Love in every drop

A successful brand launch supports the most vulnerable of patients—babies born prematurely.

A brand rarely becomes a matter of life or death, but branding in healthcare is another story. And for the University of California Health Milk Bank a successful brand means supporting the most vulnerable of patients—babies born prematurely.

Headquartered in San Diego, the UC Health Milk Bank is a statewide organization that collects donated breastmilk and provides it to hospitals and individuals across California. The Milk Bank is the first and only co-branded organization to span all of UC Health—a feat of remarkable buy-in and support, and a testament to the amazing benefits and universal appreciation of mother’s milk.

The Milk Bank engaged with Traina in early 2020. With the emergence of the pandemic, our teams built the brand as all of healthcare was pushed to the limit. What emerged was a strong foundation and a clear way forward for a truly unique organization—one that serves the UC Health system, the State of California, and countless families who rely on life-giving nutrition and generous donors.

A versatile visual system

With a full scope comprised of visual identity, messaging and brand asset creation, our work with the Milk Bank began just as the University of California completed its own major rebrand, allowing for consistency and alignment. “We weren’t allowed to have our own ‘logo’ per se,” says the Milk Bank’s executive director, Lisa Stellwagen, “but that was fine because the UC Health lockup makes it clear that we serve California, under a brand that has such distinction in the state.”

CEO David Traina agrees: “We immediately saw the advantage of co-branding with UC Health. It leverages the equity of a world-class academic system in a formal logo. From there, other brand expressions can evoke the more personable aspects of the Milk Bank—its warmth and tenderness.”

Those qualities are captured with a custom bottle-top emblem, creating a powerful moment of connection between the Milk Bank, donors and the mothers they serve. “The bottle top is an important connection point for the Milk Bank,” says Traina. “It’s the gateway to nutrition, care and comfort. That point is where a brand needs to be.”

“It gives our bottles a really professional look,” adds Lisa, “one that lends confidence to the organization and stretches from customers to donors to philanthropic supporters. We use that mark everywhere, on our website and in other items like stickers and buttons—and it’s worn with pride.”

We’ve been using this branding in so many different ways. It’s been really valuable to us and everyone we serve.”

Lisa Stellwagen, Executive Director, UC Health Milk Bank

Self-Fulfilling Messaging

“I always laugh telling people about the origins of our tagline—‘The Standard in Newborn Nutrition.’ When we developed that together, we had yet to bank milk at all. Not a drop,” says Lisa. “But it’s manifested. We’ve become leaders in science, in customer experience and service; I was invited to be on the Standards Committee for the Human Milk Banking Association of North America—so it has truly become a reality. We’re setting the standard not just in our product, but in the science and collaboration we do throughout the nation.”

Traina’s suite of messaging also includes “Love in every drop,” a line which now graces the bank’s welcoming window graphic, amplifying this sentiment on social media with every visitor selfie. It’s also featured on the label developed for mother’s milk analysis—an homage to FDA “Nutritional Facts” information, showcasing the vitality of this essential source of life. “That line in particular really speaks to people—donors and recipients alike. It captures the power of what they are a part of, and it means so much to our donors that they’re helping children survive.”

[Love in every drop] really speaks to people—donors and recipients alike. It captures the power of what they are a part of, and it means so much to our donors that they’re helping children survive.”

Prepared for what comes next

The new brand was a blessing in the spring of 2022, when the Milk Bank had a spotlight during a nationwide baby formula shortage. When mass media outlets sought their expertise and provided a platform to ask for donors, the brand provided outward credibility and professionalism. “That media coverage activated all of Los Angeles overnight,” says Lisa. “We saw a fivefold increase in our online portal, which was ready to handle it. That increase went on for two months, and it continues to this day.”

With a record number of partnerships in just two years, and more than 2 million milliliters now in the bank, the UC Health Milk Bank has had a tremendous debut. But along with their impact, their ambition has risen as well. The bank wants to supply more donor milk to hospitals and NICUs in under-resourced areas, and aims to do so via direct outreach to health officials and advocacy for statewide legislation.

“These are newborn children in the poorest areas of California,” says Lisa. “They are made to receive the incredible benefit of human milk, and they’re just not getting it. That’s not right. For $4.80 an ounce, we can give them the chance to thrive in their first days of life. That’s our overarching goal this year, and we’re ready to make it happen.”

Let’s move things forward.