Medical device branding: What is it and how to do it

Updated: May 11


A brand is not just made up of a logo and colour scheme, it is so much more than that, that is simply the tip of the iceberg. It encompasses everything that a company is. It is an external expression of the internal vision and mission which runs deep into the core of a company.


Think of a brand as being like a person. It has likes and dislikes, beliefs, purpose and a vision of what the future will look like, and this is what potential customers can relate to and connect with. Logos, colour schemes and tone of voice are just the tools used to convey this.


Medical device branding

What is a brand?


A brand is the way a company or product is perceived by those who experience it. Rather than being just a logo, tagline or colour scheme, it is the feeling that these assets provoke. Contrary to belief, it isn’t something visible.


Medical device companies can often find themselves competing with similar companies with products that achieve similar results. The immediate urge when posed with this dilemma is to focus solely on the differences between the devices, but branding offers an alternative. Whilst addressing physical differences is important, branding can help companies to be differentiated in the mind of the customer in a way that isn’t necessarily expressible. It is more of a feeling – a loyalty that is created as the customer feels they know who the company is and what they stand for.


Why is branding important for medical devices?


Some companies might not prioritise branding when it comes to their marketing strategy. It is not something that will create instant results, it isn’t easily measurable and at the beginning and it can be quite time-consuming. So, what is the point?

Well, in reality, strategic branding needs to underpin all marketing activities. It should form the foundation that everything else is built on, providing direction on what a company should talk about and how they should interact with customers. Without branding leading marketing decisions, there is a risk of becoming a ship lost at sea with no real direction, and here’s why.


Connection

Consumers want more from brands than ever before, in fact nearly two thirds of consumers seek connection with a brand. Connections breed trust, which in turn creates customer loyalty, the importance of which cannot be overstated. Look around your home at the brands you buy and consider why you buy them. You will have a reason for why you buy that brand over others, and that isn’t an accident. The company would have positioned themselves that way.

It is far too easy for potential customers to compare multiple companies at once to decide which one to buy from, so when one stands out as having values and beliefs that are relatable, it makes a big difference.


Recognisability

Having a strong set of brand guidelines that includes everything about a brand, from tone of voice and logo to who the brand is, will ensure that all materials, whether online or physical, are consistent. Consistency is the key to being recognisable, which eventually leads to being memorable. Potential customers need to see a brand at least 7 times (although it is now closer to 15 with the amount of media out there) before they are able to remember it. Ensuring that people can look at something that a company has produced and instantly relate it back to them increases the chances of being remembered.

Megaphone announcement


Beyond that though, having a consistent look and feel will seem more professional, and therefore more trustworthy to potential customers.


Employee pride

A brand encompasses everything about a company, from company culture to how employees answer the phone and what they wear, to ensure that every touch point has some kind of impact. Having a strong brand can help employees feel as though they are having some kind of impact on the business as their personalities are included in the external expression of the company.


Having a strong brand with a clear vision and mission can be motivating for employees as they know what they are working toward. They may feel that they are part of something special and feel more loyalty towards the company they work for.

Medical device branding strategy

As we’ve already said, branding is so much more than just how a company looks. Developing a medical device brand can be split into two sections: the internal branding, so who the company already is, and then the external expression of that.


It is vital to start with the internal brand to really understand the company and ensure the external expression is authentic. It is important to note that branding is not who a company wants to be, but who they already are. If a company tries to portray themselves as something they are not, it can do more harm than good as it comes across as inauthentic. Consumers are extremely savvy these days and will disregard you quickly if they do not believe you are being truthful. For instance, Apple and Tesla are two extremely well-known brands and companies often want to strive to be like them, but if it isn’t authentic then customers may lose that connection and trust.


Internal branding

Internal branding is the culmination of a company’s purpose, vision and mission, which can be discerned through internal interviews, to understand where the company already is. The focus should mainly be on the present, but if for example a company is planning on doing community outreach in the future, the branding might nod to that.


Purpose

This is the company’s goals beyond monetary gain. Not all companies necessarily have a purpose, but often medical device companies do have a strong purpose for existing, such as making it possible for patients to live longer and more fulfilling lives with their friends and family. This purpose can really help to identify a brand’s main characteristics.


Vision

A company’s vision is where they are planning to be in the future. It is what they are striving towards. For instance, phrases like, ‘in 10 years, we will be...’ demonstrate the vision.


Mission

A company’s mission is how they will achieve their vision. It is what they do every day to get there. There are often the company’s strategic pillars.


Mission and vision are interconnected and need to work together, for instance you can’t have one without the other. Without a vision, you will struggle to guide your daily activities (mission), but without a mission you have no way of achieving the vision.


Positioning

Positioning consists of getting to know the customers and how to appeal to them and then getting to know competitors, so that companies can differentiate themselves and stand out. It is about finding a niche. What are the customers’ needs and wants and how can you, and you alone, address them? External interviews and competitor research can help to consolidate positioning.


Customers

It is important there isn’t a disconnect between what a company believes their brand is and what the customers think their brand is, because at the end of the day it is customers that companies should be trying to appeal to more than anything.


Companies must understand their customer, their likes and dislikes and how they would want to digest information. This is where a brand really starts to gain substance as they seek to form an emotional connection with their potential customers by addressing their needs, but more importantly their emotional wants. This attention to detail helps companies to stand out from the competition.


Competitors

Understanding the current market and competitors is just as important as understanding the customers. Companies need to know not only know who their customers are, but they also need to understand their own unique selling points, so that they can find what makes them separate from competitors. There is no point in trying to go head-to-head with competitors, instead it is better to create a competitive difference that is something to shout about.


A useful tool when creating competitive positioning is looking at brand categories and ladders. Companies should always strive to be in a brand category where they are in the top position. A great example of this was Fedex, who dominated the overnight delivery category.


Characters

Working on character is all about developing the brand voice and personality that reflects and outwardly expresses everything that the company is.


Persona

Once a company understands their customer, it is time to decide how they will appeal to and interact with them. The easiest way to do this is through developing a brand persona. A brand should be like a fully-fledged person that you can picture in your head. This will help to establish a clear brand voice, chosen based on the internal branding.


The book ‘Brands and Bullshit’ perfectly exemplifies this. It discusses the internal branding of Amazon who felt their brand characteristics were best represented by a boutique concierge who would always remember their customers’ names and provide amazing service. Having this persona guided the team at Amazon on brand elements such as one-click purchase and remembering customers each time so that they never had to re-enter their login details. It’s fair to say that Amazon changed the game, and it was all guided by branding.


Archetypes

Archetypes can be used to help companies consolidate their brand persona and create a set of guidelines for external expression. They are a set of common personality types that are considered innate and hereditary. It is believed that every person fits into 1 of the 12 archetypes that were laid out by Carl Jeung to simplify archetype groupings. When using them in branding, they can give a company consistency and make them compelling to their audience.


Once a company has identified their brand’s characteristics and traits, they can look for the archetype(s) that they align with (1 archetype is always stronger than 2, but if a company is best represented by 2, ensure no more than a 70:30% split or the powers of archetypes will become diluted). Some of the common archetypes we see in medical device marketing include:

  • The Caregiver who is driven by compassion and a desire to help others.

  • The Creator who is an innovator and non-conformist. They are known for pushing boundaries with their creativity.

  • The Sage who is a seeker of knowledge and wisdom.

  • The Ruler who has a dominant personality and desires power and control. They are exceptionally confident, but also trustworthy and stable.


Choosing one of these categories will give a company a clearer image of their brand and therefore how to convey it. If you would like to learn more about archetypes for branding, we recommend The Hero and The Outlaw by Margaret Mark and Carol Pearson. This is an excellent introduction into the almost magical world of archetypes.


External expression

Once all of the internal branding is complete, it is time to decide how this will be expressed externally, so that customers can connect with it. This can be divided into two categories.


Verbal expression

This should comprise of the company’s tagline, their core messaging, their stories and the way in which their copy is written. Is the tone formal at all times? Is there a playful element to it? These are some of the things to consider when creating guidelines for verbal expression of medical device branding.


Visual expression

This is when the logo finally comes into play, but it isn’t simply about looking good. All of a brand’s visual elements should be an expression of the company and what it stands for. It should add to the brand story and appeal to the target customer. All elements of effective visual branding should link back to the core message in some way.


Marketing the brand

Once the brand and its guidelines have been created, the fun can start and it can be incorporated into everything that the company produces. Branding messages can be distributed across all channels, including social media, websites, emails and congresses. This is how a company becomes recognisable, and more importantly, memorable.


Although there are more stages and lots of detail that go into creating a successful brand, we have outlined the main structure of brand development. If you have any more questions about medical device marketing that you would like us to address, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.


About Podymos Podymos is a dedicated medical device marketing agency. We are passionate about sharing relevant knowledge to expand our clients’ capabilities. If you would like to find out more about what we do, you can visit our services page, or get in contact with us.



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