unique brand

How to build a unique brand?

Uniqueness, authenticity, and approachability are buzzwords. They often don’t belong in the doctor’s vocabulary or at least were not part of your training. Let’s get that fixed.

marketing agencies for doctors

Ideas to build a unique brand as a doctor

Kris Borgraeve - Co-founder Digital Practice

Kris Borgraeve

March 3, 2023

Why uniqueness is a new currency

uniqueness in medical

Outside the realm of healthcare, we are all vaguely familiar with brand stories that have embraced uniqueness. Apples iPod, Tesla’s ability to make EVs a common good, that type of work.

Uniqueness was never a concern for anyone who studied medicine. For centuries, doctors had a vital social role, prestige and access to the pathways that they preferred. In private health, and especially over the last decade, competition has a new face. The face of a smartphone, I would say.

Kris Borgraeve - Co-founder Digital Practice
Kris Borgraeve | Co-founder Digital Practice

"The need for uniqueness is bigger than ever because patients have access to a tool to check you out. To compare you to your competitors. To read up on what other people say. All of that needs an answer, and clear unique communication is one of those answers."

In one of the medical workshops I run, I showed an image of a senior surgeon who wears a yellow suit.


The conversation with workshop participants gets revitalised because we are all paying attention. Is this really a doctor? Why would he wear yellow? Once we calm down and I explain that this is just a stock photo, we focus on why it is best to work a little harder, and to create a uniqueness that does not depend on a gadget or a distracting choice of garments and colours.

What makes you stand out?

standing out as a doctor

I know many surgeons and specialists who use a very specific spectrum to position themselves. A classy suit, an office in a wealthy suburb and an array of luxury items from watches to cars.

Socially, it tells the story of a successful doctor, absolutely. In your catchment area, that might just be the social code to blend in.

But think again. Are people referring to you because you tick those boxes, or do certain colleagues get raving reviews and referrals because of their calm demeanour? Their patience? Their listening skills?

It’s such a great exercise that we do as the starting point of our strategic work when we start planning a new strategy for a private practice.

These are some of the elements on a much wider spectrum we explore, looking for uniqueness:

  • Story: Your personal reason to be in this chair, what made you tick as you started the journey, the hard work and the series of ongoing efforts to become the specialist you are today.
  • Vision: Your personal take on the conditions that you treat, on the available treatment methods, the focus on putting in place treatments without really checking if the patient needs it, versus a consultation style that may include the advice not to have surgery, working against your own business results in private practice but conveying a message of total focus on the patient’s wellbeing and the most suitable treatment choices.
  • Communication: The ability to listen to the patient, to be human, to share information in a respectful way as equal human beings, not from the safe heights of your doctor-pedestal.

What makes you stand out? Quite often, the small details are invaluable nuggets to work with. The family member you cared for that inspired you to become a surgeon. The example you saw in your family. The passion for a particular type of patient outcome. The joy you get from helping babies come into this world. Whatever makes you unique, let’s bring it out and use it as part of your brand.

5 reasons to love the word ‘brand’

brand positioning

Doctors frown when I cover brand positioning in workshops. Again, it’s not front and centre when you become a doctor.

Here’s a soft introduction to brand positioning for doctors that often creates a shift in how we think about doing work on our brand as a clinic or a private practice:

Brands resonate with people because of what they stand for. Colours, images, fonts, words and the combination of these elements are like a code that connects with our brain, which is wired to be receptive to brands because we see them all the time.

Brands make it easy to be on the active side in the process of giving word-of-mouth referrals. In simple words, if you make it easy for me to remember your clinic’s name, then I won’t have to frown, lift my eyes up to the sky in desperation and then admit that I have no idea where I had my gastric sleeve done.

Brands capture rational information such as descriptions of what you do, but they can also be packed with emotive layers that hold the brand promise about what your mission, vision and purpose are about. And since we make a lot of our buying decisions based on how we feel, to then rationalise the choice and verbalise an explanation…this is the way to go.

Brands are also used to make you stand out as an employer which helps you attract and maintain better team members which in its turn helps you get more good word-of-mouth referrals which…you get the picture.

Brands are often sold. I am not saying you should work in your private practice only to sell lit as a piece of real estate. Yet again, as soon as you build a brand that is not just your personal name, you are on a pathway that may or may not include the sale of your practice and your brand to a colleague, down the line.

Check what people write on the doctor’s Google Review page. It’s often all about the experience. Rarely do you find reviews that will contain a structured review and assessment of the actual surgical procedure or a review of the factual information contained in a treatment plan.

If you want to find out more about how we build beautiful brands for solo doctors in private practice, groups and medical corporates, check out our other articles about branding.

The actual work of building a brand

building a brand

When we embark on a journey to build a brand with one or several doctors, we make an inventory of what is needed and what is already there.

Your name is a starting point. Personal names can be brands but you will not sell yourself so take a moment to think about what you want to do 3,5 or 10 years down the track.

Your catchment area will define how you fill the ‘bucket’ of your brand. Even if the first thing that comes to mind when you do a brand exploration process is the term classy, it is wise to really check in with your patient demographics.

You don’t want to create a vibe that tells your patients how they are actually paying for your Carrara marble reception desk or the Japanese white pine Bonsai on the reception desk.

The work to build a brand requires holistic thinking in the field of communications, marketing, brand positioning and content strategy. I know, it’s a mouthful.

You are always the starting point

unique marketing ideas

Unique marketing ideas don’t come from ChatGTP, a handbook or a marketing blog. They coe from a process that starts with you.

Our team puts an important emphasis on the discovery process at the start of every new medical marketing strategy.

This is what we do:

  1. We map the background, stage, history and future plans for your practice
  2. We bring in market research and discuss the most common search terms used by patients and potential referrers in Google
  3. We discuss what you want patients to experience, learn, remember, share and feel if they were to become your patient
  4. We talk about your unique passion to do what you do and why you are doing it
  5. We organise all this information so it becomes the framework of your brand story and is packed with unique marketing ideas because it started with you

We pride ourselves in this focus on your business, not on ours.

Let's meet

Try it out today

unique brand

A unique brand starts with a unique approach to medical marketing. We don’t send a salesperson. You can book a free 1:1 Strategy Session with me here and we will talk about the ambitions of your private practice, and the various ways to realise them.

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