Where is the Meaning in Medical Device Brands?
By Tom Dougherty
Do you make the best prosthetic hip, knee, shoulder, or fixation device in the industry? Do you make the most accurate monitoring devices? Do you make the highest resolution mapping or scanning system? Do you have the industry’s best, most highly trained reps?
Are you relentless in telling your prospective customers how great your products and services are? Are you the market leader in the categories you compete in? (We are deeply experienced in the Medical Device Category. Read an additional article about that here)
All The Same
Medical device manufacturers are notorious for telling their markets they have the best “thingy, “whether it be device, tool, rep, technology, service, longevity, or prices.
If you look around your category from the outside in, you will most certainly find your competitive set doing the same thing. Sure, many players in your market attempt to mask selling “best” by saying things like, “we work to improve health or quality of life” or “we are always looking to the future.” But if you objectively peel back the layers, the subtext of those statements is still, “we have the best ‘thingy’ in the industry.”
Let’s assume for a moment that you do actually sell the best device on the planet. For those in the market not currently using you, what competitive product are they using instead? If your target market consists of surgeons, for example, are you telling them that the product they currently use is not as good as the one you sell?
The problem with telling anyone in the medical field, that you have the best of something actually is like telling them, “You, medical professional, are acting irresponsibly by choosing a different product.“ If you know anything about your customers, especially physicians, their livelihood and reputation rests on their ability choose products that give them the greatest chances of success.
Would a physician or other medical professional (even a GPO or administrator) purchase or use a product they did not believe was up to the job? If they did, they would certainly open themselves up to the possibilities of litigation.
A Category Of Terrific
The fact of the matter is, in the medical device business, all products work well. Innovation and good products and service are simply something that is part of the doing business as is “improving patients’ lives.” Product performance, good service, and latest technology are operationally, the function of all players in the medical device field. These are simply descriptors of the category and as such cannot be owned by anyone.
So why is the vast majority of the category only talking about good products, innovative technology, and successful outcomes? In short, it is because of two things: 1. Everyone else is doing it and 2. The belief that talking about best is the only thing a device company can say.
Think of it this way. Only the market leader wins if everyone is saying the same thing. Not only does the market leader already say this, but they also get the added benefit of being the safest choice. You can’t go wrong for choosing the market leader.
Believing that your brand should be about best is forgetting the very prospects you want to sell to. After all, it is they who are making the decision as to what is best. And most of them already believe they are using the best – even if “best” means, “It is what I have always used.”
Getting Customers To Switch
Therefore, prompting a prospect to switch simply by telling them something they already believe – about a competitor product – is really an exercise in marketing masturbation. Culturally, it may make the organization feel good, but it does nothing to further the cause.
As most medical device manufacturers are completely devoid of any brand meaning, there is great opportunity to take a position in the market that is different and resonates with the target audience.
The brand must connect with your target audience (surgeon, GPO, administrator, nurse, or other medical professional) in a way that reinforces the idea of who they are or aspire to be. It must be a description of the target audience’s self-description. Only then can it be truly believed and cause a desire in your prospects to switch what they currently do for something new.
Good products, good service, good reps, innovation, and improving patient care are nothing more than definitions of the category – they are not foundations for brands. The good news for most device companies who want to aggressively grow their market share is there is a lot of brand out there to claim.
(Read a case study of Biomimetic here)
(See the Biomimetic Work Here)
(See the Saint Jude Medical Work here)