Reinventing the brands to be GenZ Ready
Circular economy, ecofriendly and sustainability are among the few buzzwords that leading consumer brands increasingly want to identify themselves with - as they battle it out for a higher share of wallet of GenZ and Millennial consumers. We have already covered in our recent articles here about how many clear aligners’ brands are resorting to greenwashing; and how K Line Europe's ClearX is trying to challenge the status quo with its out of the box solution.
In our recent article, we focused more on how clear aligner packaging and aligner waste can be managed more effectively with recycling. However, in this current article, we employ a rather different approach that’s based on product life extension. That is, brands leveraging this strategy are expected to focus on products that have longer life expectancy, well beyond the anticipated timeline.
In the consumer electronics or white goods industry, companies leveraging this strategy usually charge a price premium for their better reliability. The rationale being that longer lifespan of the product translates into fewer re-purchases over time. In a similar approach, IKEA opened its doors to selling second hand furniture recently – creating value for their products beyond the life of its current ownership. Brand ClearX relies on a similar approach whereby longer lifespan of the aligners (3 weeks versus 2 weeks) makes the need for more aligners obsolete.
insightsZ benchmarked the marketing claims of leading global clear brands as they try to re-invent their market positioning. During our exercise, one thing that stood out extraordinarily evident is many brands are increasingly making claims about how fewer trays are needed to achieve the same clinical outcome as with another competitor brand. In other words, leading clear aligner brands are increasingly trying to differentiate themselves by claiming that fewer aligner trays are needed to achieve the same clinical outcome, without any compromises on function and aesthetics.
The ClearX brand definitely benefits from the strong know-how and experience of its umbrella manufacturer K Line Europe, which is the largest European OEM and white label aligner manufacturer based in Düsseldorf, Germany.
The IKEA Effect driving higher Patient Engagement
Germany based brand ClearX is targeting to extend the life cycle of its clear aligners by employing a rather ‘out of the box’ yet scientifically and clinically proven method, which relies on re-shaping clear aligners with the help of a so-called Booster device. This AI-based tech enables the same set of clear aligner trays to be reprocessed and used for further corrections – effectively reducing the total number of trays required to achieve the same treatment outcome, while also reducing the environmental footprint. To summarize - the same set of aligners can be worn for +3 weeks as the trays occupy subsequent shapes and forms – greatly reducing the plastic burden of clear aligner treatments.
The device is obviously included in the scope of delivery for every clear aligner treatment and can be used either at a patient's home or at the dental office. Broadly speaking, there are two driving forces when it comes to making clear orthodontics more sustainable:
Public Drive: GenZ and Millennials constitute the largest consumer demographic of the global clear aligner industry. insightsZ estimates that an increasing number of GenZ and millennial patients are willing to choose clear aligner brands that they perceive as sustainable over others. Major category brands are obviously responding to this consumer behavior by activating their brand marketing and PR teams accordingly. However, more often than not, the PR and communication mouthpiece of organizations have been accused of greenwashing – that is, communicating brand messaging that sounds better for the environment than they actually are. To summarize – the public drive as well as participation remains at an all-time high – incentivizing brands to become more socially and environmentally responsible.
Infrastructure and services: Digital tools like Dental Monitoring and Get-Grin have improved patient compliance and engagement, enabling the tech companies to reach record high valuations in a less time duration. ClearX Booster device has a similar brand promise wherein it makes the treatment journey more personal with an IKEA-DIY effect, and yet ‘delights’ the consumer with the feel-good effect of sustainability. The IKEA effect is defined as increased valuation that people have for self-assembled products compared to objectively similar products which they did not assemble or make. In terms of clear aligner treatments, the booster device is clearly a representation of the IKEA effect. But even more importantly, the patient delight multiplies post completion of a treatment journey, and the achievement of clinical outcome. This obviously drives higher patient engagement, better compliance and more brand loyalty as patients acquire the role of brand ambassador – only further extending their role as do-it-yourselfers who were actively involved in designing their treatment therapy.
Additional cost burden for the Patient?
Well, actually not! The cost of the booster is obviously not transferred to the end consumer. That is, patients are expected to return the booster device post the completion of their treatment duration.
An overall reduction in the total number of clear aligners not only translates into less plastic aligner waste, but also significantly less carbon footprint for all the energy that’s saved during the production processes – simply because fewer 3D models need to be printed.
A potential downside is obviously when aligner boosting is performed at home, it increases the chances of error leading to prolongation of the treatment journey. Not just that, research shows that unsuccessful labour – either by assembling and then disassembling a product, or failing to complete the assembly process – does not increase valuation. We have witnessed this kind of consumer behavior across many different categories outside the dental space - including customizing kitchen furniture, home flooring and even chocolate boxes.
The Aligner booster is deployed on specific intervals during the treatment journey i.e., usually every week, to boost the aligner. When the aligner is boosted, it takes over the shape of the next aligner accordingly. This method replaces the use of many aligners and could decrease the use of plastic drastically.
The aligner booster software obviously connects to the mobile phone through the mobile app, which is available for download on both Apple as well as Android platforms. The mobile app stores all necessary data about dates of boosting every aligner and sends reminders for boosting sessions – improving compliance and oversight of the treatment journey.