Before we dive in to today’s topic, I’d like you to spend a minute recalling one of your most cherished memories. Most people don’t necessarily recall every minute detail, but their memory as a whole encompasses multiple senses. For example, a memory of one particularly magical Christmas many years ago won’t be limited to a vision of gifts piled up next to a decorated tree. It’s more likely to include, say, the smell of cinnamon and pine intermingled with the flavor of cocoa and the sound of a Yule log crackling in the fireplace, or the feel of crisp wrapping paper ripped to shreds beneath your fingers.
It’s a full sensory experience, powerful enough to conjure up the same memory in all its intensity decades later, but why?
The Impact of Sensory Branding, or 2+2=5
Now, pretend you’re a patient instead of a dental professional. You don’t eat, sleep, and breathe dentistry, and you don’t relish the exquisite touch of latex gloves in the morning. When you think of your upcoming root canal treatment, you think of the stereotypical dental experience. In sensory terms, this breaks down into:
- The sight of battered magazines dated 2010, strewn about in the waiting room
- The high-pitched whirring sound of the dental drill
- The touch of metal to sensitive teeth and the chill of subzero air conditioning
- A taste of mint and blood mixed with a hint of rubber gloves
- The smell of cleanliness (not so bad) and particles of one’s own tooth matter (beyond bad)
Although some of the sensory elements patients have come to expect cannot be addressed directly–gloves must be worn, equipment must be sterilized–you have creative license with others. If you can touch on even one of these negative sensory cues, you will have made the patient experience more distinctive and memorable than those of 95% of the dentist offices in the country. Is this not the heart and soul of branding?
Up the Ante With Sensory Cues
Jill and I love the unique touches that our clients employ to engage their patients’ senses. A few ideas that we’ve seen/heard/etc:
- An artistic-minded dentist who covers the walls of his office with artwork. Even the ceiling above patients’ heads in the treatment area features artwork.
- Chairside iPads and tablets loaded with popular movies
- Well-maintained aquariums with colorful fish and plants
- Chairside iPods preloaded with classical music and relaxing sounds, such as ocean waves, rain, and singing birds
- A pediatric dentist who lets children listen to Kidz Bop versions of their favorite pop songs
- Another who uses guided imagery and meditation to soothe anxious patients in the chair
- A dentist who offers patients their choice of complimentary paraffin hand dip or scented neck wrap
- A “dental spa” that provides foot massages during long procedures
- Plush blankets and pillows for cold-natured patients
- Cooling gel-filled eye masks to wear during treatment
- A husband-and-wife dental team whose pet dog snuggles up to anxious pediatric patients (not even kidding)
- Waiting rooms stocked with complimentary hot teas, gourmet coffee, and bottled mineral water
- Goodie bags containing toothpaste in nontraditional flavors, such as ginger, lavender, green tea, and blackberry
- Giveaways of sugarless gum with xylitol
- Dentists and hygienists who wear peppermint-scented gloves
- New patient welcome kits that contain scented body products and candles
I’m not suggesting (or am I?) that your patients will come to view root planing and scaling with the same wide-eyed wonderment that they feel around Christmastime. I’m saying that if you create a more appealing, multi-sensory environment, you will create a positive association in patients’ minds that will improve relationships, encourage compliance, and generate word-of-mouth referrals.
How do YOU incorporate the five senses into the patient experience? Share your stories in a comment, or post to our Facebook Wall.
About Jill: As the CEO and Director of Business Development for MDPM Consulting, Jill Nastasia uses her years of experience in diverse industries to generate creative, effective solutions that are as unique as our clients. To connect with Jill, call or text her at 972-781-8861, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.