The latest branding campaign by Downtown creative agency DCA illustrates the interwoven relationship between medical research and whole-body donation.

Memphis' Medical Education and Research Institute (MERI) is a nonprofit educational bioskills lab where doctors train using unembalmed anatomical specimens.

For the medical institutions interested in medical research and training, the facilities are extremely important.

"Competitors have to go out and find bodies, and that can get a little crazy," said DCA principal Doug Carpenter. "It's more like a event coordination business. If you have doctors training on a new knee, [competitors] have to source equipment, space and bodies, while MERI has a facility."

So, DCA created a 3-D online tour of the MERI facility at 44 South Cleveland St. using California-based Matterport 3D Showcase technology.

Additionally, basic medical principles such as "do no harm" are satisfied when health care practitioners know the bodies they are working with have been donated to advance research, Carpenter said.

"Having a supply of bodies is relevant," Carpenter said. "It is a necessary ingredient for research to be valuable."

MERI launched Genesis Legacy of Life, a whole-body donation program, in 1999, but it did not become self-sufficient and provide enough donors to support medical demand until about 2006, said Jason Owens, MERI executive director.

And, since MERI and Genesis were started at different times, they looked like totally separate organizations with two completely different brands.

When MERI's senior leadership got together in 2016 to develop a five-year strategic plan, they realized the organization needed a more cohesive brand between the two programs – a more symbiotic relationship, Owens said, since one entity does not exist without the other.

"Some folks who donated to Genesis didn’t have a full understanding of what MERI was, and sponsors who utilize medical education didn’t know what Genesis was," Owens said. "When we heard that, we knew we had a communication gap."

DCA completed a full rebrand, including website development, collateral, location signage, apparel, PR, marketing and advertising.

The health care industry already recognizes MERI's stellar reputation as a well-run organization, so DCA concentrated on its differentiating factors.

The main distinction the agency made is MERI's accompanying whole-body donation foundation, which has been rebranded as the Genesis Legacy Whole Body Donation Foundation.

Now, MERI and Genesis share the same logo and have an intentionally reversible tagline to show the mission of each entity is tied to the other — "Honoring Life. Advancing Knowledge."

"People making a conscious, spiritual decision to let their body be used so others can have a healthier, more fulfilling life, is received well with medical institutions," Carpenter said. "The donors know they are donating their body to a nonprofit — not a body farm, not a vendor — and the mission is to advance a medical cause."

MERI covers the cost of the death certificate and cremation for all Genesis donors.

"It means something to the medical organizations that people have contributed to science, and vice versa," Carpenter said.

Mollie Baker