Grow On: Branding a New Kind of Nursing and Rehabilitation Experience

WarnerBoothe helps develop “deep branding” for a bold new healthcare vision.

For nearly 18 years, Plum Healthcare has established itself as a leader in people-centered skilled nursing. One of the largest companies of its kind in California, Plum is consistently recognized for excellent care.  Still, their most innovative ideas for improving the patient and employee experience have beckoned them toward the creation of a new kind of skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility.

To bring such a facility into existence, Plum has worked collaboratively with a team of architects, builders, and regulatory agencies. As plans came together, Utah-based WarnerBoothe was engaged to provide what it calls “deep branding.” Founding partner Ross Boothe explains, “We believe the brand can be so deeply integrated, so thoroughgoing in the company culture, the leadership model, and the customer experience, that everyone can see and talk about it from their own perspective. Others may not use the same words we do. They may not know the iconography or get the tag lines just right. But the work of the organization and the essence of the brand are so congruent, so clear, that everyone across the organization senses it. And that means everyone can talk about the brand, contribute to its development, and find guidance for their own work in what it conveys.”

WarnerBoothe was keenly aware that Plum’s new vision was an expression of its deepest values, expressed and refined across nearly two decades. For that reason, among others, the team began with a discovery process. Founding partner David Warner remembers, “As we met with just a few of the over 11,000 employees, and explored a handful of the 63 facilities now in operation, we sensed that this was the rich soil out of which the new brand had to grow. The values were there. The vision for a new standard of skilled nursing and rehabilitative care was already alive in the company. How to connect the new brand with Plum and its employees was our significant challenge and our great opportunity. From the beginning, we knew that digital technology would play a key role.”

With that connection top of mind, several approaches were explored. In the end, the “Plum” brand itself pointed the way. The idea of nurturing growth—in plum trees and people—led the team to consider various support structures, such as a wooden stake, a garden wall, and . . .  a trellis—which became the new brand identity. Trellis. Both the new building and the new care model will reflect the definition of that word: “A framework chiefly used to support growth.” That, of course, has been Plum’s vision all along—to provide a framework for patient healing, growing, reaching up, and becoming. And that same framework will naturally provide opportunities for everyone in the company to flourish as well.

With the brand name in place, WarnerBoothe turned to David Cole and Ty Jeppesen at The Design Farm, trusted collaborators for many years, to propose an initial design and visual language (see The Design Farm). Based on that work, the in-house creative team at Plum, led by Rick Burke, has developed several ingenious ways to apply the brand and provide ongoing digital, media, and print support.

Meanwhile, WarnerBoothe’s deep branding work has extended to laying the groundwork for ongoing development of the Trellis model. Of course, digital tools are part of the equation, but as the WarnerBoothe approach suggests, the goal is not to find ways for technology to substitute for human engagement, but to support and enrich it. The Trellis tag line aptly describes next steps: “Grow on.”