roundtable branding

Ask someone what “branding” means, and the answers you get back will be varied. Some will say its about logos and company mottos. Others will say it’s about how the company presents itself—from the people who work there to the way it treats its customers.

Orthodontic Products asked two orthodontists—Neal Kravitz, DMD, MS, and Anil Idiculla, DMD—for their take on “branding” and how they have branded their own practices. In addition, we asked Ed Moser, chief marketing officer of Dentistry for Children and Family Orthodontics, which has a combined 47 locations in the Atlanta area, to offer some tips on successful branding.

Neal Kravitz, DMD, MS, ?Kravitz Orthodontics

What does “branding” mean to you?

Branding is an identity or an essence that elicits an emotional connection and an expectation of product service in the customer. It’s the first thing that comes to mind when people think of you. Branding is your personality and your presence. Your brand parallels your reputation. To be truly successful in branding an orthodontic office, you must extend beyond expensive stationary or creative architectural office design (though those are both important). Branding means committing yourself to a core principle of practice management and making sure this essence of who you are and what you stand for is reflected in everything you do. Everything is branding, and everything counts.

How do you define your brand and what does it say about you and your practice?

I think the customer ultimately defines your brand. However, I want the Kravitz Orthodontics brand to stand for unmatched quality, commitment, integrity, genuine care, excellence in patient care, and extraordinary community support. I want to be branded as a giver and a great orthodontist. I try to reinforce this concept with everything I do: how I study, how I teach, how I work, how I treat my patients, how I make myself always available, how I run my office, and how I commit myself to the community.

Who did you get involved in developing your brand?

I strongly encourage orthodontists to use whatever companies and resources are available to help brand their identity. My brand was entirely my vision. I insisted that the companies I choose to represent my business created products that reinforced my vision. These companies included (1) Cluu Design for my logo, (2) OrthoSesame and Zenman Productions for my website, (3) Civitas Architects and Green Curve Studios for my office design, (4) and ChrisAd for my direct mailer. Though I have not worked with a practice consultant, many of my colleagues strongly recommend Dr Terry Sellke, Karen Moawad, and Charlene White.

Remember, an outside company can only help clarify the idea that is your brand. My brand is me: my personality, my passion, my energy, and relentless commitment to improving each day. My brand is clean, professional, modern, generous, caring, and passionate. When I work with web designers or marketing representatives, I obsess over the smallest details to ensure what they produce is an accurate representation of my brand. When patients visit our website or read our mailers, I want them to feel how much I care.

What elements have been key in creating a successful brand?

Your brand is similar to your reputation. Everything affects your brand. Everything either helps your brand, or hurts your brand. Your website, logo, business card stock, practice name, products, treatment choices, staff behavior, staff dress, décor, scent, lighting, tone of voice, presence, punctuality, office hours, waiting room, consultation welcome packet, community involvement, professional contribution, and so forth, all count. Orthodontists with excellent brands always worry about the details. All these elements must be in synergy and reinforce one another. After all, one cannot claim superior standards of care and operate in a messy office with dated equipment and disheveled employees. Everything is a reflection of everything. And everything, everything, everything counts. Consistency is critical to reinforcing the message that you want.

In our South Riding office, our name is Kravitz Orthodontics and our logo is K|O. I wanted to use my name because I am key to my brand. I think all orthodontists should consider a logo with either their surname or their location. Your logo should not be difficult to understand. I wanted a logo that was contemporary, clean, hip, and personal. I wanted an office décor that matched these philosophies. I wanted our patients to have a positive emotional experience the moment they walked into our office.

A good tagline is important to help identify your brand. In our office, our tagline is “Continually Supporting Our Community,” as our office is recognized for contributing to our local town centers, schools, and businesses. With that said, a brand must be more than a motto; rather, it is a way of life. Remember, if a customer cannot define your brand, then it is not strong enough. Tiffany’s does not have to tell its customers that they stand for quality. In essence, our brand ultimately says that we will take the best possible care of your family and that our office is where you want to be.

Do you update and reevaluate your brand periodically to determine if it is still serving your needs?

Branding Tips for a Successful Orthodontic Practice

By Ed Moser

Your brand is your promise. This is not about big signs, logos, or advertising; because before you can successfully market your brand, you need to have a solid brand to market.

