long as we put the consumer at the center of everything we do, we’re going to win,” Kumar says. “It’s really putting yourself in the consumer’s shoes and walking through that journey and their expectations, and then delivering against that journey.”

Kumar explains that part of their job as marketers is to always be an ambassador for the consumer. For example, “if we have a new Director of a Center of Excellence, and it’s important to the organization to communicate this externally, but not immediately apparent why it would matter to the consumer, it’s our job as marketers to determine if, how and why it could be relevant to the consumer,” she says. “As it turns out, a new Director could signal quality, credibility, and trust—all things that consumers care deeply about in healthcare and are critical in mid-funnel decision-making.” All consumers, she adds, are looking to solve a problem—they’re seeking a solution to something—and mapping out that consumer journey is always the first step to take to tackle, no matter the industry.

Consumer feedback informs decisions

Bonk remembers the feedback the organization got during its 2022 AdVoice testing. “One focus group attendee said, ‘This is beautiful and the imagery is lovely, but what about your services? What about your quality?’” she recalls. “The whole team took that to heart, and when they relaunched, they used that feedback to really hone in on the questions consumers may have, updating the tagline, body copy, and imagery. As a result, the team has seen almost double the click-through rate between the campaigns.” Bonk continues, “If you’re thinking about a robust marketing-analytics strategy, there are a lot of components to it, but primarily, one of them is testing and optimization. That, in and of itself—to test, learn, iterate, and optimize—is what makes you continually improve. AdVoice, in particular, is really good for that.”

A previous OSF HealthCare social media ad centered around snuggling with your newborn baby. The headline read: “Your snuggles, our Mission.”

“The 2022 birthing campaign was very, very comforting,” says Bonk. “We had great results in providing care, comfort, and compassion, which is everything we are. And it performed well in the 2022 AdVoice testing, but what we did hear from focus-group members was, ‘Please tell us. I’m a mom trying to find the best labor and delivery system or facility near me, so I need to know more.’ So that’s what we did. When we relaunched the birthing campaign in 2023, our team made sure the headlines were very specific to ‘quality care for you and your baby—delivered.’”

In 2022, feedback showed that OSF HealthCare needed stronger calls to action, and to home in on some breakthrough messaging. So they retooled their campaign to see what resonated.

“The strategy was to reinforce that this was what we picked and what we heard, but to just double-check that and ensure we hit the mark,” Bonk says. “Seeing the results from AdVoice that came back, the calls to action were all higher. I think we outperformed nearly all the metrics in the ’23 campaign, compared to ’22.”

Strategies to meet the mark

Brianne Riley, Director of Strategic Marketing and Communications for OSF HealthCare, says the experience helped leaders at OSF HealthCare understand what motivates people to act. “The AdVoice results showed that while the ’22 creative may have resonated with consumers as a great brand or a top-of-mind choice for healthcare needs, it doesn’t say what specific healthcare needs,” she says. “We weren’t providing clear details that would help them understand, ‘Oh, I need to make a primary-care appointment.’”

Ultimately, campaign results for primary care are now ranking higher—and the organization’s leaders couldn’t be more thrilled.

“Sometimes, you have to prove your marketing value to other stakeholders within the organization,” Riley says. “For me, it’s that ability to say, ‘Here’s the campaign we did last year, and here’s the current one that we optimized based on consumer feedback. Look at how well this is performing in comparison. We’re measuring the same KPIs across the same marketing channels.’ It reinforces a decision that I already made.

“We always aim to meet industry benchmarks, but we’re seeing that our performance is exceeding them in most instances.”

-Brianne Riley, Director of Strategic Marketing and Communications, OSF HealthCare

“We have seen some incremental changes and improvements since switching the campaign creative,” she adds. “That really gets more toward the sentiment and what people are holistically thinking about our brand and service line. We always aim to meet industry benchmarks, but we’re seeing that our performance is exceeding them in most instances.”

The value of Human Understanding

Infusing Human Understanding into healthcare marketing initiatives is not only a strategic approach, but also a compassionate one. By acknowledging the diverse needs, preferences, and experiences of the patients, families, and communities they serve, OSF HealthCare is paving the way for a more human-centered and impactful connection with patients.

“Quantitative research can only take your marketing so far,” said Susan Milford, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications for OSF HealthCare. “Adding qualitative insights allowed our consumers to give us input from their understanding both logically and emotionally.”

“Adding qualitative insights allowed our consumers to give us input from their understanding both logically and emotionally.”

-Susan Milford, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications, OSF HealthCare

Through active, real-time input from consumers, OSF HealthCare’s marketing leaders gain valuable insights that are instrumental in helping them tailor the organization’s messages and services to align more closely with the actual needs of those they serve.

“The insights from AdVoice gave us agility to improve our campaign messaging so it connected with each target persona,” Milford added. “Personally aligning with the consumer ensures we meet their needs with the care we provide, which is a win-win for both our Ministry and patients. Marketing needs to drive value and results. These consumer insights demonstrated both.”

This shift toward a more empathetic and inclusive approach not only fosters trust, but also builds loyalty through stronger relationships and helps to support increased patient acquisition.

Related resources

Explore the resources below to take your healthcare marketing efforts to the next level.

What could
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Human Understanding is crucial in growing your brand and developing relationships. Tap into key healthcare consumer data and dive deeper into your marketing analysis with NRC Health’s AdVoice – creative testing focusing exclusively on the healthcare industry. And gain access to syndicated consumer data and research to power informed decisions in the rapidly evolving healthcare industry with Market Insights.

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©NRC Health. Select images and video featured in this case study have been provided by OSF HealthCare and are used with their permission.