The recent moves of Walmart are scary but on brand

Banks and financial institutions will be watching Walmart carefully.

Walmart recently announced two initiatives: in-store medical clinics and a low-cost checking account through a partnership with Green Dot.

The clinics would be staffed by nurse practitioners and have the ability to take care of basic medical needs with a low cost of about $40 for a visit. The checking accounts are a low monthly fee alternatives for people who are on a fixed income with no fees for bounced or returned checks.

Few understand their brand better than Walmart
Few understand their brand better than Walmart

These initiatives are interesting for a couple of reasons. One, they help to further cement Walmart’s brand with its traditionally lower-income customer and two, they are completely on brand.

Walmart has grown its brand on being the low cost provider, the place to go to get the most stuff as cheaply as possible. It is now adding two important and needed features to that brand that their target market, especially in rural areas, desperately need.

I doubt either represents a windfall in additional store revenue but each helps Walmart with customer loyalty, especially in those communities without access to primary medical serves or financial services options. They are part of reinforcing the Walmart brand.

Beyond that, however, each of these has the possibility to be a game changer. Banks will either say good riddance to their lower income customers or be forced to respond if they want to stay competitive. Medical services could eventually see a major competitor for primary care dollars, especially for patients who have a chronic disease and high copays.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. But one thing I can say for sure is that Walmart takes its brand very seriously and these two initiatives are proof of that.

Powerback Rehabilitation

Powerback Rehabilitation by Genesis HealthCare. The most important thing people want from a rehabilitation facility is to get home as soon as possible. They want their power back, so that’s what Stealing Share named this new offering. Rather than the soft themes used by competitors, Powerback is all about strength and vitality.

Brandnameitis: The Lack of Brand Coherence in Naming


By Tom Dougherty

In Ethical Drugs it seems that Confusion is in Charge

Pharmaceutical brand naming strategy is wasting money
Brand naming seems to excite pharmaceuticals

It would be easy if all drugs fit into categories named after the seven dwarves (Sleepy, Sneezy, Dopey, Happy…etc.). Unfortunately, the brand naming strategy of new drugs is well short of a fairytale process. Drugs, regardless of prescription or over-the-counter status, lack a coherent brand-naming standard. The seemingly random production of brand name drugs not only prevents consumer (and physician) efficacy but also obstructs many helpful drugs from the view of the target market. For example, have you ever heard of Callisto, Ridomil, Actara, or Quadris? Perhaps you have taken one of those for a headache or for chronic back pain.

We hope not because those are actually brand names of crop protection chemicals. What is the difference between a name like Callisto or Actara as opposed to Cialis or Allegra? They are created by marketing firm ABC for product XYZ. There is no differentiation. There is no brand. In the pharmaceutical industry, there are just names. In fact, all drugs are guaranteed three names: chemical, generic, and brand.

The chemical name is the technical name that is rarely used in practice and only understood by lab rats and physicians. Generic names, which usually involve a chemical stem for identification, must go through several approval steps in order to be established. Generic names are ideally short, easily pronounced names because these are the names with which healthcare providers and medical students must be familiar and comfortable. Perhaps generic drug naming has more to offer than we think. (Read our market study on pharmaceutical brands here)

Names Are Marketing Elements

What follows the generic name is the actual brand name. The brand name is where the marketing element of pharmaceutical naming comes into play. Pharmaceutical experts explain, “Creating a generic name is a science; creating a brand name is more of an art.” Pharmaceutical brand naming strategy causes great expense. Naming a drug seems to be equivalent to naming a car or a type of running shoe. The brand name is purely a marketing decision and may very well have nothing at all to do with chemistry. However, drug brand names must pass many rigorous tests before being finalized. Drug brand names require USAN Council and FDA approval in addition to the typical legal checks for trademark infringements. In addition to the several stages of approval, drug names cannot make “over promises” to the consumer. For example, Regain was the original name for Rogaine, but was overturned because the result of regaining hair was considered an over promise to the balding consumer.

brand naming strategy's goal is to steal share
Brand name’s should be logical

What also differentiates the resultant marketing of a drug is the fact that the FDA and USAN continue to monitor the marketing materials of the drug in order to maintain the integrity of the medical information. This exclusive naming process within the pharmaceutical industry makes the concept of brand even more distanced and untouchable for drugs, which places an immediate strain on the consumer market. In order to neutralize the relationship between consumers and drugs, pharmaceutical companies’ advertising campaigns have attempted to familiarize consumers with drugs with the same messaging Budweiser and Target utilize. Names like Viagra, Rogaine, Valtrex, and Claritin mean something to the consumer because of the commercials they recognize from TV and the famous spokesmen who promote the drugs. The drug names do not factor in at all. It helps for the names to sound like something else or to be short and easy to pronounce. Otherwise, drug names may as well be as random as the items in your refrigerator.

Naming’s Place

Where does naming fit into brand? Naming involves a lot of thought, creativity, and artistry; however, strategy should always be in the foreground when naming a new brand or renaming an old brand. Naming is not identity, brand is. Who the customer believes he is when he uses a brand is the most important instrument upon which brand naming must play. Naming and brand must work together in order to maximize efficacy. A name can only do so much to influence the customer; however, in order for a brand to influence at the point of purchase, the name must also be in sync with the brand identity.

An association and self-recognition must occur within the mind of the customer. Many companies confuse names with brands because they are not aware of what brand really means or what kind of process branding truly involves in order to succeed. Similar to any consumer product or service, the pharmaceutical industry needs to do its homework on the target audience in order to properly name and brand drugs. This involves careful research and observations of consumer trends within the market. Most of these drug names are merely made up names that are created before the drug is even produced, untested and given little thought by marketers (other than FDA approval and trademark infringement). There has to be something more to these names, and whether that indicates the lack of influence of parent drug companies such as Merck, Pfizer…etc., or a lack of effort on the part of marketing firms, something must be done to differentiate arthritis medication from plant fertilizer.

Medical Device Brands

Where is the Meaning in Medical Device Brands?

By Tom Dougherty

Medical Device BrandsDo 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.”

Medical Device BrandsLet’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.

Medical Device BrandsSo 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.

Medical Device BrandsAs 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)

Medical Device Company Marketing

A medical device company must learn their lessons or repeat mistakes

By Tom Dougherty

Medical Device Company MarketingWhen you look at the global economy today, one of the few segments that seems to best weather the economic storm is medical devices and medical products. One would think that this might be a category from which we could all learn some important lessons in brand differentiation. Yet medical device company marketing looks mush the same.

You Would Be Wrong

While it is true that the category has grown in the past few years and most of the medical device brands have earned profits, this has been more due to a rising “category” tide then because of brand value and differentiation.

Medical Device Company MarketingNow, I am not arguing that a few medical device brands in some of the categories seem to enjoy greater preference and market leadership. What I am arguing is that all of the market leaders are in danger of losing their preferred position if any of the challengers wake up and look into the motivations that drive their customers to choose. This is a category ripe with opportunity because no category we have ever looked at or worked in was more selfish and self consumed.

The Medical Device Company Marketing Must Be Global

For the most part, these markets are all global. Medtronic, Johnson & Johnson, Edwards Lifesciences, St Jude Medical, Boston Scientific, Stryker, Sorin, Biotronic, Smith & Nephew, Zimmer and B Braun all sell their medical devices and products (note I did not refer to them as brands) globally. This means, that aside from regulatory issues, this medical branding must reflect the needs and wants of a very diverse market. (See work Stealing Share did for Biomimetic which is now owned by Wright Medical here)

Medical Device Company MarketingIncreasingly, price pressures are dominating the preferred choice. Those companies that enjoy market leadership are finding their legacy products under increasing price contractions. This is counter-intuitive because legacy brands in consumer goods are generally most immune to pricing pressures.

Medical Device Company MarketingFor example the BMW 7 series rarely finds itself in a price squeeze because of the introduction of the Nano. Apple never discounts its Macintosh, even if you buy it on-line and regardless of the dropping price of net books. They just don’t have to. Why then are medical device manufactures forced to react to the price pressures brought about by generic products and smaller players?

Preference Is Not Strong

Medical Device Company MarketingWhen you dig into the medical device market, you will find preference but not STRONG preference. For the most part, customers prefer the product they were trained on. But they absolutely believe that everyone’s products are great and reliable even if they are not currently choosing them.

Medical Device Company MarketingThe depth of loyalty only goes as far as habit. Therefore, as a result, price becomes increasingly important whenever a surgeon or medical professional is asked to fall on a sword for a product that they prefer. There is rarely a great reason to keep paying more for the old habitual purchase so few surgeons and medical specialists are willing to fall on that sword. They have other battles that are quite simply more meaningful for them.

The Rise Of The Rep

As a result, medical device companies have relied on a highly skilled and highly trained sales force that “reps” their products to hospitals and medical professionals all over the globe. The advantage to this model is that is excuses the medical device manufacturers from developing brands that have meaningful global appeal, leaving the selling argument in the hands of the rep.

One-on-one, the rep carries the selling message and, as anyone in sales knows, the selling argument is always about the salesperson. The product is secondary.

What this means is that the rep carries the value because it is the rep that the customer is truly buying. In this high stakes game of “marketing globally,” the tail wags the dog.

Wake Up To The Truth

Medical Device Company MarketingInterestingly, the equity markets have not woken up to this truth yet. Analysts talk about the new products or devices that are in R&D and the regulatory approval that is either anticipated or denied when they assess the company’s value. What they should be assessing is the brand value (next to nil) and the strength of the rep network. Ask any manager or CEO in the industry exactly what happens when a sales rep leaves with their Rolodex and sets up camp with a competitor. The customers switch too.

Increasingly, as the global market matures, real brand messages that carry a promise beyond the minimum requirement to be a medical manufacturer — effectiveness and reliability—begin to define the category. The sales model is simply inefficient and places the companies’ fortunes in the hands of talented but Machiavellian sales people who are willing to pull up stakes when the wind of more money blows through their sales.

The Solution

The solution to this quagmire is simple. Start acting like a medical device brand. Understand what really drives your target market once you take the table stakes out of the equation. Understand the highest emotional intensities in the market that are unclaimed by the category’s players and make them REAL in your organization. This means that you must be ready to embrace a new model for your business that prepares your organization for the challenges ahead.

This is not simply a drive for a new global marketing message, although one is certainly needed. It is a quest for a new brand. A new meaning for your company that forces a new thinking about everything you do, say and manufacture. If what you uncover, does not force broad change in your entire organization, then I guarantee you have not found the right answer. (See work Stealing Share did for St Jude Medical here)