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Marketing experts: Clarian will get boost from IU name

May 5, 2010

Wednesday's announcement by Clarian Health that it will change its name to Indiana University Health is receiving high marks from some hospital and branding professionals.

The Indianapolis-based hospital system, which has 16 hospitals as far afield as LaPorte, Hartford City and Paoli, can now associate with all its facilities the name of the school that trains the majority of doctors and nurses throughout the state.

“From a branding perspective, it’s a fantastic move on their part,” said Ed Abel, a hospital accountant at Indianapolis-based Blue & Co. If Clarian’s Tipton Hospital all of a sudden has the name “Indiana University” on it, Abel said, “I feel like to the average guy, that seems like an upgrade.”

Changing Clarian’s signage, as well as marketing materials, letterhead and business cards, will be a “multi-million-dollar investment,” spokeswoman Margie Smith-Simmons said.

Expenses will be incurred incrementally throughout the rest of the year and into 2011, she said. Clarian would have spent some of that money anyway on new signage, Smith-Simmons said, because the Clarian name still is not consistently used across the hospital system.

Besides signage, Clarian’s name is on scores of sponsorships across the state. Two of its largest are at Lucas Oil Stadium and at a Indiana State Fairgrounds pavilion. Smith-Simmons said Clarian is uncertain how much it will cost to change the sponsorships.

Jim Walton, president of Indianapolis-based Brand Acceleration, also applauded the move. He said the IU name carries more recognition and trust than the Clarian name did.

He also said it’s smart for Clarian to keep the names of its historic hospitals, such as Methodist, Riley and Ball Memorial. “It carries a lot of weight in the local communities,” he said of a historic hospital name.

Dan Evans, Clarian’s CEO, noted that even such national hospital brands as Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic retained the names on their oldest hospitals. In fact, Evans hopes “Indiana University Health” becomes a national brand that attracts patients for complex procedures for which Clarian is nationally ranked.

Clarian’s newer hospitals, such as Clarian West Medical Center in Avon, would be renamed Indiana University West, or something similar, Evans said.

Such changes will help Clarian reduce the total number of brands—40—under which it currently operates. Evans did not specific how many or which ones would go away. That’s a step in the right direction, Walton said, but not enough for his tastes.

“They’re going to go from really confused to sort of confused,” he said.

The changeover will be implemented in the first quarter of 2011.

— Scott Olson contributed to this report

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