Positioning a Powerhouse in Health
UC San Francisco (UCSF) is one of the world’s leading institutions in health sciences and healthcare. But in spite of its top-ranked schools, a top-ten hospital, leadership in NIH funding and deep community involvement, UCSF faced multiple challenges. These included organizational complexity, funding declines and increasing competition for faculty and student talent. Most importantly, UCSF was not fully understood and appreciated for all that it was, internally or externally, by donors, influencers or the greater community. Marshall Strategy was asked to develop a differentiated and inspiring positioning platform with enough breadth to resonate with multiple audiences and connect across UCSF’s many sub-brands.
Since awareness was low outside of California and understanding was low within San Francisco, we needed to provide context. Our positioning strategy answered key questions:
- Who we are: “UC San Francisco is the leading university exclusively focused on health.”
- Why we matter: “Through our singular focus, we are leading revolutions in health.”
This core idea differentiates UCSF in a way that is compelling and relevant internally and externally. From this foundation we developed brand attributes, a messaging framework and a toolkit to enable communicators to connect with diverse audiences, from patients to donors, students to faculty and staff, while reinforcing the strategic positioning. We also recommended the use of UC San Francisco as a communicative name wherever possible, to draw attention to the recognized center for innovation, diversity and energy that the University calls home. At the close of the program we implemented training sessions with over 50 of the University’s key communicators on how to make best use of these new communications tools.
With enthusiastic support from the Chancellor, university leaders and user groups representing the multiple sub-brands, UCSF’s Strategic Communications & University Relations team began implementing the positioning and messaging framework across the University. Equipped with a unifying story, UCSF is building awareness, understanding, appreciation and support for its passionate efforts to advance knowledge and produce breakthroughs that benefit life and health worldwide.