• Build consistency and quality. Your practice’s behavior equals your reputation, which defines your brand in the eyes of current and future patients. Make sure to be consistent so that all of your communication is speaking in the same voice.

• Generate positive customer satisfaction. Sixty to 70% of your practice is based on referrals. Customer satisfaction drives repeat visits, but more importantly, it drives customer advocacy. You should be requesting and reviewing customer satisfaction surveys with the intent of proactive improvement. Know your Net Promoter Score, which is the percentage of people who will definitely recommend your practice. Brands with a score below 50 are in danger of losing their franchise as well as not generating referrals.

• Be ready to deliver. Your practice must be a mirror image of your communications. For new patients, your brand perception starts when you pick up the phone and set the appointment. Here’s what we know drives the right orthodontic brand experience: clarity in explaining treatment and payment plans, appearance and cleanliness of the facility, friendliness of staff, treatment updates, staff rapport, free initial consultation, and appointment availability.

• Be a part of the community you serve. The old saw, “All healthcare is local,” still holds true today. You and your staff must build relationships with other healthcare professionals in your community who are sources of referrals, and remember that how their patients perceive you is a reflection on them as well. You must also reward your patients for their referrals. Demonstrate your appreciation, and understand that for every time you ask “please” of anybody, you need to say “thank you” 10 times. OP

I am actively involved in my brand. Whether I am managing our team or managing our marketing material, my strategy for branding requires constant attention and self-improvement. Our office team believes that we must always improve and reevaluate our brand. Self-reflection and analysis are key to humility. The old military adage holds true: What gets measured, gets monitored, and what gets inspected, gets respected! Keep closely connected to your community, and always reassess your reputation. Ask your staff what they hear patients saying in the community. Read community Facebook threads and online reviews about your practice. Be perceptive of small problems, and address them before they get bigger. Stomp the flame before it becomes a fire. We always pay close attention to the needs of our patients and our reputation in the community. All you have is your reputation, and we insist that ours be perfect.

What questions do you think a practice needs to ask itself to establish a brand?

How do you describe yourself? What do you want to be recognized for? If you could define your reputation, how would it be? Start with the ideal, and work on creating steps to achieving this image. A brand does not necessarily need to be catchy, creative, or different, but it always needs to be personal.

With health professionals, it is often said that “You are your brand.” What does this statement mean to you?

Your brand should come from your core beliefs and reflect your personality. What is your style? Are you hip, contemporary, and social? Are you elegant, regal, and executive? Are you more Lyndon Johnson or Betsy Johnson? If a brand does not represent the ideals of the owner, then the owner may have lost touch with the business.

On a larger scale, we as orthodontists need to do better to brand our profession as the primary providers for orthodontic care. When patients think of early treatment or Invisalign treatment, they do not necessarily think of the orthodontist, and this is a problem.

What advice would you give an orthodontist who is undertaking a branding strategy?

Have a clear message, and utilize as many resources as you can to reinforce this message. Place an emphasis on quality. Associate yourself with the highest standards. Pay attention to even the smallest details. Look at other successfully branded orthodontic offices, as well as successfully branded corporations such as Tiffany’s, BMW, Apple, Coca-Cola, and Ritz Carlton and ask yourself what are they doing that works? The key to brand strategy is to become an active participant. Participation and personalization are more important than money spent. Ultimately, the most important element in creating a successful brand is establishing strong rapport with your patients. From this rapport comes the emotional connection to your brand of service; and from this connection comes patient loyalty and positive word of mouth in your community.

Anil Idiculla, DMD, ?i-Orthodontics

What does “branding” mean to you?

For me, branding isn’t a logo or a catchphrase. A lot of people equate their brand with a logo or a color scheme, but that’s just one little part of branding. Our brand is all about the experience and patient connections. There are some aspects of our brand that are about the most innovative technology. Then there’s the clinical aspect. But when it comes to patient communication, we always strive to set the bar high. We are always trying to add new things to our office experience and our patient experience.

The easiest way to make a brand work is to have it reflect the people in the office—not only who you hire, but also the doctor. You don’t want to come off as somebody that you’re not. It really is about being yourself. And I think it’s also about the patient that we attract. I think patients that are part of our practice embrace the brand and are proud of the brand i-Orthodontics. They are very active in telling people about it.

We also make sure that we actively highlight our strengths, and are careful to not assume that the patient or the public knows what they are. Because we’re in it everyday, it makes us almost numb to what we do that sets us apart. So sometimes stating the obvious and promoting the obvious really goes far.

