Medical device marketing and branding

How to steal market share in medical devices

By Tom Dougherty

The medical device category is highly competitive and complicated for sure, but growing market share is a difficult task. It’s easier but by no means a given when you have a proprietary disruptive technology. I hate to use the terminology of disruptive technology because it is part of the ethos of a category that pretends even the most minute innovation is disruptive.

It is quite possible that the medical device category is the most self-deceived category of goods in the world. The medical device marketing of manufacturers pretend that those companies have product superiority and back up the claim by depositing a tome of obscure and dense clinical studies along with trial results on the desk of the prospect.

Clinical studies and their results are important support points for product usage. They are. But they have almost no effect on switching a loyal user of your competitor’s products unless the technology is a true groundbreaker. With the time lag between R&D and a completed clinical trial, are your shareholders willing to wait that long for a substantive movement in market share? There is a different and more effective path to stealing share.

What is going on in medical device marketing?

First, we must look at the current medical device marketing practices. For the most part, they are not marketing at all. They are simply sales support. There are almost no meaningful messages that are different and better from the competitors. Everyone looks and sounds the same, and uses the same sterile language that passes through the fine sieve of the legal department.

Often, the copy in medical device marketing ends up being written by the legal team and lacks any direct claims of efficacy and little comparative examples. It ends up sounding like an insurance contract. Couple all this with the mandatory page of footnotes, source material and legal disclaimer, and you can begin to see the problem: No one will read it.

Medical Device marketingInside of your own halls, executives whisper about the power of the sales representatives. In many ways, based upon current practices, sales reps are your most valuable resource. They are more important than your brand.

For this reason, it’s not unusual to see a rep change jobs and take many loyal customers with them. The brand serves the sales rep and not the other way around. This is a recipe for disaster. If, at the end of the day, loyalty is based upon the power of a personal relationship then your greatest asset is a mercurial value. One that has the tail wagging the dog. This is not how it should be nor is it how it has to be.

Think about this. You began as a manufacturing company. You make things. Your heritage goes back to engineers and many of your top executives are still cut from the same cloth as the founders. These founders were visionary people. They were the Steve Jobs of their category and an earlier generation. But they differed from Jobs because they were not natural marketers. They were inventors. Tinkerers. Creators. They believed that if you build a better mousetrap… well, you know the story. Steve on the other hand represented both camps. He had a visionary’s creative drive but he also understood the emotional connections needed to sell.

Your founders would have considered themselves successful simply because they invented the better mousetrap. Jobs considered it a failure until he had market dominance. Even your brand’s early successes are misleading. The category was less crowded and it was easier to differentiate products. Today? In most instances, you can hardly slide a piece of paper between competitive products. Differences are simply hard to see and much of today’s medical device marketing reflects that.

What’s wrong with engineering?

What happens in companies top-heavy with engineering types? They become companies like yours. They believe that purchase decisions (and the procurement of medical devices) are rational choices.

They believe that decisions are evidence based and that the hospital administrators and the clinicians are most swayed by clinical data and clinical studies. They don’t understand that ALL purchase decisions (and I mean all) have their roots in emotional cues. It gets complicated because, after an emotional decision is made, decision makers rationalize their choices. They backfill and support their emotional connection with rational data.

But that is not how they chose. That rationale happens only after the choice.

If you want proof, think about this. If purchase decisions were rational then the best product (based upon evidence) would always be the market leader. Look around your category. How true is rationality as a predictor of success? The real question to ask is why do human beings prefer the things they prefer? The answer is a simple yet subversive one.

How to be persuasive in medical devices

Human beings look for order and consistency in their lives. We all strive to eliminate conflicts that exist between what we believe to be true about ourselves and the actions we take.

balanceWe seek this equilibrium and avoid these internal emotional conflicts. Persuasion finds its roots in this belief about self. All things being equal, we prefer to buy and use products and brands that reinforce our own self-concept.

The emotional choice wins even in a B2B business such as medical devices. The few who do have give an emotional reason for choice are almost always the market leader. (That is, if the emotional choice is important.) It might be time to evaluate where you and your products stand in preference, and adjust your medical device marketing.

