Published in Health Care

Reporter’s Notebook: BHSH—finding a new name that fits the brand

BY Sunday, February 13, 2022 06:32pm

BHSH System is a name that doesn’t exactly roll right off the tongue.

But for now, it’s the temporary name of the new health system created through the big merger between Beaumont Health and Spectrum Health.

Surely the leaders of BHSH System have plenty on their plates as they work to integrate the two health systems, get medical staff from two distinctly different markets and cultures working together as one, and set about pursuing the ambitious goal behind the merger to improve the health of people in Michigan.

Over time, they also will craft a new name that aptly brands the largest in-state health system in Michigan. The question is how far BHSH leadership will go in crafting a name, and how much of the Spectrum and Beaumont brand equity do they seek to retain.

When Spectrum and Beaumont announced back in June that they planned to merge, they said they would select a name that “honors both legacy brands and will engage physicians, team members, donors and the community in that process.”

“We’ll need a name that connects everything together, but you still have to have a branding architecture that fits within the local market,” President and CEO Tina Freese Decker said.

Blending Beaumont and Spectrum would potentially retain the brand equity of both companies. That was the case last year when Herman Miller Inc. and Knoll Inc. merged and took on the name MillerKnoll Inc., a change that maintained the brand identity of companies that were renowned for their furniture designs. 

Or maybe BHSH leadership will craft an entirely new name for the health system and keep the iconic names for individual hospitals, which would retain their local brand equity in each market.

“It’s going to be interesting to see what strategy they go forward with,” said Bill McKendry, founder and chief creative officer at Haven, a Grand Haven-based marketing and advertising agency. “When I work with clients in terms of naming, the No. 1 thing that you don’t like to do is throw away equity. You have to really think twice about throwing that away and starting from scratch, because it costs a lot of money to build something from scratch.”

Putting Spectrum and Beaumont together to name the new health system would retain the brand equity of both, although it would be “long (and) it’s not concise,” McKendry said. Selecting an entirely new name for the system would have benefits because it could reflect how the two “have come together, and they’re creating something new and exciting” that’s “really going to be powerful,” he said.

Having grown up on the north end of Royal Oak, a few miles from Beaumont’s main hospital (as a kid I got some of my favorite scars at Beaumont), I know the name runs deep in the northern suburbs of Detroit. Although, its reputation has taken a hit in recent years from previous failed merger attempts and strained relations with physicians.

In West Michigan, Spectrum Health — a name predicated on providing the widest spectrum of medical services — became a powerful brand in the market over more than two decades.

As well, the Butterworth and Blodgett names for Spectrum Health’s Grand Rapids hospitals go back generations, although both disappeared for a few years following the 1997 merger between the two hospitals that created the health system. Butterworth Hospital became Spectrum Health-Downtown and Blodgett Memorial Medical Center was renamed Spectrum Health-East. Soon after he became CEO in the fall of 2000, one of Rick Breon’s first moves was to restore the Blodgett and Butterworth names to each hospital under the Spectrum Health brand.

As Spectrum Health acquired a number of smaller community hospitals across the region over the years, each retained their legacy name that was combined with the health system: Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial in Fremont, Spectrum Health Pennock in Hastings, Spectrum Health Zeeland Community and Spectrum Health Lakeland Medical Center in St. Joseph, for example.

Over the past two decades, “Spectrum has told a story for a long time and people have pretty darned good feelings about Spectrum Health regionally,” said Josh Leffingwell, a partner at Well Design Studio in Grand Rapids that does dozens of naming projects each year.

Whenever Well Design Studio works with a client on a new name or branding, the first task is to consider: “What’s the vision? What’s the stake in the ground that says, ‘This is who we are,’” Leffingwell said.

As BHSH leaders seek to craft a new name for the health system that honors the legacy brand names, as stated back in June, they would do well to create something that also reinforces their combined vision and future together, Leffingwell said.

“It’s whether you want to continue playing on that goodwill and the legacy, or whether you want to talk about this future, this revolution in health care that is better for the consumer or how you can improve their lives differently than how you’re doing it now,” Leffingwell said.

Whatever BHSH leadership ultimately decides, the new name needs to brand the new Spectrum and Beaumont as offering the Michigan health care market something greater than when they were separate, McKendry said.

“They can do a good job when they come out with their new name. They can say, ‘This is who we are because this is why we came together to deliver this,’” McKendry said. “The story needs to convince people, ‘We’re better together so we needed a new name that reflects that.’” 

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