One Message, Many Audiences

Maintaining a consistent brand across a large organization isn’t easy, particularly when the target audience is so diverse.

By Laura Thill

At the heart of every organization is its brand, a powerful image that comes to mind whenever the organization is mentioned. When viewed as a cohesive effort within the organization to build a trusting relationship with current and potential clients, branding can unite its members and motivate them to convey a winning message to the public.

“At Mortenson Dental Partners, our brand is who we are in the minds of our patients, and future patients,” says Jacque Ramsey, Mortenson’s director of marketing. “It is one of the most valuable and important assets of our organization. We teach and empower all of our team members that they are brand ambassadors who shape our brand in a more influential way than signage or a TV commercial ever could.

“Our main objective with regard to branding is to communicate a trusting and professional image,” she continues. “We want patients to feel they can count on us to service their dental needs in a comfortable environment, to educate them on the care prescribed and to deliver desirable outcomes.” And they know their branding efforts have been successful when a patient hears the DSO’s message via social media or a personalized text, connects with a Mortenson practice and has an exceptional experience, she adds.

When a brand is strong, it reaches across a variety of audiences, Ramsey points out. “We focus on building a brand that resonates with potential patients, existing patients, future team members, current team members and audiences within the dental industry.” Each of these audiences may require a different message, but each message conveys who Mortenson is as an organization and why that should matter, she explains.

Subhead: Consistent but diverse

A large dental service organization may find it challenging to maintain brand consistency throughout the organization, according to Ramsey. For instance, people don’t always understand the impact of minor tweaks on the integrity of the brand over time, she points out. “It is important that we always use the same font, tone, colors, language, etc.,” she says. “When people try to create a message on behalf of the brand that is not in alignment with all of the brand standards, the value of the brand begins to decline.”

The more people representing the brand, the more difficult it can be to maintain consistency, Ramsey continues. “We work hard to educate our team members that they –not a billboard – are the face of our brand. Their actions matter; the way they present themselves and treat others is a direct reflection of our brand.”

At the same time, a large DSO must ensure its brand appeals to a diverse group of people. Typically, an audience identifies with others who share the same region, culture, age and more. “We typically have one brand in each market we operate,” says Ramsey. “This allows us to tailor our message to a specific community, while maintaining the consistency of our brand. We also consider generational differences in our approach, looking not only for the best messaging to resonate with different generations, but the best media as well.”

Carrying multiple brands isn’t easy, she notes. “But, the ability to customize our message, voice, tone, look and feel helps us reduce our risk if there is a brand-damaging event,” she explains. So, for example, Mortenson’s pediatric brand enables the DSO to address parents much differently than it would reach out to the same group of adults regarding their own dental care, she adds.

Subhead: An evolving industry

Dentistry is not immune to change, and as the industry evolves, so too must a DSO’s brand. “When Mortenson Dental Partners was originally created, we were a group of like-minded partner practices,” says Ramsey. “In the last 10 years, we have repositioned our business strategy to be that of a cohesive company rather than a variety of partnerships. This shift has led us to redefine our mission and values to better reflect our history and set the stage for our future.” This, in turn, has provided a solid foundation for the DSO’s branding efforts, she notes. “Today, Mortenson’s brand communicates that we Care for Everyone, Share Abundantly, Build Relationships, Express Gratitude and work every day to Improve the Lives of Others by Living Our Values Every day.” If this message isn’t getting across to the target audience, “we need to rethink what we are trying to say and how.”

Mortenson’s approach to branding will likely continue to evolve as dental care becomes more innovative, says Ramsey, who anticipates consumers will increasingly regard dental professionals as service providers. And, a new mindset means new expectations. Patients will expect faster service, but not at the expense of quality, she points out. They will want transparency when it comes to diagnoses and solutions, and they will rely on a network of peers to validate choices, she notes. “And they will not tolerate mistakes if there is not a strong relationship with the brand to begin with,” she says.

In the future, it will be imperative for DSOs to support their marketing decisions with actual data, says Ramsey. “By doing so, we will be able to communicate specific messages to specific audiences. Understanding our patients better will not only allow us to market to them better, but to also deliver custom patient experiences that wow the patient and build patient loyalty. This approach will help us eliminate waste and be more intentional in the way we connect to patients.”

Technological advances in artificial intelligence will also impact the way DSOs reach out to patients, Ramsey points out. “We’ll have to consider whether we are set up to allow Alexa or Siri to schedule an appointment,” she says. “Can we connect with health-based apps to talk to patients about overall systemic health? Do we embrace the Internet and fully understand what it means for our business?

“I think DSOs will need to use branding to support these themes in their messaging, without compromising an opportunity to build trust with the consumer,” she continues. The ability to deliver cutting edge, quality service, while building trust with the target audience, will be the key to branding moving forward, she adds.