Branding in Dentistry: A Historical and Modern Approach to a New Trend

Review Article

J Dent & Oral Disord. 2020; 6(2): 1130.

Branding in Dentistry: A Historical and Modern Approach to a New Trend

Devetziadou M And antoniadou M*

National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece

*Corresponding author: Antoniadou Maria, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece

Received: April 20, 2020; Accepted: April 11, 2020; Published: May 18, 2020


Branding in dentistry is not a new project. It aims to establish a significant and differentiated presence in the health market that attracts and retains loyal patients. This is accomplished by giving a meaning to the private practice and creating and shaping a unique name and impression in the patients’ minds. In this article, a modern approach to the term of branding and its importance in dentistry is applied based on current media, social trends and today’s marketing communications environment. Glances are given into the concept of patientbased brand equity and the various ways that current pioneer marketing entities can build it. Negative and positive ways of effective branding techniques for dentists are also discussed. Additionally, the reasons which make the online presence of a dental brand imperative are numbered and suggestions for online branding are reported. Innovative branding ideas are further included relied on pioneer marketing techniques. Finally, this article contains an assessment guide for a dental brand and series of advantages that it brings to the modern dental practice.

Keywords: Dental branding; Dental marketing; Online presence; Media branding; Customer-based brand equity; Brand Resonance; Brand building; Interactive marketing communications


Branding in dentistry is not a new principle. Dentistry borrowed the term from the management field. In the world of business, branding is the process of giving a meaning to a specific company by creating and shaping a unique name and impression in the mind of the consumers/patients [1]. This process must be authentic and fit with the overall practice development strategy, a principle-centered evolution catalyzed by internal and external marketing activities [1,2]. It aims to establish a significant and differentiated presence in the market that attracts and retains loyal customers/consumers/ patients in order to stay connected with them by informing, engaging, and maybe even energizing them in the process [3]. It is a strategy designed by companies so they strategically influence how others think of their practice by carefully cultivating their personal reputation [1] and clarifying what this particular brand is and is not. Creating loyal customers is at the heart of every business, or it should at least be, because as an American proverb says “to keep a customer demands as much skills as to win one”.

In this way, companies give people a good reason not only to quickly identify and choose them over the competition, but also recognize them as the sole providers of a solution to their problem or need [4]. In its essence, branding is a problem-solver [4], the key to open the satisfaction of someone’s needs. It is really important that this strategy is then accomplished in an organic and unobtrusive fashion, because it causes the target market to think that they have developed their perception of the brand all by themselves [1]. This is very important in a world of much coping and little imagination, authenticity and creativity. Thus a product or service can be easily copied by other ‘players’ in a market, but a brand will always be unique. So brand differentiation is now becoming an important tactic for combating competition in the hostile marketplace [5,6]. According to the American Marketing Association [7], “a brand is a name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.”

Despite its early roots, long history, and power, the concept of branding did not emerge as a central part of thinking in marketing until well into the twentieth century. Nowadays, branding has become a special marketing priority for most companies [8,9]. In the vulnerable market of health services, especially after the coronavirus pandemic and the consequent economic recession, branding in the dental field seems a necessity. This means that it is not enough for dental professionals to rely on just the quality and reputation of their practice. They must also create an image and brand to generate and sustain their patient base. Yet, there is little consensus on how brands and branding can or should be effectively developed in the modern interactive marketplace. This is so especially in the dental field, where dentists believed that opening a private practice is all they have to do and customers/patients will immerse in the waiting area. So the purpose of this paper is to review the role of branding in dentistry and suggest possible ways of well-designed branding roots for new professionals in the field.

The importance of branding in the market of goods and services

Consumer response is not all cognitive and rational; much may be emotional and invoke different kinds of feelings [3], such as excitement, proudness or confidence. Marketers are increasingly recognizing the power of emotional appeals [3] and vulnerability expressed in a market. As Neil Blumenthal, Co-founder and Co CEO of Warby Parker Community, said “it’s through vulnerability that human beings create connections. The more vulnerable we can be with one another, the more that we’ll trust one another and the more we’ll be able to collaborate effectively”. Now, as patients become consumers, the traditional method of referral, word of mouth, becomes challenged by familiarity [10]. Amazon’s owner J. Bezos has been talking about word-of-mouth marketing for a long time, and he couldn’t be just more right. People trust recommendations from friends more than any other form of advertising, and they tell people about it when they have great customer experiences with a company. But, they tell 3X more people when they have a bad experience, so it is important for a professional to keep his brand’s reputation intact. So “a brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. And you earn reputation by trying to do hard things well”. So, for every patient that a dentist makes happy, especially if it is a hard problem to solve, he should think of the potential for referral marketing he has just created that would lead to more happy patients. Simply put, the more patients see, hear and feel about a name; hopefully the more they will associate and accept its messages in the long term. It is therefore not just the physical features that create a brand but also the distinct feelings which causes the different buying behaviors [11].

