On your next visit to a competing health or life science brand's website, perform a mental count the number of images of doctors and scientists. Then hop to a different healthcare site and do the same thing. Notice a trend? We'll predict they don't look very different, and each one contains a plethora of doctors, scientists and researchers; oh my! Such stock imagery (i.e. doctors, scientists, researchers, etc., hereafter called “lab coats”) has become a staple for marketing and branding in the life science industry, but why?
Whatever your rationale for selecting “lab coats” to represent your brand, set those reasons aside for a moment. Yes, the choice makes sense, but you cannot ignore the one major flaw of logical choices – they also tend to be the most obvious ones. If your branding and advertising materials use “lab coats,” chances are high that your nearest competitors use them too. What remains, then, to differentiate your brand from theirs when a prospective client sees near identical images on both sites?
The answer is nothing. But this doesn’t have to be the case. You have a perfect differentiator just waiting to be incorporated into your strategy; it’s called “brand engagement.” By creating a more engaging experience through your website and advertising, you can turn potential customers into lifelong brand loyalists.
Portray Patients: Unlike the somewhat standard imagery associated with “lab coats” (i.e. huddled around a chemistry set, smiling directly into the camera), by depicting patients instead, this opens up a wealth of options for expanding your marketing strategy. For example, in the case of physicians, this group cares a great deal about how a specific medical device can benefit their patients. By portraying a satisfied end-user of your client’s, you can successfully win the business of your end-user. EX: Hologic.
Product Packaging: Not long ago, we wrote a blog on “5 Tips for Successful Medical Device Packaging.” Through out research it became clear that few companies actually displayed their packaging anywhere on their sites. This strategy represents a perfect opportunity to set your brand apart from the competition.
In addition to the image of the product itself, the visual of the package grants the customer their first hints at a tangible future experience with your product and brand (i.e. if they care this much about the package design, just imagine how much work was put into the device itself). EX: Agilent. So how do you foster engagement by weaning your brand off the use of “lab coats?” It's easy—select imagery that leaves a lasting impression. We’ve put together a list of examples below that we think get this point across quite nicely:
Landscapes: Lush landscapes and backgrounds can support the overall design your of marketing materials or website to leave a lasting impression on your prospective clients long after they’ve stopped reading your messaging. For example, if your brand stands for openness and smooth workflow, the image of a vast ocean could provide a memorable visual metaphor of that philosophy. EX: Elekta, Life Technologies.
Get Real: If you must portray “lab coats,” at least be honest about it. Rather than use a model, show your real team at work. This strategy brings a personalized touch to your brand. It sends the message to the consumer that you undertake business with a personal touch. And if they choose to conduct business with you, they will experience similar care and consideration. EX: Johnson & Johnson.
Before implementing any of these strategies, remember to market test them first with your existing clients. If they like they idea, you have a winner. If not, it’s back to the drawing board.
So ask yourself, "What will my next brochure or website update look like?" Will you be using the same old doctors, scientists and researchers or will you attempt a bolder, more differentiated approach? We think you know the right answer.