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Novant Health

New:  Brand promise, visual identity, and unifying brand architecture

Launched:  April 17, 2013

Story in brief:
"The vision was in place" said Scott Davis, Chief Growth Officer for Prophet; "but they knew their brand was not strong enough to support it."

Formed by the 1997 merger of two North Carolina hospitals, this non-profit service provider grew regionally, by acquisition, to encompass 13 hospitals and 343 clinics, plus outpatient surgery centers, medical plazas, diagnostic imaging centers and such, served by 24,400 employees including 1,123 physicians in four states. Their integration, into one coherent and superbly managed system would enable both better quality of care and future growth. Integration had been compromised, however, by a branding strategy more suitable to a holding company than a hands-on operator. Visually, all units' visual signatures featured Novant's blue type and green swoosh; verbally, however, they continued to use their heritage names as their primary brand -- in effect denying integration.

In January 2012, the trustees promoted Carl Armato from COO to President and CEO.  He brought with him an audacious goal, "to make health care remarkable," and the conviction that a more seamlessly unified brand would better engage Novant's people in that purpose.

Who could help? As it happened, a management colleague had recently heard Scott Davis, Prophet's 'Chief Growth Officer' speak at a healthcare marketing conference; end of story. Prophet won Novant's comprehensive identity assignment, challenged, said Davis, "to build the brand that could bring Armato's business strategy to life.   In my 25 years' experience he was probably the most brand-engaged CEO I have ever worked with."

The critical question:  Would patients welcome a newly dressed, more assertive and  pervasive "Novant" as their health care provider, master of such trusted local institutions as Charlotte's Presbyterian Hospital?  Prophet's due diligence included reviews of extensive prior research, competitor position analysis, physician interviews, patient focus groups and many work sessions with Novant's leadership team.  All findings confirmed that in today's unsettled health care environment, the promise of a more seamlessly integrated network, superbly managed for quality in both care and service, is highly appealing both to patients and to other health care providers -- thus rebranding could drive regional expansion, as well as increased share in home markets.

The next question:  how to rebuild the previously bland "Novant" (functionally viable as a name, though not  quite yet seated well enough to discard its "Health" crutch), to more credibly represent that leadership promise?

Finding an ownable color was an early focus of Prophet's New York design team. It could be anything but blue, a North Carolina institutional cliché (think Duke and U.N.C.), or blood red.  Purple, ultimately, was chosen for its fit to excellence, its warmth and above all, for its availability and ownability. 

Because "Novant" was felt still to need the "Health" industry designator, Prophet's logo design explorations emphasized symbol-based rather than wordmark-based strategies.  And naturally, symbol ideas included monograms, NH's as well as N's. But when one positive/negative NH exploration produced a heroic N, a colon, and a hidden H (quickly seen comparable to FedEx's arrow), it seemed to capture the process. "We must have developed some fifty logo treatments and refined six or seven" said Scott Davis, "each with its own strengths. But the first time we showed this one, and every time we showed it since, it dominated the conversation. Most people see only the colon at first, and that alone opens a conversation we want to have. When they discover the hidden H, they no longer see just the colon. It starts a broader conversation on what this new Novant is all about, and on the future of health care."

Prophet's designers locked the purple N symbol to a stacked Novant Health wordmark (dark gray, all caps and in two-weights) to form a complete (if complex)  master brand identifier, also the anchor in a unit signature system that enables retention of local heritage names.  The N symbol can also function as a freestanding logo, and can even be locked to text other than the name -- a themeline, for example --  in hopes the colon will invite further conversations.

An internal launch event was staged in February, two months earlier than the public launch, to provide needed production time for public launch materials and to begin Brand Ambassador training; 1,000 key employees, drawn from all units, came together in Charlotte for that purpose.    (In a fresh twist, in exchange for new logo-bearing hats, shirts and similar 'swag,' all employees were encouraged to bring in old-logo items for charitable donation.)


C.E.O. - Carl Armato, President and CEO
C.M.O. - Jim Tobalski, then Kati Everett, VP Corp. Mktg. & Comm.
Identity planning and design -  Prophet 
Strategy lead Scott Davis (Chicago), creative lead Andres Nicholls (NYC)

First Impressions:

Strategy:   For creating and communicating a culture of excellence, driven at scale by coherent leadership and shared values, the elevation of "Novant" from endorser to master brand was an absolute requirement.  Wrapping it in a strong and distinctive visual system then makes the promise credible, by manifesting the presence of disciplined, quality-focused management.

  Most of the identity weight is carried here by the color purple (okay... aubergine), a smart and effective choice.  Caution: As the months and years pass, insiders will tire of all that purple. Outsiders won't. So stay strong, stay purple.

The N symbol however, (or N-colon or NH) is - to my eye - a mixed blessing. It functions well, and is visually appealing, when in isolation (whether or not the H bleeds or abuts an edge).  Purely visually -- setting aside, that is, whatever "colon" might suggest verbally in the given context, and ignoring the hidden H (a short-lived frisson, more conceptual than visual) -- when adequately isolated, the three forms combine to make one effective symbol.

But when that N symbol gets locked to the stacked Novant Health wordmark, in two weights yet, the resulting mark becomes one cluttered clump;  although the lockup is verbally understandable, and for now  communicatively effective, I find it visually overcooked.  (Better, perhaps, to use one weight for both words, in confidence that people will nevertheless migrate to Novant alone, the natural communicative name.)


Other Comments:



                                           Replacing ..












                  Unit signatures, old and new...







CEO Carl Armato












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