BO­HAN’s ‘brand vil­lages’ work to cre­ate cap­ti­vat­ing sto­ries


It takes a vil­lage to tell a com­pelling story. That’s the or­ga­niz­ing prin­ci­ple for Nashville-based BO­HAN Ad­ver­tis­ing, where col­lab­o­ra­tion is more than an in-house ex­er­cise. It has moved from des­ig­nat­ing a cre­ative team for each client to build­ing in­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary “brand vil­lages” that in­clude rep­re­sen­ta­tion from all in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal stake­hold­ers, with a spe­cial em­pha­sis on re­cruit­ing di­verse rep­re­sen­ta­tion from the clients.

For the scope and in­no­va­tive na­ture of its work, BO­HAN was cho­sen as Agency of the Year in the 2015 Health­care Mar­ket­ing IM­PACT Awards. The firm has at­tracted a num­ber of health­care cus­tomers in­clud­ing hos­pi­tals, health sys­tems and in­sur­ers, which now rep­re­sent about 30% of all its billings.

“We have been for­tu­nate to part­ner with some clients that truly want to tell a story and be less clin­i­cal in their ad­ver­tis­ing,” said Shari Day, the agency’s pres­i­dent.

The over­ar­ch­ing mes­sage for client St. Thomas Health, a prom­i­nent Nashville-based sys­tem, was “Noth­ing Shall Be Im­pos­si­ble,” based on a verse from the Gospel of Luke. The ads fo­cus on the spec­trum of ser­vice lines the sys­tem of­fers and their suc­cess sto­ries, from can­cer treat­ment to weight-loss man­age­ment to neona­tal care. “It’s real peo­ple, real sto­ries, about what they went through and how the sys­tem was there to sup­port them,” Day said. “The key goal is that we never use ex­ploita­tion, that we’re never self­serv­ing.”

David Bo­han, the agency’s founder and chair­man, said this type of mar­ket­ing has proved highly ef­fec­tive. “The mar­ket dy­nam­ics in health­care to­day in­volve enor­mous cost pres­sures and reg­u­la­tory tur­moil. It’s caused ev­ery­one to be a lit­tle too cau­tious.” He said the abil­ity to get from a ra­tio­nal mes­sage—of­ten fo­cused on things such as the lat­est med­i­cal tech­nol­ogy—to an emo­tional one “res­onates with the com­mu­nity.”

Arnold Palmer Hospi­tal for Chil­dren in Or­lando, Fla., an­other client in an in­creas­ingly com­pet­i­tive mar­ket, also em­braces the sto­ry­telling ap­proach in its mes­sag­ing, whether tout­ing the calm­ing pres­ence of a pet-ther­apy dog in a chemo­ther­apy in­fu­sion ses­sion to ex­plain­ing how sad­dling up for an eques­trian com­pe­ti­tion made all the dif­fer­ence for a young cys­tic fi­bro­sis pa­tient.

Just as im­por­tant as shar­ing a com­pelling story, Bo­han said, is an agency’s skill in de­cid­ing which communications plat­forms to use and when. Given the ex­plo­sion in so­cial me­dia, other dig­i­tal tools and on-de­mand ser­vices, “we be­lieve in the abil­ity of agility … to be able to track in­for­ma­tion quickly through an­a­lyt­ics to de­ter­mine if what we’re do­ing is ef­fec­tive.” And if not, to be nim­ble enough to switch gears im­me­di­ately.

While health­care-re­lated clients ac­count for nearly a third of the agency’s to­tal billings, Bo­han notes the firm has deep roots in re­tail and tourism. Its first client—and one still in the roost—is Pi­geon Forge, Tenn., a year-round fam­ily des­ti­na­tion that’s the home­town of Dolly Par­ton and the Dol­ly­wood theme park. And he cites a com­mon thread in the in­dus­tries.

“The per­spec­tive that we bring to our health­care clients is the need for un­der­stand­ing hos­pi­tal­ity. The health­care busi­ness so many times gets wrapped up in not un­der­stand­ing the need for ba­sic hu­man kind­ness. That goes a long way to mak­ing a pa­tient and their fam­ily more com­fort­able.”

BO­HAN em­ploys its sto­ry­telling tech­nique in ads for St. Thomas Health, top right, and Arnold Palmer Hospi­tal for Chil­dren, at right.

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