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Dec 11, 2008
Case Study

Bank on Quality to Get Your Product or Service to Stand Out: 10 Steps to Get Started

SUMMARY: Quality can be a prime differentiator when a shopper searches for a product or service. Here are 10 steps taken by a healthcare organization to measure and use quality to stand out.

The 10-step process involved:
- taking advantage of awards, rankings, and other designations
- tracking how prospects use quality indicators in making decisions
- getting consumers to recall quality-focused ads
- increasing consumer preferences

Marty Campanello, VP of Marketing and Public Relations, Carolinas HealthCare System, knew his organization worked hard to improve quality simply because it was the right thing to do for patients. He also knew that 60% of hospital admissions come through the emergency room.

“When 60% come through ER … your reputation for quality is incredibly important,” says Campanello.

Most admissions are consumer-driven – patients decide where to go for health care, not doctors or insurers, he says. So, he and his team needed to know where his organization’s quality ranked. For instance:

-How many third-party organizations, such as J.D. Power and Associates, U.S. News & World Report, HealthGrades, and The Leapfrog Group, were rating the quality of his healthcare institutions?
-How many quality awards, rankings, and designations had they received?
-How many patients and prospective patients paid attention to quality ratings when making healthcare decisions?

Campanello and his marketing team went to work with this information driving their efforts.


Campanello and his team developed a multichannel marketing campaign that relied heavily on print advertisements. The ads communicated Carolinas’ focus on providing quality healthcare through the eyes of those groups that give out awards and rankings.

Carolinas is the largest healthcare system in the region and the third largest public system in the nation with 23 leased or managed hospitals. But marketing quality was a new concept at CHS.

The 10 steps they took:

Step #1. Assess third-party quality designations

Campanello’s team assessed the third-party organizations that rate the quality of healthcare providers. They found 26 organizations that give quality designations, and compiled a list of the quality designations they’d received for use in their marketing messages.

Step #2. Consult focus groups to measure how patients use quality designations

The next order of business was finding out how patients and prospects used quality designations when making healthcare decisions.

The team held two focus groups before launching the marketing campaign – with 10 to 14 participants in each spanning a variety of ages. Participants included people who had been treated at the hospitals and people who had not. The primary goal was to discover whether a quality-focused campaign would give an appropriate ROI.

During the focus groups, the team asked:
-How do you define quality?
-Have you used quality awards, rankings, and designations when making healthcare decisions?
-Have you heard of J.D. Power? HealthGrades? U.S. News & World Report?

Consulting focus groups is now an ongoing effort to continue measuring how many consumers use the quality indicators.

Step #3. Conduct a pre-campaign awareness and preference study

For one of CHS’s children’s hospitals, the team conducted an awareness and preference study. They measured if a quality-focused campaign would move the dial in terms of the preference for one hospital over another.

The primary survey question:
-Which hospital or healthcare facility would you prefer to use if someone in your household needed medical or surgical care for a child?

Campanello hired a market research firm to help with the survey via phone.

Step #4. Design the ads

The team created a series of “fun” and “celebratory” print advertisements for the various hospitals that won quality designations. Details of the ads:

Ad #1. “One More Reason to Celebrate”

This ad included:
-party noise-makers and confetti
-image of the quality award that was won
-copy explaining what the award was for
-hospital logo
-hospital website URL

Ad #2. “So Many Reasons to Celebrate”

This ad included:
-party noise-makers and confetti
-list of top quality awards and designations awarded to the hospitals
-hospital logo
-hospital website URL

“We wanted it to look non-hospital,” says Campanello. “We wanted it to be celebratory.”

Step #5. Run ads in various print mediums

The ads ran every time one of the hospitals won a new quality award. They used various print publications circulated in the areas where their hospitals are located.

Ad #1 ran twice weekly for a month when a new quality award was received. Ad #2 ran once a week for two or more weeks after the initial ad schedule finished.

Step #6. Run ‘snipes’ on other marketing materials

The team ran ‘snipes’ (stand-alone blurbs) about their quality awards on other marketing materials, including:
o other print ads (e.g., “U.S. News & World Report Top-Rated Hospital” at the bottom of an ad about cardiac services)
o direct mail pieces, especially those going to newcomers to the area
o TV spots – messages flashed at the end

Step #7. Use offline channels

Campanello’s team put the quality-focused ad copy on 2x8 billboards in the hospitals’ primary service areas. They also ordered a 20-foot banner with the quality-focused ad printed on it. It was hung in the lobbies of the hospitals to “let our employees know how proud we were of them,” he says.

Step #8. Put quality-focused ad copy on the website

The team created a rotating display of banner ads for’s homepage. The medical center is the system’s flagship hospital. Each banner displayed the most recent quality award won by the healthcare provider. When clicked on, the banner took visitors to a page with more information.

There was also a link to “quality standards and accomplishments” embedded in the “About Us” section of the website. It listed more awards and designations.

Step #9. Do an advertising recall survey

Campanello’s team did an advertising recall survey to make sure the ads were being seen by the general public.

The survey was conducted over three weeks one year after the launch of the campaign in tandem with a post-campaign awareness and preference survey. It involved calling 400 randomly selected households in the areas the hospitals were located.

People were asked if they could recall any advertising for a children’s hospital during the past year, and if they could identify the ads. Margin of error was 4.5%.

Step #10. Do a post-campaign awareness and preference study

The preference surveys were conducted via telephone in October 2007 (before the campaign) and October 2008 (after the campaign ran). They continue to use telemarketing surveys to measure the success of campaigns.


The advertising-recall study showed that 76% of those surveyed remembered seeing the quality-focused ads.

In a focus group conducted this year, 4% of participants said they used a quality award, ranking, or designation when making healthcare decisions. This percentage doubled from the one a year earlier.

“The number will grow exponentially,” Campanello anticipates. “Next year, it’s going to double again … that’s why we’re working on it now … people are going to start spending more time online looking at the quality indicators.”

The awareness and preference studies revealed a 16% increase in preference for the CHS children’s hospital from October 2007 to October 2008.

Useful links related to this article

AIS Market Research – firm that conducted the advertising recall and awareness and preference surveys:

Creative samples from Carolinas HealthCare System:

J.D. Power and Associates:

U.S. News & World Report:


The Leapfrog Group:

AIS Market Research – firm that conducted the awareness and preference surveys:

Carolinas Medical Center:

Carolinas Medical Center – quality standards page:

Carolinas HealthCare System:

See Also:

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