brand position

The leadership team at the University of Michigan Health needed a model for alignment toward generating, testing, and verifying a new brand position for one of the nation’s top health systems.


Collaboration is not only a process, but a sacred cultural value at Michigan. So, we set out on a journey to build collaboration into the branding process through the use of data rather than opinions. By engaging leadership, medical professionals, and educators in dozens of managed work-sessions, the tri-partied mission would be realized in a unified message.


We began, not by benchmarking other health systems, but by benchmarking the leading brands in the nation. Understanding the emotional engagement with consumers was not to overshadow our research on the emotional engagement with employees. Like the famed janitor at NASA in the 1960s, whose passion was to send a man to the moon, every passionate member of every team at Michigan Medicine held a burning desire to find and provide answers for the communities they serve. This insight created our path toward the brand position and campaign, “Michigan Answers.”

Engagement Matrix

Building upon the Engagement Matrix model for consumer engagement, the research study uncovered not only the messages consumers liked, but why they liked them. This model of studying emotion was pioneered with Michigan Medicine at a time when emotional engagement was just beginning to be understood as a science.


Because the process involved so many bright minds, the journey led us to a better outcome than if we had closed ourselves into a room with the agency and marketing department alone. Good insights helped "Michigan Answers" arise with the storytelling and messaging that was reported with the highest level of emotional engagement. But, more importantly, the unity and the adoption of the campaign created alignment that will support the corporate vision and branding decisions for years to come.

Services Completed:


With stay-at-home orders firmly in place and traditional production shoots on hold, the campaign relied heavily on user-generated content. To recognize the incredible and selfless efforts of Michigan Medicine COVID-19 responders, DBA worked with the internal social media team to create and launch the #HailToTheFrontLine social campaign. Because the state of Michigan was on lock-down from the pandemic, DBA worked to engage employees and children of DBA staff to seed the content. If you look closely, you will find the children and grandchildren of creative directors, strategists, and account team members in the posts below.

To date, the campaign has received 2.3 million posts, and resulted in millions of earned views and national news headlines. But, most importantly, it displayed countless moments of gratitude to the brave and committed Michigan Medicine frontline, boosting internal morale.


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