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Two years ago, Pleasanton's ValleyCare Health System was in bad shape.
It had gone through a wave of consolidations as it grappled with the challenges of managed care. As a result, it had lost part of its identity, and with it, patients' confidence.
Its solution: advertise.
Less than one year alter it hired a firm to market its hospital, ValleyCare had regained its place as the most popular provider in the area, beating Kaiser Permanente and San Ramon Medical Center.
"What people said they got out of it is that (ValleyCare) was there for them," said Daniel Katsin, from Katsin/Loeb Advertising, who created the cartoon-based ad campaign for the hospital system.
As competition rises and consumers demand better service, ValleyCare and its counterparts are discovering the basics of marketing.
Gone are the days when good medicine meant steady profits. Instead, companies from hospitals to health plans to biotechs, are finding that health care, like any other product, has to be packaged for consumers.
"It's not unlike selling detergent," said Gary Martin of Wood Worldwide, a San Francisco branding consultant that specializes in health care. "They have to start to see it as selling a product." …