Three Lessons from Coca-Cola on How to Rebrand Your Practice

When I was twenty years old, I spent a couple of months traveling around Southern Africa and visiting family (my own family had emigrated from South Africa to New Zealand where I grew up, before moving to the United States). We were very fortunate to have been able to spend a lot of time in the bush as my uncle owns a share of a private game reserve a couple of hours north of Johannesburg.

On one particular day, it was incredibly hot and we were out in a jeep with the Ranger, looking for a pride of lions that had been spotted earlier. The earth was parched and cracked, the bush thick and there was no sign of civilization for miles. We really were in the middle of nowhere.

Suddenly as we turned round a bend, I saw something that caught me by surprise. Someone had built a make-shift shack out of logs and mud and, plastered on the front, was a swirly red and white sign that I would have recognized anywhere.

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Coca-Cola.

Here, in one of the most unlikely places on the planet, some enterprising entrepreneur was selling Coke to thirsty wildlife enthusiasts. For me, this was a lesson about the power of branding that I have never forgotten. Not only were we able to recognize instantly what was being sold, but the location was perfect.

You may well be thinking, “Well that’s great for Coca-Cola - a billion-dollar company who can afford to have it’s name plastered practically everywhere – even in the middle of the hot African bush. but how does this help me? Let me break down the branding lessons here for you:

1. Coca-Cola has created a memorable logo using powerful colors that are very recognizable – even from a distance. And they’ve used these colors consistently over the past 130 years without deviating. In building your own brand, it’s critical that you apply the same principles – choose colors that are distinctive, that you personally love and that work well in both traditional and digital media. (For example, avoid yellow – although it works great to get attention in traditional media, it all but disappears in digital media.) Ensure that all your marketing is consistent and uses these colors without deviation. If you don’t have graphic design expertise, then I highly recommend you get your brand colors developed for you by a graphic designer, who can also provide you with “pantones” which are the exact color values to be used for consistency.

2. Coca-Cola understands who their target market is, and they are not trying to be all things to all people. Notice their tagline is “delicious and refreshing”. They are not claiming to be healthy. They are not claiming to be sugar-free. They are not claiming to be cheap or a great value. They are claiming that what they’re selling will taste good and cool you off – which is a very enticing proposition when it’s 38 degrees Celsius in the middle of the African bush, (even to someone like me, who doesn’t usually drink soda).

What is the tagline of your practice? Do you have one? A great tagline should achieve at least one of the following objectives:

a. be memorable

b. include a key benefit

c. differentiate the brand

d. impart a positive feeling

Domino’s Pizza built a multi-billion-dollar business on the strength of its 9-word tagline: “Fresh, hot pizza in 30 minutes or it’s free!”

Here are some other great taglines that you might be familiar with:

Nike – Just do it

L’Oreal – Because you’re worth it

McDonald’s – I’m lovin’ it

Audi – Vorsprung Durch Technic (Advancement Through Technology) 3

3. And finally, Coca-Cola creates a brand experience. Your brand is far more than your logo, your tagline and your advertisements. Your brand is also conveyed by the actual experience your patients have when they visit your practice. When we drove up to the little shack to buy our Cokes, we were expecting them to be (somewhat) cold and to taste good. I have no idea where they got ice from, but sure enough, our Cokes came out of a little battered blue cooler that was filled to the brim with ice. When we opened our Cokes, they each made that great hissing sound as the C02 escaped, telling us that they were fizzy and had been sealed properly – and the experience of drinking our Cokes was exactly as promised – delicious and refreshing. Similarly, with your own branding – if you use a brand that conveys, for example, beauty, luxury and professionalism, then it’s essential that this is the experience your patients receive when they visit. This means your clinic has to be beautiful, your furnishings conveying the feeling of luxury (think plush carpets, velvet sofas and mahogany wood), and warm friendly staff who are extremely knowledgeable.

So the next time you see an ad for Coke, or happen to find yourself on safari in the African bush, think about these three very important lessons on branding and how you can apply them to make your practice stand out!

*Reprinted with permission from the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS)