HBI Awards 2017: Rebranding around Alzheimers

Almage has been active in the field of nursing homes since 1986, over 30 years.

6 nursing homes (one opening in January 2017) dedicated to Alzheimer in France, 530 beds, 250 staff members, group turnover of about 28M euros after new facility has filled up.

In 2013, Groupe Almage conducted a re-branding exercise to differentiate themselves in the highly competitive French nursing home market. While all other nursing home groups in France are called EHPAD (établissement d’hébergement pour personnes âgées dépendantes), Groupe Almage decided to call themselves Centres Alzheimer (Alzheimer Centers). They were open about the fact that their homes welcome residents with Alzheimer disease.

The rebranding exercise by Groupe Almage showed increase in brand awareness, number of visits of the nursing homes and higher occupancy rates

Full application

1. Briefly describe the organisation giving the number of facilities, staff, revenue numbers.

6 nursing homes (one opening in January 2017) dedicated to Alzheimer in France, 530 beds, 250 staff members, group turnover of about 28M euros after a new facility has filled up.

2. Please describe what steps the nominated organisation carried through in the best building of a brand. These are likely to include market research, changes to services, the communication of brand values and the measurement of brand impact.

Almage has been active in the field of nursing homes since 1986, over 30 years.

From day one, we have focused on caring 100% for Alzheimer disease residents. However, until 2013, we had not really claimed our specificity.

As you may know, the French nursing home market is extremely active, and the European leaders in the nursing homes sector are French.

That is to say that the market, here, is extremely competitive. Not only is it competitive, but it is also very “even”. In other words, everyone is claiming to be doing exactly the same thing as the others, each stressing the fact of how much they focus on quality and well-being of the residents.

Various operators are focusing on the quality of the accommodation or food and to some extent care and occupations to try and have their homes emerge from the mass.

Being a medium sized, private operator, it was difficult for us to make our difference perceivable by the general public and other professionals in our field.

Furthermore, in view of the fact that we were operating specialised homes and that we were focusing on care for Alzheimer patients, especially the ones with behaviour disorders, it was important to make sure that people would understand our difference. Especially that, a number of other homes are not willing to look after those disturbing patients and send some of them to our homes.

It was therefore crucial that we make our particular expertise emerge and extract ourselves from the common ground of competition amongst French nursing homes.

For us, it was no longer a matter of who’s got the prettiest home, the fanciest menu or the best location to attract clients.

No, we acknowledged the fact that the market was shifting and people who were placing their parents into a nursing home were looking for a facility with more acute care capabilities. Indeed, those less dependent elderly people now have a lot more options to stay at their own home if fairly good conditions with increasing quality help.

The timing was right for us. We had that specific high-end know-how on how to look after severely demented residents, which we have developed for the past 30 years, and that was what the market needed. It was the time we made our difference known.

We’ve worked with a number of our employees (psychologists, activities directors, neuro-psychologists, etc.) on the ground for several months, to try and summarise and identify what was the “Almage Project.” What were we doing that’s so different from the others? That’s what we’ve tried to phrase in order to better communicate externally, vis à vis our potential clients, but also refers. We also had the aim to communicate internally, so that all employees understand what we are about and can relate to it and appropriate for themselves our values and fundamental beliefs.

Working really hard on these issues, we decided to take a leap of faith. In France, all nursing homes are called EHPAD (établissement d’hébergement pour personnes âgées dépendantes). So they usually carry the name of EHPAD such and such (a name of a tree, a flower, or whatever cute name…

We’ve decided to make a stand and we have renamed our homes as Centres Alzheimer (Alzheimer Centers). This is a huge risk that we took and a real cultural gap with anything that is currently being done in our industry. We were open about the fact that our homes welcome residents with Alzheimer disease, and that we are experts at looking after them.

We were convinced that stating clearly the fact that we were specialist would greatly help families that are completely lost when faced with the issue of finding a nursing home for their parent. Our aim was that, even if they don’t choose one of our homes for whatever reason (distance, cost), at least we wanted to be on their “to visit” list, because you can’t ignore a specialist of the problem you are dealing with. Even if they don’t know anything about nursing homes, one that says that it’s an Alzheimer Center, has to be, in principle, better suited to look after a person suffering from that diesase.

Of course, we were aware that we were taking the risk of losing or missing out on a large part of a clientele that is not suffering from AD (or don’t know they do), but again, we knew that demand for nursing homes was evolving for more and more acute care anyway.

So after a few months, we decided to rebrand all our homes and rename them Alzheimer Centers. We didn’t stop there. We changed our website (www.almage.com) and decided to take a different editorial tone from what other groups were doing. More open, more direct, closer to the outside world. Real life pictures, family and public orientated blogs to emphasise our willingness to include families in the everyday life of the homes. We even changed the font and the colours that we used on our website to differentiate ourselves from everything else that is commonly used in our industry (mainly blueish if you look at the main competitors).

Each home had its logo revised to clearly state their speciality.

Our baseline is now: Repenser Alzheimer (rethink Alzheimer). We play on the word “rethink”, obviously.

We also decided to write a manifesto, to make it very clear to the outside world not only that we were different, but also that we had very strong fundamental values that we strongly believe in. This acts as a communication tool, for people to understand what we do and what sets us apart, but also is reassuring because we make a statement that we abide by. It’s a commitment to quality of care and expertise.

This manifesto, we called: Manifeste Alzheimer. It is an 8 principles based text, that reflects the core of who we are and what we do. You will find it following this link: Manifeste Alzheimer. A contracted, English version of it, is below:

The Alzheimer’s Manifesto–

To ensure the wellbeing of our residents and their near and dear ones, we are fighting every day for these principles:

  • Pleasure first
  • Health: physical and mental
  • Freedom of movement: a fundamental right
  • Families: an essential concern
  • Adaptability: understanding our patients’ language
  • Relationships: the centre of emotions
  • Movement: everything is an opportunity for mobility
  • Involvement: every staff member must be an actor of the project

We have also designed a poster, that is posted in every home and at head office, that reminds people and visitors what Almage stands for and its differentiating points.

Because we always try to do things differently and present ourselves in an innovative and differentiating way, when we launched our new home in Bordeaux, we didn’t just do an advertising campaign. We organised an Alzheimer exhibition, which the public, local politicians and officials were invited to visit and learn about Alzheimer disease, while discovering the new, not yet open, home.

The result of all this gave us tremendous visibility. The general public better understands who we are and what we do, hears and talks about us. Professionals and referrers tend to send us more patients, and ever other homes are sending residents they can no longer look after themselves.

Not only has our notoriety increased, but it has had a direct impact on our occupancy and average daily rates as well, who have all gone up substantially (at 2% occupancy more) since we’ve rebranded ourselves Alzheimer Centers and no longer plain EHPAD! This acts also as a shield from our competitors who can no claim to be specialised and can only state that they “know/can” look after AD residents.

3. When were the brand changes launched?

Month : February
Year : 2015

4. What has been the impact of the change?

Development of our “blue ocean” strategy, higher occupancy rates, much greater visibility of our group than before vis-à-vis our much larger previous competitor. Much better understanding by our residents’ families and referrers of what we do and how it differentiates us. Our clearer communication has also helped the families, totally lost when looking for a facility to look after their parent suffering from AD, to identify a solution to their problem. Our Alzheimer Manifesto, our new website, the blogs as well as the families’ dedicated blog (password protected), have helped us considerably strengthening our brand and position our homes as specialists.

5. How has this impact been measured?

Number of visits (online and offline) and higher occupancy rates.

We would welcome your thoughts on this story. Email your views to Daisy Hotopf or call 0207 183 3779.