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With the right marketing, an effective brand name evokes positive associations and impresses the shopper with just the "right" message.
Like all consumers, today's dentists are bombarded with advertising messages. Savvy laboratory marketers realize that they can stand out in the marketplace by creating brand names for their products and services. "The more product identity you have, the more familiar you are to current and prospective customers," says Joe Jennings, director of sales and marketing, Ottawa Dental Lab, Ottawa, Illinois, whose brand names include True Temps®® provisionals and Twin Denture® duplicate appliances. "The greatest thing you can hope for is that your brand name becomes so familiar that it starts to be used as a generic term, like Kleenex®."
Although the products that laboratories have branded are made with materials that are readily available to all technicians, having an exclusive name conveys the impression that it's a product only they can deliver. "The goal is for clients to recognize our products as uniquely Biogenic products," says Paul Giovannone, CDT, owner, Biogenic Dental Laboratories, Utica, New York. "For example, we've trademarked our own name for the alloys we use in the laboratory, so if a dentist shops around, asking another lab for Biogenic metals, he'll discover he can only get them here."
Giovannone also points out that using a brand name allows him more flexibility when changing materials. "If we decided to switch to a different manufacturer's alloys, for example, a client isn't going to ask, 'but we were using XYZ brand of alloys and they were working well. Why are you changing?' because he knows them only as Biogenic metals," he says.
In addition to setting your products apart from your competitor's, a brand name can differentiate one service from another within your laboratory. For example, Arrowhead Dental Laboratory uses the name "EliteSM" to refer to its high-end porcelain restorations, which are more labor-intensive, higher priced units fabricated with an 18-layer buildup. "This helps clients distinguish between our two levels of service; they may prescribe an EliteSM PFM for one patient and a conventional PFM for another," says Troy Gasser, president of the Salt Lake City, Utah laboratory. "Also, marketing the high-end service under its own brand name has piqued dentists' interest in those restorations."
The name game
Need to come up with a name to brand your restorations? Get inspired by looking at other trade names, both inside and outside of our industry, and think about why they were chosen from a marketing standpoint. Then, while brainstorming, consider these ideas:
Concentrate on qualities that motivate dentists to buy. Your name can suggest features that are important to your clients and their patients, such as lifelike, comfortable or easy. For example, Biogenic Dental Laboratories' flexible appliance line is called Comfort Flex® and its new laser assembled attachment is called Passive Plus®.
You may want to tie the brand name to the name of your laboratory, like Selser Dental Laboratory's SelCeramSM gold electroformed porcelain crown. "My objective was to come up with a name our clients would immediately associate with us," says Charles Selser, CDT, president of the Terrytown, Louisiana laboratory.
A successful name also has a strong affiliation with the type of product or service so clients aren't left guessing when they hear it. A good example: Keller Laboratories' Solopontic® is a conservative single-tooth replacement option. "We want a catchy name, but we also want it to be descriptive so it can do a little work for us," says Dave Baylis, vice president of sales and marketing for the St. Louis, Missouri laboratory.
Come up with a short list of names and test each one: is it easy to pronounce? Memorable? Does it lend itself easily to a logo design and will it look graphically appealing in your marketing materials? Share the list with several other people, including employees and, ideally, some dentists. Ask them not only why they prefer one name over another but what images it connotes.
Once you've decided on the name, you can use a TM (trademark) or SM (service mark) after it, which basically serves as an informal notice to the public that you're claiming rights to that name.
However, to establish your exclusive rights to use that name—and to display a ® after it—you must officially register it with the U.S. Trademark Office in Washington. The name must be distinctive (not already registered as a trademark) and cannot be a generic description of the product (like yellow gold crown). You can hire a trademark attorney to perform a search of registered trade names, file an application and follow it through to registration; it can cost anywhere from $300 to $1,000, depending on how much of the process the lawyer handles.
Use it or lose it
Promotion is vital to creating brand awareness, so take ownership of your trade names by using them often and everywhere—on all of your marketing materials, website, even in the messages that play while callers are on hold. "When we market well-known brand names like Procera® or Empress®, for example, we're riding the coattails of the manufacturer's promotional efforts," says Jennings. "But when we're marketing our own brand names, the onus is all on us, and that makes it more difficult and more costly."
According to Baylis, that's why it's sometimes advantageous to advertise the materials that comprise your brand-name restorations.
"For example, we market the fact that our Crystal Clear ® Soft splint is made of Talon® acrylic, because that's a name that carries a lot of weight," he says. "Other times, we don't mention the materials we use because it can detract from the feeling of exclusivity."
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