So, what’s in a name?
Take, for example, the people who live in Hell, Michigan. “So, what’s life like in Hell?” they are probably asked ad nauseum. Or Boring, Oregon? How about the tortured souls in Fooking, Austria, whose town name I spelled phonetically (click here for more – but BE WARNED that the town’s name might be offensive to some).
Names can be the difference between success and failure. Political scientists at Vanderbilt University found voter support increased 13 percent simply through name recognition which means those bloody election lawn signs are destined to remain for years to come.
Only this morning, a fellow commuter mentioned a condition called Sitting Disease. None of us had heard of it. But imagine if it was called Lazy Ass Disease? Social media would go wild and people might actually pay attention to it. Yet another reason why researchers need to work with PR folks before publishing discoveries.
What’s in name recognition?
Of course name recognition is everything in the corporate world. Coca-Cola is the world’s most recognized brand, with 90% awareness in Canada, France, Australia, Britain and the US. Apple, IBM, Google and Microsoft round out the top five of the world’s 100 leading brands.
Companies like these spend billions on advertising to remind people who they are so we will think of them when opening our wallets. Sad to say, there are kids who recognize Ronald McDonald (global brand #7) but not the US President (#45 of Biography Online’s 100 most famous people) or our Canadian Prime Minister (who, um, didn’t even make the, um, list. Sorry).
But in a public health care market like ours, does name recognition really matter? When people go to Richmond, Lions Gate or VGH, are they aware they are at a Vancouver Coastal Health site? Should they be?
Only last week, the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) quietly changed its name to Island Health. This “rebranding” was done to “better reflect the broader community”. When VCH came into existence in 2001, we were the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority. We dropped the “authority” in the public domain (our legal name remains Vancouver Coastal Health Authority) in 2004 to reduce the perception of bureaucracy and give us a more contemporary image.
Two years later, there was a move by some to change our name again to just Coastal Health due to concerns that our “Vancouver” presence was too strong and threatening, especially for those in the Coastal communities as well as the folks in Richmond who have had to live under a Vancouver name for almost two decades (VCH was preceded by the Vancouver-Richmond Health Board…not Richmond-Vancouver I might add).
We rejected the idea as there was no valid reason for it and Vancouver, in our own way, is an important part of who we are. It is part of our “brand”. Like VIHA (sorry, Island Health), our name change cost almost nothing as we simply replaced signs and logos as part of a normal updating cycle.
What’s in our name?
But does our name influence the quality and standard of care we provide? Do people feel good about working at Vancouver Coastal Health rather than a specific site? Do our patients, clients and their families feel comforted by knowing care is being provided by VCH rather than someone else?
I’m not sure I can answer those questions, although my sense is that staff associates more readily with VCH as their employer now than they did five years ago. No doubt the upcoming True North (Gallup) survey will offer some insights about our workplace culture, but the question remains – how much effort should we invest in “promoting” the VCH brand?