Buoyant branding

Branding is set to become increasingly important in the UK medical device market, which in recent years has experienced phenomenal growth and is now worth about £4 billion. And more companies in the market are planning to increase their spend on product design and sales and marketing than on any other category of investment.

This is according to independent research commissioned by the organisers of the Medical Device Technology Exhibition & Conference (MDT 06 – NEC, Birmingham from 15-16 February 2006) among European medical device manufacturers. The research shows that 71% of UK medical device manufacturers believe that their customers will be more influenced by brand in the future. The pattern is the same across Europe.

The medical device market has for many years been fragmented. Companies have perhaps been protected from the need for branding by the buoyant market for such products, and perhaps by an assumption that providers of healthcare are too sophisticated to be persuaded by branding. However, the research suggests that this is changing.

This is having an effect on where companies are directing budgets. According to the research, design and marketing services are the sectors that are most likely to see an increase over the next 12 months. Forty per cent expect to increase their spend on design services and 44% plan to increase their marketing spend (only a very small percentage expect their spend in these areas to decrease).

According to Mike Pearson, of healthcare design specialists Pearson Matthews: “This focus on branding presents as many opportunities as difficulties. Already some major high street consumer electronics manufacturers plan to reinvent themselves as healthcare brands. However, the trust consumers invest in a brand that handles our health is far greater than the trust invested in a brand that sells televisions.”

The research shows that, at a European level and among medical device manufacturers themselves, when asked the most respected brand, the largest response was ‘Don’t know’. The most respected brand, Johnson & Johnson, was identified as such by only 10% of survey respondents. The other leaders, including Medtronic, Baxter, GE and Siemens, were identified as the most respected by half that number or less.

The medical device manufacturers are also aware that building trust among the ultimate consumers – the patients – is a major challenge. Greater levels of product information available via the mass media, the internet or alternative sources, coupled with a more questioning approach towards the medical professions, means that the industry recognises that branding is necessary to meet the needs of an ever more demanding patient.

The research also suggests that achieving recognition and reputation will be crucial to this industry sector as 46% of UK medical device manufacturers are using innovation rather than price to take on their competitors. Indeed just 9% see themselves as a low cost producer.