The Why.

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

The Way.

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.

The Insight.

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 1960’s who’s 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.”

In order to keep the signature stories authentic to the campaign, we engaged real patients. These are not actors on a stage, but real people who found their answers at Michigan Medicine.


As part of the branding process, DBA moved from consultants and creative partners to coaches and therapists, uncovering the single deepest desire that emanated from every conversation. What initially seemed like diversity of opinions became unified into a singular point-of-view. We co-developed the vision statement with one voice – through the Delphi model of research, which uncovered the signature stories for the brand.

The Work.

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 is just beginning to be understood as a science.

Team Alignment.

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 the storytelling and messaging that was reported with the highest level of emotional engagement. But, more importantly, the unity and the of adoption of the campaign created alignment that will support the corporate vision and branding decisions for years to come.