Q. Why do most people choose Kleenex over any other tissue or Aspirin over a generic knockoff?
A. Because powerful brands have a way of cementing themselves in our minds as being worthy of our trust.
Familiarity generates trust; we know exactly what we are getting when we buy that particular brand. There are no surprises, only comfort, and peace of mind. In fact, for many of us, that peace of mind is worth paying more for than taking a chance on a similar product from an unknown brand.
Branding is a hot topic with consumer-facing products, but when it comes to medical devices, you might be understandably skeptical. Many devices are unseen – either used behind the scenes or implanted in patients’ bodies. And they’re purchased by sophisticated hospital administrators and/or clinicians, who, you might think, are concerned only with performance and cost.
The fact is hospital systems are continuing to conglomerate and slash costs. Administrators and clinicians are overwhelmed. At the same time, the number of device manufacturers competing to serve various populations is skyrocketing. These situations exert enormous pressure on medical device companies looking to succeed.
With markets as competitive as they are today, medical device companies need to embrace every edge they can get. And you might be surprised at how important branding is in guiding medical device buying decisions.
Most medical device companies rely on their clinical trials and sanitized messaging – and end up sounding exactly like everyone else. A device company with a memorable brand, on the other hand, stands out right away. Why? Because a brand is your story to the world. It represents everything you stand for and the emotions you wish to convey.
Brands build trust, differentiate you from competitors, and often become tangible value in and of themselves. A strong brand acts as an insurance policy against unknown competitors. Just like Kleenex, you can become the default choice when a clinician or healthcare system is looking for their next device.
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The idea of building a strong brand might seem intimidating ¾ and expensive. But it doesn’t have to be either of those things. Here are a few practical tips to get started on strengthening your medical device brand today.
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Who are you? What do you stand for? What do you want your legacy to be?
These existential questions might seem out of place for medical device manufacturers, but they lie at the heart of every powerful brand. It takes some time to answer them – as well as input from stakeholders ranging from engineers and sales reps to compliance and marketing – but the clarity that comes from this is priceless. Clarity becomes consistency, and consistency becomes trust.
If your company can distill its essence into a consistent, easily understandable message, it’s so much easier to translate that to an audience. That clarity guides everything from product design to what type of font to use on your website.
Once your audience understands what you’re all about, they are more motivated to build long-term relationships. It explains why people camp out overnight to buy the latest Apple product. Even if they don’t know all the details about the new release, knowing what Apple stands for as a brand (innovation, creativity, and thinking differently) is more than enough.
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The idea of coming up with a vision for a medical device company seems overwhelming…but only if you’re starting from scratch. Fortunately, you don’t have to do that.
So much of good brand building comes down to listening. You might have ideas of what your brand conveys, but the only way to know for sure is to ask. Poll your most loyal customers about what draws them to your devices. What stands out? Get them to walk you through their decision process.
Don’t be surprised if this forces you to question your assumptions! You might find there are certain aspects of how you do business that attracts people, but it’s hard for you to spot them yourself. You’re just too close to the action.
Once you know how your brand is attracting attention, it becomes a matter of accentuating those remarkable qualities. There’s no need to guess which messaging will appeal to an audience or try to dictate what it must be. Find out what’s already striking a chord. Then reinforce it proactively.
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One thing all great brands have in common is that they’re known quantities. You can go into a Starbucks in Shanghai and expect to get a similar cup of coffee as you can get around the corner from your home. That’s where trust comes into play.
Brands build this trust through multiple interactions. First, our customer has a Starbucks coffee in her hometown. Then she has another while visiting family in another city. If her experiences are consistent enough, she’ll soon have confidence in that order no matter where a Starbucks is located.
How does this work with medical devices? Well, we can’t dole out our products at three dollars a pop, but we can create multiple interactions with audiences through our content.
A content marketing strategy builds relationships with your audiences digitally. That way, as they work toward a buying decision, you’re already a known quantity. You have demonstrated your expertise and, if done correctly, provided a lot of value along the way.
You can’t set up thousands of stores like Starbucks, but you can become a thought leader in your space. Best of all, you can execute this strategy at scale, building relationships around the world simultaneously. If it comes down to your device or a similar product for an unknown competitor, buyers will stick with what they know and trust.
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The idea of branding is flashy and exciting, but the reality of building a strong brand is less than romantic. Above all else, the best brands are the most consistent. They find the angle that encapsulates what they stand for and what resonates with customers, and they reinforce it day after day.
The reality: for marketers eager to experiment and embrace new strategies, sticking with the same brand might start to feel stale. It’s working for your audience, but it might feel boring to you. Shouldn’t you always be evolving?
Not necessarily. A lot of branding issues are self-inflicted. Device companies are reinventing themselves just as their audiences are finally catching on to their old brand. It takes time and patience to become that go-to brand of choice. No need to rush. Simply having and sticking to a strategy will put you light years ahead of your competitors in this admittedly long-term game.
A powerful brand connects medical device companies to their audiences emotionally. It goes beyond promoting that new tongue depressor, glucose monitor, or artificial hip. Instead, it tells a story about who you are. That’s a recipe for connecting with an audience on a deeper level.
What is the most effective branding strategy you’ve seen for a medical device company? Why do you think it worked so well?