As our last blog post in the year 2018, let’s step away a bit from audiology and tips about using Bernafon products and fitting software. I would like to introduce you to the topic of branding and how important branding is for your hearing aid clinic too. When thinking about brands, you might recall big names like Coca Cola, McDonalds, Gillette and many others that spend millions of advertising dollars to increase the awareness of their brands and products in our minds.
According to the American Marketing Association, 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”. Yet, a brand is not a product only.
A brand is what is expressed in the classic definition of a brand: “a brand is a set of mental associations, held by the consumer, which add to the perceived value of a product or service” (Keller, 2013). The individual branding of a hearing aid dispensing clinic derives from how you want to be perceived by your current and prospective customers.
The dispensing landscape of hearing aids is changing fast. Remote care models and the emergence of a new FDA class of OTC devices in the USA will raise the need to sharpen the perception of a hearing care professional’s value and difference one can make for the hearing impaired. As Karl Strom (2018) writes, “The time is now to clearly distinguish professional service from self-service”.
In essence, branding your practice will help you position yourselves against your competition. It is the answer to questions like “why should I buy from you” or “what will I get from you that I don’t get anywhere else”? Have you ever asked yourselves these questions? And what would the answers be? Without a doubt, it is not so easy to create brand statements that set you apart from another independent practice, a branch of a large chain, or big box retail store offering hearing aid services in your neighborhood too.
In other words, your brand is the promise you are making to your current and future customers. It answers the questions above about who you are and how you differentiate your clinic from other players in the market.
How can you go about branding your practice in an appealing, unique way? I would like to introduce you to the Customer Based Brand Equity model (CBBE) which I find suitable for small and large enterprises alike. Kevin Lane Keller is a professor at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College and he has published this model in a textbook I recently read called Strategic Brand Management (Keller, 2013).
His brand equity model encompasses 4 steps (related to 4 questions) to develop a customer-based equity – or added value to a brand for a product or a service. On the left side of the pyramid there are building blocks that stand for the rational promises; on the right side, blocks that represent more emotional statements about your brand.
Figure 1: Customer Based Brand Equity (CBBE) model showing rational promises and emotional statements (Keller, 2013).
Let’s run through the model and apply it to a fictitious hearing aid clinic that we will call “Humboldt Audiology”.
Step 1: Brand Identity - Who Are You?
Keller (2013) calls this step brand salience or your personal identity. The company name Humboldt Audiology may be unique by its name, but it is not particularly self-explanatory to everyone what benefit it offers. Maybe a tagline or slogan would help clarify the purpose of your practice. Let’s say it is “Better hearing for a better life”.
Step 2: Brand Meaning – What Are You?
“Brand Meaning” relates to performance and imagery. Performance is about the hearing products and services you offer. So, attributes like efficient service, state-of-the-art hearing technology, and great choice might be suitable here. Imagery caters to softer factors such as professional attitude, likeable, friendly and supportive.
Step 3: Brand Response – What About You?
“Brand Response” is about judgments your customers would make about your practice such as attractive hearing solutions and professional service. Feelings are one of the most important decision criteria when choosing your company over the competition. Positive word of mouth is a key factor creating leads for your business. So, you might want your clients to express their feelings by saying, for example, “I was taken seriously, my hearing care professional never let me down, I fully trust my audiologist” and so forth.
Step 4: Brand Resonance – What About You and Me?
This step is the ultimate goal of the brand and hard to achieve. You have created long-lasting relationships and enjoy high loyalty from people you served. They fully trust you and see themselves as part of a community, part of a hearing-impaired family that will always rely on you and purchase at your shop.
So now that we have gone through the 4 steps of the CBBE pyramid for our Humboldt Audiology location, albeit in a very simplified way to explain how the model works, what is this all for? Maybe you need to freshen up your clinic’s brochure or leaflet, update your mission statement on a shop wall, or present your clinic on your website in a unique, attractive way. You might also need to introduce yourselves and your clinic to a GP, ENT, or other healthcare provider. A completed CBBE pyramid could be useful as a starting point. Here, in a simplified manner, is how it could look for our Humboldt Audiology practice.
Figure 2: Sample Customer Based Brand Equity model for Humboldt Audiology
In summary, the process of branding your practice will help you to formulate a brand equity that is credible, achievable, and sticks in your customer’s mind. The hearing aids you dispense are just one small element of your total offering. There’s much more needed to be successful long-term. You and your staff are making the difference. Bernafon as your supplier of hearing aid technology can support you in making your promises a reality for your customers and prospects.
Find out more about how Bernafon can support you no matter the promises you make on https://www.bernafon.com/promise.
References and links for further information about the CBBE:
American Marketing Association (n.d.). In AMA online dictionary. Retrieved from https://www.ama.org/resources/Pages/Dictionary.aspx?dLetter=B
Keller, K.L. (2013). Strategic Brand Management - Building, measuring, and managing brand equity (4th edition). Harlow, England: Pearson Education Ltd.
Keller, K.L. (2001) Building Customer-Based Brand Equity: A Blueprint for Creating Strong Brands. Working Paper, Report No. 01-107. Cambridge, MA: Marketing Science Institute. Retrieved from http://mktg.uni-svishtov.bg/ivm/resources/customerbasedbrandequitymodel.pdf
Strom, K.E. (2018). OTC – let’s get on the same page. The Hearing Review. Online edition. Retrieved from http://www.hearingreview.com/2018/10/otc-lets-get-page/