In other words, a brand is a sign, a symbol and a value. A good professional as Einstein said should “strive not to be a success but rather to be of value”. People recognize values in the final end of a cooperation process, even if mistaken in the beginning. So at the root of all branding activity should be the human desire to be someone of consequence and value, to create a personal and social identity and to have a good reputation. Once created based on values, a personal brand is powerful and becomes a “self-screening tool” [1].

As for dental professionals, they sometimes confuse their business with their brand, but their brand is about managing how patients feel when they are in direct or indirect contact with the dental practice [1,2,6]. Personal branding is essentially public relations; it’s how a dentist wants people to perceive him and feel about him even in its absence. This means positioning himself as a competent, friendly professional serving the needs of his patients, because his brand is the impression his business leaves upon patients, from scheduling an appointment, relieving dental pain, keeping an aseptic environment, up to interacting on social media. As a result, the health of his brand is imperative to cultivate new patients, build loyalty amongst existing patients and enforce self-evolvement and satisfaction from one’s practice.

Finally it should be mentioned that the brand is even more an interdisciplinary creation. It achieves its status through its integration of innovative technology, high quality design, and widespread appeal, yet elegance and esthetic performance. A brand is an opus, a complex design, a mosaic, a symphony, an evolving cultural construction that benefits from a knowledgeable and perceptive director and conductor, and that fires the imagination through the five senses [12]. To summarize, a service is what someone offers, a brand is the perceived image of the service he provides and branding is the strategy to create this unique image.

Historical review of branding through ages

Sign and symbol were always the essential ingredients of the branding phenomenon through time [13]. But the purposes and meanings of branding were known in the past due to actions like marking and burning. As a form of marking, branding is perceived either positively or negatively. Although, marking the skin has a long history of serving various cosmetic, medicinal, social, psychological, political, and cultural purposes, has also been connected with inferiority and stigma. The literal idea of burning on the other hand, as a form of branding is also a powerful one. Fire is warm and comforting, it cooks food and gives life, it lights the way and characterizes people who care strongly about their ideas and feelings [13]. Similarly, branding generates feelings of partisanship and opposition, of power and excitement, because it announces identity. In everyday life, many expressions use fire and brand to communicate character and force, such as when we are inspired, we are “fired up” or when an object is new, it is popularly said to be “brand new”.

Branding is as old as civilization [14]. Although, it is possible to trace back the use of brands all the way to these ancient ages, it was during the 16th century, however, that brands similar to those we see today have started to take shape [15]. These brands should be referred to as “proto-brands”, because they were information attached to a product or product packaging. This information was about the product’s origin by using a known mark, signature or through the known physical properties of a given raw material in order to allow basic functions of marketing to take place (i.e., sorting, transportation and storage). The most important was that knowing the origin helped to remove uncertainty for consumers, thereby reducing risk in purchase decisions [14].

“Brands” for modern civilization involve both the informational characteristics of the ancient “proto-brands”, and the more complex image characteristics of modern brands including status/power, inherent value and finally, the development of brand personality [6,13,14]. Branding was transformed from a simple entity with limited application and whose creation, interpretation, and control are mostly enacted by one actor (i.e. its creator), to a complex entity that is multi-dimensional and multi-functional, and that receives influences from a variety of actors (e.g. the brand manager, the consumer/patient, the media, the marketing researcher, technology) [13]. The evolution of branding is largely a phenomenon that could have only occurred starting at the end of the nineteenth century and into the twentieth century, mainly due to the growth of nationwide magazines and media (TV, radio, print advertising, e-marketing, etc.) [6,13-16].

Nowadays, the ubiquity of the concept is evident in the creation of thousands of brand manager jobs and in the presence of many academic courses about brand management. Business and academic communities have turned brands into an invaluable tool that, in some aspects, outshines the concept of marketing itself. Brand is the new marketing. In this sense and with awareness and necessity come specialization and new services. Thousands of brand consultants now offer guidance to achieving the great goal of a strong image. In sum, in a short period (i.e. the last 55 years) the functions and thoughts related to branding evolved from ownership and reputation to brand image, symbolic values and fantasy [13-16] (Table 1).