Stryker Medical & Twisthink
Stryker Hospital Support Surfaces Brand Strategy
Stryker Hospital Support Surfaces Brand Strategy
This is a serious attempt to reinvent critical care hospital mattresses in a way that will help totally eliminate bedsores—since Medicare will no longer reimburse hospitals that fail to prevent this problem effectively. One of many advances in this nice piece of systems design is the use of “born on date” integral messages that help hospitals better manage the materials used in their equipment.
Stryker Hospital Support Surfaces Brand Strategy
Stryker was seeking to update its critical care hospital mattresses, aka “support surface,” in the medical field, to add clinical advantages for the patient and differentiate the product from competition. The project charter was to promote brand recognition within the hospital via the mattress’s appearance and communicate the functional capabilities to healthcare providers to help facilitate product selection and usage. The improved product and branding efforts would also help Stryker’s sales and marketing process by communicating differences between features and price points. Innovation came through the use of strategic colors and shapes internally and externally.2. The Brief: Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the context for the project, and what was the challenge posed to you?
Branding a line of soft goods was a new frontier for Stryker. A precedent for printing on fabric or branding on such a large product was nonexistent. The graphic solution for the cover would need to find just the right visual balance of clinical usability vs. the softer emotional desirability. The balanced visual solution would need to scale across the entire Stryker mattress portfolio.
It was necessary for the mattress graphic to work visually with the hospital bed frame which was heavily branded with multiple Stryker logos. In marketing, however, the mattress would be shown on its own. Many technical and medical features or benefits had to be communicated for each model in a simple, hierarchical format that caregivers would understand. Until now, there was no visual difference between a $500 and $10,000 mattress. This was not only a major hurdle for sales reps to communicate but also a point of confusion for hospital purchasing agents.
Printing methods and fabric selection would be key to the program’s success. The fabric cover also required breathability, but many printing inks would clog fabric pores and block therapeutic airflow. Most of the printing challenges revolved around a way to take a one-off banner printing process and modifying it to higher volumes.
Stryker would carry the branding strategy to the inner construction of the mattress with new materials, colors and design. This concept would require new suppliers and assembly techniques for what is considered a low-volume product line to most suppliers.
The development team had experience in building visual brands but this project would be unique in that the mattress was very planar (2D) but was still a 3D object that had to be addressed from all sides.
The team took a fresh look at the mattress from the perspective of various stakeholders. This full lifecycle started at manufacturing and sales, and then transitioned to patients and nurses before ending with orderlies and environmental services. The team leaned on user research to play out all the various use scenarios. This effort uncovered new opportunities that were then folded into the program:
• Added a “mini key” - so that the nurse can read the info while the patient is on the bed
• Added a “born on date” - sales informed us that surfaces should be replaced at regular intervals
• Training – at the time of delivery the sales rep. trains the care staff on how to use the new product and the graphic would become a training guide.
After reviewing the previous generation product, the team learned that the current silkscreen inks would dry and crack with age, wear and cleaning. To eliminate the worn look, we decided to avoid any solid colors in favor of dot patterns. This would serve two functions. One, the visual texture would wear much better and hide any breakdown of the ink. Two, the dot pattern reduced the amount of ink on the fabric which helped with breathability.
Voice of the Customer:
The hospital is a unique environment where a single product such as a mattress can have multiple users. While hospital products are developed with the patient in mind, it’s really the care staff that primarily interacts with products, depending on their specialty. In some circumstances the purchase decision is often made by a non-medical administrator with input from the staff. By giving a greater purpose to the external and internal components of our mattresses we were helping the entire staff involved with the purchase to make a more educated decision based on clinical feature sets.
One on one, qualitative research with nurses and other Stryker sales reps at a medical trade show confirmed the understanding of the hierarchical graphics but also highlighted the value of the graphics for co-worker training. Even though many nurses had never looked inside a mattress they quickly saw value in the bright interior colors and how it would draw attention to a tear in the cover or a broken zipper. The color-coding and design of the interior would also support training and understanding of the various functions. Many nurses spoke about having old equipment so the idea of a date stamp to inform them of replacement timing was received with 100% favorability. The sales team noted that many sales occur at tradeshows where multiple staff members may evaluate competitive products. In this scenario, the mattresses would be seen in a showroom like surrounding where the good, better, best, step up graphic strategy would be very evident. The large exhibit hall environment would require the cover graphics to be bold and draw attention from attendees near and far.
The cover material itself was key to the success of this program. The process started by selecting a technical fabric with the following properties: impermeable, breathable, printable and flexible, while still enabling internal therapies and functions of the mattress to reach the patient. The newly developed fabric, called Equilibrium, consists of two primary components: a urethane layer that allows impermeability without compromising breathability, and a polyester knit top layer to provide structure, comfort, and a medium on which full size mattress graphics can be printed. Applying the graphics would involve a new technique of digital printing and a heat transfer process.
We organized the core group of 9 mattresses into 3 sub-groupings based on construction materials and functionality (foam, non-powered and powered). This would become our “good, better, best” hierarchy and help drive design elements. The graphic strategy would be built around the therapeutic features of each mattress and the internal materials.
We quickly found that full-size paper mock-ups were the ultimate way to quickly evaluate design concepts. What originally looked good on screen had a totally different feel at 7 feet long. Having the context of the bed frame was also vital for a complete strategy.
Ultimately, providing better patient outcomes is the number one goal for all of these mattresses. These new informative graphics teach the nurses about the features and benefits of each mattress at a new level of understanding which allows them to do their job better and the graphics are always there as a fresh reminder. Nurses can now easily confirm a patient has the correct mattress for their condition and that they are correctly positioned for the greatest benefit. The product name was printed on the side panels so orderlies could easily locate specific mattresses when stacked in storage.
The high contrast interior colors make sure any tear or compromised opening in the cover is quickly addressed to prevent contact with infection causing contaminants. The color-coded features and organized mechanics of the interior make any needed repairs easily identifiable and accessible.
The Stryker brand is now clearly communicated and identified by users. The color-coding and hierarchical graphics make the incremental features and price points of the product line easier for all to understand. This makes selling and purchasing the products easier for both parties. The bold graphics also read well when reduced in size for the Stryker website and brochures.
The project started with the mindset of this being a very serious medical product. We led with concepts that were true to the technical and functional aspects of the product. Although this was logical and practical it lacked emotion.
While nurses and doctors have serious jobs they are also regular consumers outside of their job. There’s no reason medical products can’t also be exciting. Our qualitative research verified that we were communicating the information clearly, yet lacked the gut reaction, “wow” that we wanted. The Stryker sales staff also loosened up the requirements to allow us to use a bit more artistic license with the graphic imagery. This was the subtle key to building excitement and turning heads.
The patient wasn’t forgotten either. Empathy was given to the patient by softening the graphics and incorporating a bold perimeter that would visually cradle the patient. This branding strategy was even considered down to the level of the patient’s family sitting bedside and their view point and perceptions.
The digital printing technology that was discovered really gave freedom to the design. The team was no longer constrained to low resolution images and a simple a color palette of previous generations. The combination of a new cover material and the digital printing allowed for unlimited colors and detail while providing a durable and quality result.