What is a brand? An audiologist’s perspective

By: Katie Armatoski, Au.D

 

In the midst of ongoing competitive pressure, the audiology profession has an awareness problem. Most community members know very little about how audiologists can help them or why hearing health is important. To add to the frustration a lot of audiologists or ENT practices do not know how to fix this issue. This leaves our profession almost as confused as our consumers.

The purpose of this blog is to help audiologists understand what a brand is so that they can assess their own communications and conduct a brand audit. Comparisons will be made to how hearing aids have been branded throughout the years. This article is for all audiologists, in any work setting.

So what is a brand anyways? Well I can tell you what it’s NOT.  A brand is not a companies logo, it is not the hearing aid, and it is not your company’s color palate.

Believe it or not, branding is something that you can’t see, it’s what your patients say about you when you’re not in the room. 

According to Everett Bowes, a brand strategy consultant, he states a brand is a behavior, a reputation, an accumulation, a narrative, and a device. A brand can maybe have one or two of these attributes, however, a strong brand has all five. The purpose of this blog will be to break down each of these ideas to better understand what a brand is and how it can help our profession.

 

BEHAVIOR

Do your patient’s know what to expect from you BEFORE they schedule a hearing evaluation? I don’t know about you but a lot of my patients have little experience with hearing tests unless they are required to have one at their place of employment. Even patient’s, in these cases, are impressed at the quality and length of a full diagnostic hearing exam. This is a problem.

This is a problem because part of your brand as an audiologist is that your audience knows what you do. How many of your patients had their first hearing test in their 60’s? How many of your patient’s don’t know don’t know what a full hearing aid fitting entails? If your audience doesn’t know what you do then they will not appreciate how you can help them.

Another behavior is being predictable. A well branded company is predictable, they are known for something. This gives you the opportunity to do and be something unique, something that only you can provide that your competition isn’t doing.

Example: Kohls, a midwestern department store. They are known for their return policy. I had a patient tell me once that her father passed away when she was going through his close she found half of his closet was from Kohls and had never been worn. She took it back and they accepted the return, with no receipt. I have experienced this myself as well when I forgot to return something within a typical return policy of 60 days. They don’t advertise this return policy, yet it is extremely well known due to word of mouth.

Now that you know part of your brand as a professional is an expected predictable behavior, ask yourself, “How can I make my community more aware of what I do as an audiologist?”

 

REPUTATION

Your audience creates your business’s reputation based on the information given to them. The brand is built based on what others are saying about you, not what you’re saying about yourself, or the products that we fit.

As audiologists we have to stop marketing a product with a poor reputation. This is why it is so crucial, in my opinion, to market other aspects of the consumer’s hearing loss journey. The key is giving your audience the proper experiences or information so they can build the brand in their own mind.

Although the product has a poor reputation that doesn’t mean your business has to align with that misconception in your advertising. It takes strategy and authenticity, to overcome a negative reputation, not a good pitch.  This is why there is value and power in an audiologists’s brand story, but you have to put the effort into developing one.

 

ACCUMULATION

As I said before, the key is to give your audience the proper experiences (plural) so they can form the brand in their own mind.  For this to happen there needs to be consistency. Every time your patient walks in your doors with a plugged wax filter their experience needs to be the same, creating a consistent overall welcoming experience (even though it makes you want to pull your hair out).

Your job is to provide only the types of experiences that are consistent with your desired brand experience. To do this you need to know what you want your brand experience to be.

 

NARRATIVE

A brand is also a narrative. The significance of a narrative is that it gives your brand significance. The right brand narrative has the power to significantly increase the value of your business and your profession. There can be two parts to the brand story:

  1. THE BRAND STORY: The brand’s story encompases the values and beliefs that are at the core of the brand. This tells the story regarding why the brand does what it does.

An example of Warby Parker’s brand story. The manufacturer of glass frames and sunglasses states, “Every idea starts with a problem. Ours was simple: glasses are too expensive. We were students when one of us lost his glasses on a backpacking trip. The cost of replacing them was so high that he spent the first semester of grad school without them, squinting and complaining. (We don’t recommend this.) The rest of us had similar experiences, and we were amazed at how hard it was to find a pair of great frames that didn’t leave our wallets bare. Where were the options?”

In one short story, this company told a relatable brand story that encompassed their values, beliefs and why they created the brand.

 

2.YOUR STORY: The part of the brand’s story that plays a role in your own story.

The second part of the narrative should explain why you show up to work every day. How does the brand’s story play a role in your own life? As you can see Warby Parker’s brand story told this as well. He believes glasses are too expensive. Do you see how your own story has to play a role in the brands story?  I believe it is more cost effective to spend our time as audiologists developing a brand story around our services and who we are as people.

Keep this in mind as our profession enters change: Long after the product is discarded the brand story has the power to remain relevant for their audience. That is why a brand story should be your marketing strategy. Even if Warby Parker decides to start manufacturing hearing aids (heaven forbid!) then it’s a pivot that their customers can see because their brand story is centered around the idea of providing quality products at a reasonable price.

 

DEVICE

Another reason branding is helpful is that it creates a shortcut. How do we get the attention of our audience when they are relentlessly bombarded with information from big box stores, online hearing aid companies and (soon) OTC hearing aids?

A good brand becomes a shortcut to something bigger with meaning and relatability. It is truly interesting because we are all drawn to certain brands but most of the time we can’t articulate why we are drawn to them. That means something with your experience with that brand hinted at something deeper, an emotion.

A brand is a shortcut to all of these touch points (relatability, connection, personality).

Brands give us a shorthand. In a distracted and confusing world, these shortcuts help consumers make sense of all the options. And if you’re trying to stand out, finding shortcuts is critical” – Sally Hogsheads

In conclusion, I hope this gave you insight and inspiration on where to focus your time and energy. One of the most important parts of your content strategy should be knowing who you are, what you do, and who you do it for. It might sound easy but having a lack of clarity on these issues is what keeps businesses from growing.

Before you leave, make sure to conduct a brand audit of your own! Answer the questions below:

  1. In relation to your advertising do you know your target audience? If your answer is ‘people with hearing loss’ that’s too broad you need to narrow it down.
  2. Do your patient’s know what to expect from you BEFORE they schedule a hearing evaluation?
  3. Write down the last review you or your office got. Although it’s probably a raving review- Is that what you want to be known for?
  4. Do you know why you are an audiologist? If so, is this displayed on your website?

If you are looking for more information on branding download the free PDF workbook that helps you develop your brand story below!

THE RE.BRAND PLAN FOR AUDIOLOGIST'S

Download a free branding workbook for audiologists! It offers clarity, confidence, and a unique identity in a saturated market.