Even your founder would have taken all the necessary steps to steal market share.

Honey Nut Cheerios Healthy Hearts

Honey Nut Cheerios hits a home run

Honey Nut CheeriosHoney Nut Cheerios is one of General Mill’s flagship brands. The cereal market is in a death spiral (read our in-depth market study on the cereal and breakfast category here) as tastes and consumer patterns change. Breakfast cereal used to be the staple food at breakfast tables across the globe but times have changed.

Honey Nut CheeriosThe venerable brands of my youth (Kellogg’s Raisin Bran, Kellogg’s Cornflakes, Post Raisin Bran, Wheaties and even Cheerios) are hard at work trying to expand the market.

Time was all of the advertising dollars was directed at kids. Even Wheaties (the breakfast of champions) was targeted at getting kids to prefer the cereal over other choices. Today, more and more brands are simply trying to expand the traditional audience by including adults in the advertising too. Most to little effect.

The reason for the failure is that brand permission does not come by simply featuring the target audience in the communication. You need to have the target audience say to themselves, “I want to be that.”

Enter Honey Nut Cheerios

The Cheerios parent brand has been talking heart healthy for many years now. There seems to be no dissenting voices in science that there are REAL benefits to oats (oat bran in particular) in the health and vitality of the human heart. But the message of heart healthy has done very little to expand the category and, while one of the more successful rebrands in the cereal market, Cheerios has continued to disappoint despite outperforming many others in the category.

But the Healthy Hearts Stay Young campaign may be a real game changer.

The commercial has the mandatory adult and child but the similarity ends here. The spots are an exuberant and charming combination of energy and brand without the usual feature of focusing only on the product. The spots are mesmerizing and are so well produced that you find yourself stopping on the commercial when channel surfing. The main spot is THAT good. The supporting spots are less powerful because it is the adult in the main commercial that is most appealing.

Stop the other branded slop.

General Mills Logo Honey Nut CheeriosThis campaign truly builds brand preference. I want to be THAT and I’m sure I am not alone. The precocious child is overshadowed by the talented adult and it is her movement and agility that holds sway in the spot. I simply can’t take my eyes off her and even see the little girl as a distraction. Despite the lack of traditional brand identification, I remembered this commercial as being all about Honey Nut Cheerios. It worked.

Scrap the silly honey bee, General Mills. He (or she) may be cute but the commercials are all about YOU and the natural ingredients. You took the bold step of making your prospects feel that they want to be part of the club and we don’t need any rational reasons why your honey came from bees. To my knowledge, all honey comes from bees.

A few words on Kellogg’s

Choosing a Branding Company

When choosing a branding company, start with what they have accomplished

Choosing a Branding Company affects your successBranding companies promise to completely understand what your brand means. In the most basic sense, a branding company examines the logic and relationships between the services and products you produce or offer, and help better define the connections between disparate offerings and promises.

We try to clarify the values inherent in everything your brand does. This is an intellectual evaluation of everything you say about your brand and often it requires changes in your brand equities.

What are brand equities?

In a general sense, brand equities are the things your brand owns. Some are visual representations that Brand Equitiesare immediately associated with your brand. For example, when someone sees the silhouette of a hat with mouse ears, they immediately recall the Disney brand. These, like the NIKE Swoosh, are examples of a brand mark and are considered an equity— something the brand owns. Other visual cues can also be equities.

Pepto Bismol PinkFor example, a logo or a word mark is designed to be an equity. A specific color palette may also be an equity (like the pink color of Pepto-Bismol or the blue of Chase Bank) as can a shape (like the unique shape of the Coca-Cola bottle) or packaging (like Air Wick).

The conventional wisdom amongst branding companies Chase features the color blueis to identify something important about the brand and give life to that importance. This is why you see so many brands with a logo or brand mark that looks like what the brand does. This is why we have so many brands that are named after the technology or product (think Duracell and Energizer).

The purpose of all of these created equities is to help the customer or prospect remember the brand by creating associations. Human beings think visually and having something planted in their minds that is associated with a particular brand allows the brand to then place meaning and value in the minds of those they wish to influence.