What was your strategy for creating your brand, and did you get anyone involved to help you do it?

When I started in 2008, we established a brand that was very minimalistic, clean, and modern. And then, as we added additional offices, we had to brand those different offices. So in 2012 we had to reconsolidate to one universal brand because we realized that more locations are a distinct possibility in our future. We consolidated under the i-Orthodontics brand, and it’s been amazing just to have one brand but to take it to different geographical areas and be recognizable all across the state of Colorado and even across the country.

I had Karen Moawad from Hummingbird Associates help me with consolidation of the brand. In addition, members of my study club helped a lot. I also turned to Keith Roberts with Zenman Productions here in Denver for web design and Bridgette Owens with 7 Group Advertising. They were crucial in helping me consolidate.

What was the biggest challenge to consolidating your brand this time around?

Not losing the brand that we had before but segueing into a new and improved brand. The brand was so strong before, and it was a fairly dramatic change that we made from a location-based brand to an all-encompassing brand that is not location specific. So we didn’t want to lose all the momentum we gained. That was definitely very difficult, and we are still working on improving. But the transition has been successful.

Was there any key element to making that transition easier?

The biggest thing that made it easy was the fact that we really focused on something that was minimalistic and timeless, so that it wasn’t this big, grand logo and brand redesign that would cause people any confusion during the transition. Besides, our brand really wasn’t about any kind of logo. It was mainly about myself and my team. In fact, the name of the practice has been a little bit secondary. i-Orthodontics is where people go, but they really come for what they experience, how they feel, and who they see. So we could probably change our name again without any huge repercussions to our overall brand. That’s why I want to stress that it’s not the name of the practice, it’s not even the logo, even though those are very important parts. If we changed our experience, that’s a much bigger brand change than changing our logo or changing our practice name.

Do you update and reevaluate your brand periodically?

We do—monthly. I don’t want the reader to think we reevaluate and update our logo monthly, but we reevaluate and update our patient experience in our brand monthly.

We look at our systems. We take surveys, but a lot of it is peer-to-peer through my study clubs. Michael Goldstein, an orthodontist in Toronto, and Jamie Reynolds, an orthodontist in Michigan—as well as my Hummingbird study club—really push me. We are in touch almost every day. We talk about everything, from our brand to what we’ve found powerful or negative in our day-to-day lives, whether that be orthodontic, non-orthodontic, clinical, non-clinical, or psychological. We look at all sorts of aspects and at how we can fine-tune our experience.

What questions does a practice need to ask itself to establish a brand?

You need to ask patients and other consumers what they think your brand is: Who are we? How would you describe us in three words to a friend? That will really show you what your brand is.

When they are told a doctor’s name and there is a blank stare, you know you’ve got to work on the brand and get marketing and PR in. If they’re saying something like “affordable” to describe the practice, and you don’t want to be known as “affordable”—you want to be known as “friendly”—then there’s a big difference there. You will need to look at things pretty closely.

What advice would you give to an orthodontist who is undertaking a branding strategy?

Discover yourself. Know what makes you tick, what you are passionate about. Know what things really make you thrive and come alive in your day to day. Embrace that in your practice. Make that a reoccurring theme.

Hire people that bring out the best in you, and your brand should thrive.

Don’t be safe. Don’t try to be somebody that you’re not. If you’re weak in some areas, hire people in those areas so you can learn. And don’t be afraid to teach your team members. The more you are yourself, the more likely you will attract like-minded patients and they will naturally just carry on your brand.

And don’t be afraid of your brand evolving. Constantly look at it and watch it evolve, and morph it according to how you and the world change. You have to be fluid. I’m a totally different person today than who I was 4 years ago and who I was 4 years before that. You need to assume that your brand will change as you change. To have the same jungle theme for 20 years to me is brand suicide.

The most I’ve learned about branding is not from other offices but from the reliable brands like Pepsi and Nike—brands that are doing the cutting-edge things.

And remember, less is more. We try to strive to do so many things, but we are specialists and we focus only on orthodontics. The more defined we are in our mission, our brand, and our message, I think the more effective we are. If we try to be everything to everybody, I think we set ourselves up for an increased rate of failure. Find the niche of patients you want to treat. Become the bait for the fish you want. Have your office be attractive to the type of patient you want. OP