How to build a brand

by Blog, Branding, Communications

How to build a brand    By Jonathan Fine. May 11, 2016.

People are saying you are looking dated, tired or old fashioned. But have you ever wondered why Tesco, Shell and Lego never dramatically change their corporate identity? The answer, apart from the cost, is that they got it right first time round.

Very often the development process for a new CI begins with the client or the graphic designer having needless long conversations concerning the colours or the typeface which, frankly, is a backwards approach to the challenge – a bit like you assuming a patient’s pain is coming from a certain tooth without carrying out a full examination.

The best designs need a detailed brief – the better the brief the better the outcome. Of course there is still room for personal taste and preference, but successful designs always answer the brief.

The process for building a robust brief is straightforward:

Stage 1 – getting the basics right

  1. Define the core proposition of your practice. For example, this could be: low cost, high quality dentistry / easy access dentistry – open seven days a week with parking / high tech and high skill advanced dentistry.
  2. Define what treatment modalities you are going to deliver – this is critical as the future of new patient acquisition in dentistry will be treatment led.
  3. Define your price position: is it Morrisons or Waitrose?
  4. Define your target market(s) – the people who are going to be your patients. You can start by looking at your existing profile of patients, then consider the profile of people that live in your catchment; finally, reflect on the treatments you are going to provide and who is going to buy them. For example, adult orthodontics will often appeal to a very wide cohort of patients with multiple income profiles – clearly this has an impact on your design (too sophisticated and you may exclude certain patients).

Stage 2 – building the brand

Considering all the components of stage 1 you now need to create your brand DNA. Your brand effectively provides you and your designer with the tightness your brief has to have in order to create the right tone of voice, the right typography and signal colours that reflect the practice you aspire to be. Having now defined your brand, all future decisions you make in the practice from recruitment (is your new associate ‘on brand’?) to whether you charge for missed appointments will be checked against your brand identity.

There are essentially two components to a brand:

Brand personality – considering all of the elements in stage 1, what personality should your brand communicate? Is it cool / sophisticated / aspirational or contemporary/ retail /energetic? The personality of the brand could literally be the personality of the lead clinician or owner – think of Richard Branson and the Virgin brand or Jamie Oliver; there is undoubtedly a big opportunity for dentistry to create its own celebrity chef type dentists (but be careful, there are downsides to this too…).

Brand attributes – this is what your brand or your practice gets credited with: eg they are always there for you because they open seven days a week / they carry out treatments you simply cannot get anywhere else / they’re the best for implants in Yorkshire / they’re a high tech and high skill practice / they’re a specialist only practice etc.

Stage 3 – designing the corporate identity

Having completed stage 1 and 2, you should now have a very tight brief for your designer, making their job straightforward and logical and removing all the unnecessary discussions about whether you prefer blue or green or Times bold over Tahoma typeface. A competent designer will present you with three very different approaches with comprehensive colour palates, all of which answer the brief. You now need to pick one.

Stage 4 – the brand book

Having chosen the design, the next step is to be able to easily interpret the design into all the elements of your practice. The obvious components are uniforms, name badges, signage and website; the less obvious ones are interior design, lighting, tone of voice, smells, patient communication (is it “Doctor” or “Tony”?). Guidance on how to represent the brand can be found in the brand book, which is your perpetual reference as to how things are done in communication terms at your practice.


As a one off project the cost for a new brand and corporate identity is £3,000 + VAT; if it forms part of a new website and video package the price is £1,670 + VAT.


If you would like help or just an informal chat please call me on 07860 672727 or email [email protected].

“The better the brief the better the outcome”

Jonathan Fine, managing director

Author: Jonathan Fine