When Choosing a branding company do they simply adhere to the traditional branding model?
The traditional branding model is about clarity but not importance

While some may do a better job with these tasks than others, most branding companies can point to examples of how they have created a brand by inventing these equities and identifying a distinct color palette. All the brand consultancy needs is a few smart and strategically thinking minds and a design team that makes appealing images.

Why Stealing Share rejects this model

The commercial world today is different then it was just a few years ago. Almost every category is crowded with competitors, so brands find themselves surrounded by strong competition. The customer has many choices and the field of battle is desperate to say the least. It is important to own something but that something needs to be important to the prospects you wish to attract and the customers that you wish to keep.

The Stealing Share Branding Model helps when choosing a branding company
The Stealing Share branding model includes the customer, research, brand anthropology and brand training

We ask more of your brand at Stealing Share than other branding companies. So should you.

The amount of importance your brand occupies is in direct relationship to what your target audience covets. If you want your brand to grow and steal market share from your many competitors then the foundations of the brand equities are going to be found in the beliefs and needs of the people you need to influence— not in the things you make or your company itself.

Persuasive brands find a way to merge the brand value itself with a reflection of the company AND the customer’s highest emotional intensity.

This is not easy to accomplish. It requires all of the parts of standard branding companies (smart strategists and talented designers) but also requires in-house market research and brand anthropologists who study human behavior and find ways to influence it. This rare element in branding science makes everything work together. The strategy, the research, the creative and the brand itself. Suddenly, nothing is the same and the game itself has changed.

So how do YOU choose a branding company?

Focus FroupStart by inviting us in for an hour of your time and we will change everything. Ask more of us because we brand for a purpose. It’s in our name and our brand DNA. Is it in yours? Our clients are aggressive, hungry and looking to grow. Clarity is what you want but purpose is what gets you there.

Analyzing Brand Position for Opportunity

A process for analyzing brand position

Image of the road when analyzing brand position

When looking at a category when you are developing a brand position and message to steal market share it is of vital importance that you develop models for assessing opportunity. The starting point is always analyzing brand position. This is how we begin every rebranding and branding project.

In looking for market opportunity you must understand the positions claimed by the competitors in that category. Most brand positioning mistakes are made because the brand themselves refuse to see the market dispassionately. If you expect to find opportunity you must be challenging to your own assertions.

Analyzing Brand Position is it sales or marketing?
Your arguments must not be sales arguments

Analyzing Brand Position starts with brand arguments
Create a series of arguments








You need to define the market by what IS not by what you hope it will be.

Chart analyzing brand arguments
Create as many that make sense

More often than not, competitors claim very similar values. This is because most marketers see the value in terms of the product and benefits. So if you are selling TV sets, you see the category in terms of price, screen size, built in applications, refresh rate, and 3D or 2D. As a result, most brands will occupy space, if not directly upon the space of the competition, directly adjacent to the competitive space.

Analyzing Brand Position

Think about this as an exercise in brand positioning. Think about it as if it were a real estate transaction. Generally speaking two like homes, one on an acre of land and one on a 50×50 lot will have different value, all else being equal. The reason for this value difference is because of space between the home and the neighbor. The same is true of brand positions. The more space between your brand and the competitors the better. Of course, the space you occupy must also be valued by the prospect.

Questions to Ask Yourself when Analyzing Brand Position

We start the process by looking at every competitor

  1. What do they claim?
  2. Who do they say they are for?
  3. Why do they claim to represent what they claim?
  4. How do they prove the claim?
  5. What do they say about themselves?
  6. How do they represent their claim (humor, directness etc.)?

We record these claims as a series of line graphs. It is important, when graphing a brand or marketing claim, to be sure that the opposite claim is still aspirational. Look for a descriptor that identifies an opposite value as important. If you cannot find an opposite claim then it is a sales argument and not a marketing or brand argument. A sales person may be able to claim best because sales, as a function, are personal. But a brand argument must be universally fair. A real brand argument is defensible on both sides of the equation.

