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Great Doctors with Unfortunate Names for Healthcare Marketing

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

doctor marketing advertising nameYour name, or the name of your practice, can be an important asset or an unfortunate liability for providers in doctor or healthcare marketing and advertising. Consider the legendary saga of  Edgar “Painless” Parker, a turn of the century street dentist. It seems the ethical standards for dentistry were sometimes cringe-worthy at the time.

“After weeks without a single patient, Parker decided to advertise,” Wikipedia tells us. To the disgust of professional colleagues, “he hired one of P.T. Barnum’s ex-managers…and created the Parker Dental Circus, a traveling medicine show with his dental chair on a horse-drawn wagon.” (Django Unchained, anyone?)

If one of the objectives of doctor advertising is to be memorable, this alum of the Philadelphia Dental College (later Temple University dental school) made an annoying professional splash. But, not surprisingly, he was accused of false advertising, so he legally changed his first name to “Painless.” Hence, Edgar R.R. "Painless" Parker [1872–1952]. (More about Dr. Parker in a bit.)

Fast forward to more recent times…

Over the years we've encountered many names that were challenging to use in medical advertising. For example:

  • Dr. Pain
  • Dr. Ow
  • Dr. Quackenbush
  • Dr. Blood

IMG_7134We’re certain that these are all great doctors, but some odd names are unfortunate for healthcare marketing purposes. Still other professional names we’ve seen include the law offices of Crooks, Low and Connell, Dr. Omg, Dr. Frankenstein, Dr. Pepper, Dr. Atchoo, Wurst Bookeeping and dentist Dr. Gum.

In addition, the patients of other professional service providers may be struggling with unfamiliar, long last names. More than a few marketing-savvy doctors wisely use informal, promotional names such as “Dr. Rick,” or “Dr. Tom,” which immediately seem friendly and casual.

Avoiding a mental “stop word…”

Understandably, individuals take pride in their given name, and friends and colleagues may be accustomed to what others consider a unique name. But when someone—your target audience— encounters an unfamiliar name in doctor marketing or advertising:

A name can be a “stop word” for the reader. Regardless of the intended marketing message, an unusual or unexpected name knocks the reader off track. They are distracted; they stop considering the important idea or benefit.

The unfamiliar may seem less trustworthy. A prospective patient might distance themselves, becoming less open to rapport building, in person or via social media.

A benefit-oriented practice name is a useful option…Law Offices sign

The marketing and advertising test for doctors and other professionals is to make a positive impression with an intended audience. A key consideration is that the patient is, most likely, not looking for your name. They are searching for what you do that helps them. And the most effective and memorable advertising and marketing messages for professionals focus first on benefits to the patient.

And that brings us back to Painless Parker. In the early 1900’s, the idea of “painless” dental care (mainly extractions) was a powerful benefit to the public. His ethically questionable claims may not have been true, but the sideshow doctor advertising led to a chain for dental clinics, 70 dentists, and a multi-million dollar annual gross.

Carefully consider what might best appeal to people who don’t know you, and if your name or practice name helps or blocks a connection. If you need an objective third-party sounding board, we have experience in working with medical practices and practitioners across the nation. You’re welcome to give us a call—800-656-0907—or connect with us here to start a marketing conversation.

And, for related reading, see: Your Healthcare Marketing Name: What You Do Beats Who You Are, and DOs and DON’Ts of Creating a Marketing-Smart (new) Name.

Stewart Gandolf, MBA, CEO

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