Branding Your Practice: What to Consider

by Shawn Peers, DentalPeers

Do you remember your excitement when you first opened your practice? That sense of pride seeing your name on the exterior sign proclaiming this was the office of “Dr. Smith”? Or perhaps “Dr. Smith and Associates”?

That pride still exists for dentists opening their doors today. But a new, more business like approach is also taking hold. Today’s dentists are foregoing the use of their name and looking to brand their practice.

You can see why some dentists are doing this. Afterall, we all understand the power of branding. Think of the flowing arches of the “M” in the iconic “Golden Arches”. Then there is the elegant check mark of the famous “swoosh”.

Then there is the accompanying tag lines, “I’m lovin’ it” or “Just do it!”. Both of them contain only three words. That’s it…three simple words… yet we all know exactly who they belong to.

Simple…right? Remember…just because it seems simple does not mean that it is. There is a reason smart business people hire good marketing companies to develop a marketing plan. Some things just are not as easy as they may look.

Many dentists recognize this and they hire marketing experts to develop their brand. Finding the right company is a challenge. Referrals are a great start. Past positive experience from colleagues can help find a company that understands both marketing and dentistry in a way that creates the best results.

However, there is a crucial second step that many dentists overlook. Things like logo’s, brand names and tag lines can be protected under intellectual property law, often as trademarks. And once a trademark is registered, it is enforceable across all of Canada.

That means if you are in Vancouver, that great business name you thought was all yours may already be in use by a dentist in Halifax. If that Halifax dentist has registered it as a trademark, you would not be able to use it. While frustrating, it is better to learn about this early in the process rather than after you have paid for a website, signage, business cards, stationary and anything else you may have to change to remove that name.

On the positive side, if that name is available, you may be the one who obtains a trademark registration protecting your rights across Canada. Should another dentist adopt a brand name that is too similar to your registered name, a letter from your lawyer is often enough to make that dentist abandon that plan.

Branding is a big investment and it is a side of business that is new to most dentists. It can be costly…and adding legal fees you may feel are not necessary will only add to the cost up front. But the last thing you want is even greater costs down the road because you did not properly research and protect your marketing campaign. Make sure you talk to the right people to protect what you have created.