The Secret Power of Brands

Why investing in your brand equity in the ever commoditising aesthetic market is so important.

The current UK medical aesthetics market place is awash with treatment options for patients. Pop-up clinics, discounters, GP surgeries, dental practices, chiropodists, dermatologists, beauty salons, national chains, department stores, Botox parties, hen packages, treatment at your home & treatment at my home are just some of the options available.

With the huge influx of healthcare practitioners and less qualified individuals developing their skills and starting new businesses in medical aesthetics, we may now be at a pivotal point in the market place when supply begins to outstrip demand.

The global increase in sales of professional aesthetic products in 2012 over 2011 was 7.5% - with average patient retention rates estimated at 10%-30% and an estimated doubling of healthcare professionals delivering 13 services.

A simple Google search will list a wide range of similar sounding clinics offering similar services at various prices with little explanation of price rationale or service differentiation. . It is no wonder that many patients find themselves in a Goldilocks scenario in their search for an optimal aesthetic outcome.

Let’s take the example of the Google search term “Wrinkle treatment clinic London”

It is clear that the Top 5 clinics listed may have excellent SEO to appear on the first page however looking at their proposition objectively it is no wonder patients can be “disloyal”

What is a Brand?

We have come a long way from the original meaning of brand - “an identifying mark burned on livestock or (especially in former times) criminals or slaves with a branding iron”

This then developed over time to form more tangible assets suitable for different media such as logo’s and trademarks designed to identify the source of manufacture. However nowadays the word Brand has grown to mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people, it is therefore no surprise that many businesses are poorly differentiated and their External Service Proposition leaves patients confused. Therefore it is crucial that time and money is not wasted in developing a weak brand or one which does not properly communicate your business strategy or leaves your proposition lost amongst competitors on search engines.

Brands are highly valuable intangible assets, should be taken as seriously and have the same investment consideration as even the most expensive piece of capital equipment. “While intangible assets don't have the obvious physical value of a factory or equipment, they can prove very valuable for a firm and can be critical to its long-term success or failure. For example, a company such as Coca-Cola wouldn't be nearly as successful were it not for the high value obtained through its brand-name recognition. Although brand recognition is not a physical asset you can see or touch, its positive effects on bottom-line profits can prove extremely valuable to firms such as Coca-Cola, whose brand strength drives global sales year after year”.

Let’s break Brand Development down into 5 clear parts which are relevant to a service based market such as Medical Aesthetics.

1. The Brand Promise

Fundamentally your Brand is your external service proposition, your promise to consumers. It is what consumers will get when they purchase a product or service under your brand umbrella?

it is very important that the promise or proposition be delivered consistently at each point of customer contact, time after time 4. It also includes the feelings that consumers get when they use your products and services.

In medical aesthetics it is therefore important to consider what differentiates what you can promise your patients from your local competition. What emotions or feelings do your existing loyal patients have and how do you consistently communicate these to new recruits?

“A strong brand promise is one that connects your purpose, your positioning, your strategy, your people and your customer experience. It enables you to deliver your brand in a way that connects emotionally with your customers and differentiates your brand”

2. The Brand Perceptions

Exploring the thoughts, feelings and emotions your existing or lapsed patients have about your brand is your brand perception regardless of what you were hoping to achieve. It is therefore your patients not you who builds the brand but the brand is built by consumer perception.

We live in a world where feedback is gathered easily through quantitative surveys usually based on a 5 point scale of satisfaction with the intent of using these results for further marketing. In order to truly understand your brand perception deeper primary research is required to openly gather qualitative feedback about how your brand is currently perceived. This will allow you to determine of your promise is being met or not and help support development and improve brand perception.

“The most accurate composite of a brand’s true identity seems to come from a consumer’s first gut reaction to it. Complex brand memories are created over time, and the first word(s) or image(s) that spring to mind are really the sum total of a consumers experiences with a brand, in its marketing and use.” 8

3. The Brand Expectations

It is even more important in a medical environment that your brand promise is realistic and that you never over promise to set unrealistic expectations. Otherwise patients who part with their hard end cash will feel disappointed and turn away from your brand, not because the results or service was not good but because they will feel the brand does not live up to its promise. They will therefore turn to competitors because your brand has lost value for them.

4. The Brand Persona

Primary research with existing and lapsed patients will truly allow you to explore your brand persona. What is your brands personality, who is your brand in terms of mannerisms, behaviour, integrity, age, style. How your brand makes people feel will be the deciding factor on whether people will transact or continue to interact with the brand.

Whilst you may have set out with a particular idea of the brand persona you wanted to create consumers are the only ones who can tell you what you have actually created.

5. The Brand Elements

Brands are represented by the above intangible elements as well as tangible elements eg :-

Brand Logo: Recognition, consistency, individual, reflects brand promise

Messaging: promise, differentiation, meets consumer needs

Packaging: advertising, social media, information leaflets, website consistency

Consultation: relevant, thorough, discreet, consultative!

Staff Interaction: knowledge, personality, empathy, gratitude, consideration

Premises: comfort, cleanliness, location, accessibility, parking

Pricing: Fair, value, competitive, sustainable, affordable.

All of these elements must be consistent, complementary and supportive of your brand promise. They will help shape brand perception, meet brand expectations and define your brand persona.