Don’t brand yourself a one-trick pony

We had many insights at Zeiss’s European Refractive Laser Symposium last weekend in Paris. We picked up so many insights that we had a hard time choosing which to write about first. So, we thought we’d choose an easy gimme topic, just to dispel any doubt about our opinion on the question – Should a doctor ever brand themselves a “medical-tech-brand-name” doctor? Don’t do it. It’s a terrible idea to brand yourself a one-trick pony.

Several examples of medical-tech-brand-name doctors come to mind. Mostly from the aesthetic disciplines. For example, there’s the Botox® or Juvederm® Doctor and Doctor Invisalign, both (curiously) based in New York.

At the meeting mentioned above, a speaker in one of the marketing sessions recommended that eye surgeons that practice SMILE should call themselves a ‘SMILE surgeon’. For readers unfamiliar with refractive surgery technology, ReLEx® SMILE is Zeiss’s brand name for performing small incision lenticule extraction, or more colloquially, keyhole laser eye surgery.

As much as I admire Zeiss’s technology, I would never recommend any eye surgeon to call themselves a SMILE surgeon, or a ReLEx surgeon, or a PRESBYOND surgeon.

I can appreciate the attraction to doing so. In one branding move, you can clearly communicate what you do, corner the market before your competitors and ride the coat-tails of a trusted brand.

Again, don’t follow this advice. It’s not a good idea, and we’ll share five reasons why.

Five pitfalls of attaching yourself too firmly to any medical technology

1. Technology moves very quickly

What may be in vogue today may be easily replaced by something you can’t even yet imagine (or pronounce!) Laser eye surgeons first started doing PRK. Then came LASIK.  Then came wavefront LASIK. Then came femtosecond LASIK. Then came keyhole LASIK. This list doesn’t even address the multitude of spot sizes, wavelengths and repetition rates of all of the excimer lasers used in that period. What comes next? (And while you’re pondering that, you may also want to consider what you’ll tell all of your past patients that didn’t get the latest technology now that you’re favouring it in your marketing.)

2. Technology sometimes doesn’t work as well as advertised

Refractive surgeons will remember RK (Radial Keratotomy), LTK (Laser Thermal Keratoplasty) and CK (Conductive Keratoplasty), all of which are now in the dustbin called ‘failed refractive procedures’.

3. Anyone can quickly rebrand a generic technology

The first well-known femtosecond laser used for flap cutting was the Intralase by AMO (Advanced Medical Optics). Then came the Femto LDV, the Victus and the finally the VisuMax by Carl Zeiss Meditec AG. The result is that your neighbour can always say his or her technology is better, or more recent than yours.

4. Do you want to brand yourself a one-trick pony?

Ophthalmologists train in all sorts of sub-disciplines of eye surgery, why would you sell yourself short as a specialist in a niche of a niche? I can appreciate calling yourself a laser eye surgeon if you do that full time, but why narrow yourself so much as to call yourself a SMILE surgeon, even if that’s the only technique you use? We wouldn’t advise it.

5. As an eye surgeon you’re an independent customer of a medical technology company

Don’t undercut your leverage in that relationship by going exclusive. As good as they might be at this moment -management could change, strategy might shift, the relative position of the technology can falter.  Your relationship with the technology you are gung ho about right now, may not be the same in a few years. Why would you tie your hands behind your back by relying exclusively on a third-party’s brand? Consult with them, fine. Work collaboratively with them, great. Use the name in your marketing, yes! But, as you do, don’t lose your professional objectivity. New technology comes and goes, and the next big thing around the corner might be even better.

In conclusion, don’t brand yourself a one-trick pony and don’t listen to anyone who recommends doing so – it’s a terrible idea.

Learn more about what works in healthcare marketing here.