March 24, 2016

Together we … do good things

One lesson about history at Kaiser Permanente is that our great ideas are so great, sometimes we already had them.

'Together we build' graphic, The Pulse, February, 1969

Contributed by Lincoln Cushing, Archivist and Historian

In 2004 Kaiser Permanente launched its “Thrive” advertising campaign, which has been such a resounding success that it continues to this day.

An Associated Press article at the time explained why it was so different:

“They wanted to empower people to do something larger than choosing a health care provider," said Mark Simon, executive vice president and creative director of Campbell-Ewald, the Michigan-based advertising agency that created the campaign.

The campaign struck a deep chord with Permanente physicians as well. In a 2006 University of California, Berkeley Regional Oral History Office interview, Kaiser Permanente physician David Sobel, MD, expressed his enthusiasm:

... we realized that, first of all, if we were to address the full range of health needs of our members as well as to reach out into the community and attract more members, we'd have to begin to change both the internal perception and the external perception of what Kaiser Permanente was really about; and going back in many respects to the origins which had strong emphasis on prevention and health promotion. And so we began working with an advertising campaign … and somebody there came up with the wonderful word “thrive” as a way of embodying our commitment to total health, not just to fix people, but to actually help them thrive.

But one lesson about history at Kaiser Permanente is that our great ideas are so great, sometimes we already had them.

'Together we build' Kaiser Industries 80 year pin
"Together we build" Kaiser Industries 80-year pin (Henry J. Kaiser's birth), 6 mounted on block embedded in lucite and engraved to first female Kaiser Permanente hospital administrator Dorothea Daniels on May 6, 1962.

In 2015 the ad campaign coined the slogan “Together We Thrive.” Well, sort of. Our archives show that the Kaiser Permanente Dental Program in Oregon and Washington was using it in January 2014; the 2013 Kaiser Permanente Community Benefit annual report used it on its cover.

And digging deeper, way down to February 1969 — The Pulse.

This was the new monthly newsletter by and for the employees of the Kaiser Foundation Medical Program in Oregon. This publication actually was the second incarnation of The Pulse, the first having been an employee newsletter in the mid-1940s. The masthead featured a logo adapted from Kaiser Engineers, still bearing the snappy slogan “Together We Build.” One of Henry J. Kaiser’s greatest strengths as a manager was encouraging collaborative work, so the phrase reflected a corporate reality that extended into health care.

It would be 46 years before that slogan would evolve to replace “build” with “thrive,” but I’m pretty sure that Henry J. Kaiser would have approved.