You would had to have been on another planet over the last month or so to have avoided the news that Simplyhealth has made the decision to rebrand their flagship dental plan business, Denplan, as Simplyhealth Professionals.
Simplyhealth has taken the front and back covers and multiple full page ads across the dental press to announce the change.
As someone who has worked in the area of marketing and brand for the last thirty years or so, it’s a subject I’m passionate about, so it’s no surprise that I find Simplyhealth’s move so interesting and intriguing.
It’s a move that has surprised and baffled a lot of people within the sector and, at the same time, angered many of Denplan’s clients (apparently, there was no consultation).
So what’s behind the move?
Making the decision to ditch such a strong brand as Denplan in favour of something far more generic is a bold move, but it may yet prove to be a foolish one too.
Interestingly, Simplyhealth has perhaps revealed in recent trade advertisements what the key driver is behind their decision. They believe, with their clients’ help, that they can make Simplyhealth ‘the most recognised public and private brand in everyday health’.
“Making the decision to ditch such a strong brand as Denplan in favour of something far more generic is a bold move, but it may yet prove to be a foolish one too.”
That’s great for them, but I’m sure it’s not the most important goal in the eyes of the dentists they look to serve – who probably have more important targets of their own a little closer to home. Those dentists may well be thinking that this feels a little like the tail looking to wag the dog and that the Denplan brand has been sacrificed for the wider corporate good.
The move certainly has the feel of an internal brand consolidation process driven by the long-term growth plans of the parent brand as opposed to a Denplan-focused strategy. No doubt there will be cost savings to be had by consolidating business functions across the group. But that doesn’t address the specific needs of Denplan’s practices and the shift in perception that the change in brand will bring about.
With corporatisation comes sanitisation. Small businesses that have grown on the strength of their personality and the depth of the relationships they have with their clients can quickly lose their identity when swallowed up by a larger corporate.
And this is already evident in the new branding designs revealed by Simplyhealth in the wake of their announcements. Despite the fact that the Denplan name is to continue in product format, the iconic apple logo has gone. It has been replaced by a set of designs that are much more generic and abstract in nature and unlikely to resonate with dental patients at anywhere near the level the apple and its association with good dental health does at present.
“It takes a long time to build a recognisable and trusted brand, but it can be destroyed or seriously undermined in an instant.”
It takes a long time to build a recognisable and trusted brand, but it can be destroyed or seriously undermined in an instant. Denplan has been a strong and robust brand in the dental marketplace for many years and Simplyhealth’s move feels like a leap into the dark, driven by wider corporate goals without a full understanding of what the consequences might be for Denplan as an organisation and their dental practice clients.
In essence, to deliberately kill off a successful brand image, as Simplyhealth has chosen to do with Denplan, raises more questions than it provides answers and creates more ambiguity than clarity. This is why it has the feel of an internal brand tidying exercise as opposed to a focused and strategic move to help dental practices grow their business.
Whichever way you look at it, interesting times lie ahead for the dental plan market and for Denplan and Simplyhealth in particular. It’s going to be a fascinating next twelve to eighteen months.
As Denplan’s main competitor – we’ll be watching with great interest.
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