We Build a Graph of the Market Space and Build a Working 2D Model

Chart Analyzing brand arguments in 2 Dimensions
An example of the TV manufacturer category

When analyzing brand position we construct a series of 2D graphs comparing the claims and placing the competitors in the quadrant that they most closely claim as their own. There will be many of these charts and choosing the correct one requires experience. The winner will be clearly delineated and represent the values held in highest intensity by those the brand needs to influence. Figuring this out is one of the reasons we always conduct projectable market research. We need to KNOW what the prospect values. Guesswork is for others.

When Analyzing Brand Position we add a 3D Axis to Make it Real

3D Model of a marketThen we work with our behavioral modeling to identify the highest emotional intensity that drives the prospect to switch or choose. This represents our emotional Brand Line. It dissects the 2D graph and creates a three dimensional representation of the market. Positioning the brand becomes clearer in a 3D representation of the market because the prospect’s highest emotional intensity is accounted for.

This is a difficult and challenging process. However, it begins to shed light on the opportunity in the category and provides the reason to rebrand as a reflection of that opportunity.3D Graph with emotional brand

Creating the Brand

From this point on when analyzing brand position, the design and symbols of that brand perspective needs to be inculcated in everything the brand does or claims. It provides the basis for your brand charter and provides the marketing momentum to direct advertising and communication.

From this position the logo should represent that singular idea. Remember that the logo is about the brand not the company’s corporate identity. This is a transformational moment for brands out of the old school. This new brand is about persuasion and switching triggers and should also be reflected in your brand theme line. The theme line is a spoken form of the logo. It provides clarity, should refuse to be clever and represents the single most important thing you can say about the brand that causes a change to take place in the target audience.

by Tom Dougherty


Read more on brand positioning here

Brand Positioning Strategy

Make your brand positioning persuasive


Branding Companies are not the same. We’re better.

Fix the problem before your ad agency executes the wrong answer Unaided Awareness up 20 Outsmart your competition Persuasion starts with beliefs The secret to brand success is not what you think There is a difference in branding companies The only global brand company that empowers you to steal market share


Not all branding companies are the same. Fact is, you can’t build preference and steal market share through value propositions, product benefits and best business practices alone. Every one of your competitors claims them and other branding companies speak with cliche laden jargon. Stealing Share is a branding company that approaches the branding science in a different way.

Branding companies. Stealing Share is a different kind of branding company
Stealing Share is different from other branding companies

For us, everything you do begins and ends with your brand because that is where the relationship with your prospect begins. The permission to be more important and more preferred starts in an emotional promise and then finds its flight in all of your equities; Your logo and mark, color palette, font choices and your theme line.

You can’t build preference and steal market share with a pretty logo, benign claims of excellence and a listing of best business practices alone. Every one of your competitors claims them. All branding companies claim to deliver those brand equities but they do not possess the expertise to steal market share (read here how to go about critically choosing branding companies). There is a lot of smoke and mirrors out there and lots of brand companies give you what you think you want and not what you need. We are naked and blunt in our promise to you. The only reason to rebrand is to grow your share or increase your margins. Everything else is a waste of your money. However, if you need to steal market share and grow, we can help. We are the only global branding company with that singular focus.


  1. Are they experienced? Category experience often puts branding companies to the head of the list. But unlike advertising agencies, branding companies experience may be hard to evaluate. Ask the hard questions about how the brands they created have been successful. Ask if they have experience in rebranding. You want to make sure they are experienced in problem solving and when a company needs to rebrand, they have a problem to solve.
  2. Does the branding company ask you any tough questions? Finding a solution demands that you also understand the problem. Evaluate their questions. What they are curious to know is in indication of how they think. How they think is a strong indicator as to their strategic underpinnings. Some branding companies just don’t get it and confuse corporate identity with branding.
  3. Does the branding company’s prior work clearly convey the brand strategy? Ask them to explain the brand strategy clearly and simply. If the strategy is focused on the company rather than the prospect then you know they are a design firm and not worthy of you list of branding companies. If the strategy is designed to influence prospects AND retain customers, look for the meaning in everything they created. If you cant see the persuasive brand personality in the work, scratch them off your list.
  4. Ask how they arrived at the strategy? Great branding companies should be able to tell you how they got to the solution. Did they develop a model for choosing? Did they conduct projectable research? Was the research qualitative or quantitative? Great brand research should explore possible strategies. It is the end product of great strategic thinking and builds certainty for the strategy. If they don’t conduct research, scratch them off your list of branding companies too.
  5. Are the design elements on brand? Are they on strategy? You might be surprised how few branding companies can strategically defend their work. Have they created a theme-line that presents a valuable and memorable brand proposition in the emotional fabric of those it is intended to influence? Is the theme aspirational within the company culture? Does it ask the company to focus on a single powerful principle? If not, scratch them off your list of branding companies.


Other branding companies start with the status quo and tell you what they think you want to hear. We don’t. We challenge you. We start by building a new position and meaning for your brand. The preferences of prospective customers are based on deep-seated emotional beliefs – not just rational judgments such as price, quality and effectiveness. So your message needs to be bigger than that. (Read here about when to rebrand)

The more prospects idenBranding companies are balancedtify with your brand’s position and meaning, the more powerful your appeal and the more urgently they seek you out. They will prefer you and pay a premium to buy what you sell. Your meaning must be reflected in your symbols and equities, and your theme line must say something powerful. Not something about you and your company but about the potential customers that you need to influence. You need to get prospects to change their mind and their behavior.  We know how to make that happen. Many branding companies just don’t.

This branding company focuses all of its energy on discovering and exploiting those emotional beliefs. We are the only brand company that does this. Everyone else is just an advertising agency.

Stealing Share has developed and honed a proven and replicable process of brand modeling that uncovers purchase motivators.  We have concrete ways to make these persuasive motivators visible and real to the prospect your brand needs to influence to ensure growth. Our branding process adapts effectively across cultures and works as well in developed, undeveloped, mature and immature markets. Our work has taken us all over the globe.

We promise to identify the most important changes you need to adopt and own in order to win.

In addition to our behavioral modeling, our branding process starts with a combination of qualitative and quantitative research, competitive analysis, a critical strategic evaluation of your positioning and an evaluation of your entire market. (Read more about our branding process here)

We uncover the key motivators that drive preference and awareness and we translate that persuasive power into everything you do and stand for.


You get much more than just a pretty logo or a message that promotes just a product benefit. We demand more and so should you.

You need a single-minded position from which everything else flows. We activate this position in every touch-point including design, sales training, market-changing strategies and challenging decisions.

We are aggressive and challenging to work with. Not everyone is comfortable with our straight-talking culture. If you do not need your brand to move the marketing needle and prefer to work with companies that might be willing to give you what you want instead of what you need, we have a list of branding companies that you might want to consider if we are too aggressive for your taste.

Our process model is different from other branding companies. We are an aggressive branding company
What is believed controls behavior

At Stealing Share, our strategists, researchers, consultants and designers deliver actionable marketing strategies, clear messaging, elegant creative executions and a new vibrant and clear brand position designed to steal market share. We get to the root of human behavior and change.

To accomplish this, we delve into the fears and motivators that make audiences covet and switch brands. These switching triggers are so powerful and clear that, once you own them, no one else can.

Read on or call us for more information. Or, as an introduction to our branding process, you can try out our web-based program that leads you through a step-by-step process in which you examine your brand project from fresh perspectives and develop a detailed action plan to tackle any issues head-on to ensure success.

We are experienced in many categories, including fast food restaurants, medical devices, insurance, destination and tourism, and many others. But do not choose based on our category experience. Choosing the perfect branding company from the long list of branding companiesis never easy. One thing is for sure, Stealing Share needs to be on your list because we will have a different opinion. Other branding companies claim experience and creativity. We claim expertise and Stealing Share has proof. We speak clearly to any brand that needs to grow market share. With offices in North Carolina and New York City we need to talk. Give us an hour of your time and we will prove that we change everything.

However, if you prefer old ideas and trusted old branding companies, we have provided you with links to three of the most venerable below. No need to worry about which one you choose, the process and answers will be pretty much the same. Just remember to come back and get a second opinion on your brand problems. We promise to find ways to mold your brand into a juggernaut that moves the needle and steals market share. We are not for everybody, just those that do not fear change in the march to brand importance.

Siegel+Gale  Landor Branding Companies  Interbrand branding companies