What would it take to get you into a dental chair?
Leading dental services brand Aspen Dental hopes the answer is NASCAR. The brand recently launched an expansive campaign at the GEICO 500 NASCAR race in Talladega, Alabama, to raise awareness for dental care and convince consumers to face something many consumers fear attending to
— Stewart-Haas Racing (@StewartHaasRcng) April 29, 2016
Aspen’s campaign includes a “Turbocharged Tooth Fairy Squad” made up of NASCAR stars Danica Patrick and Tony Stewart, the latter of who donned a tutu recently in the role. But there is more, including contests with prizes like a fishing boat and a cruise.
brandchannel spoke with Alexis Cardona, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Aspen Dental Management, Inc., about NASCAR, being in a business people would rather not think about and the unpredictability of having Tony Stewart as a spokesperson.
brandchannel: Why NASCAR? And who is Aspen hoping to reach with this partnership?
Alexis Cardona: There are a number of reasons. Obviously there’s great reach. NASCAR reaches millions of fans across the country who really like to engage with and support sponsors of the sport. The NASCAR circuit is also really well-aligned to where Aspen Dental offices are located—currently 550 locations across 33 states. And finally, the fans themselves are hardworking, middle-class Americans—the same people who are served by Aspen Dental practices.
bc: In its promotion of the new NASCAR partnership, Aspen starts by saying “Going to the dentist isn’t fun.” How much of the challenge of Aspen’s branding effort is overcoming that reality?
Cardona: An estimated 150 million American adults didn’t visit the dentist last year, so let’s face it: The reality is that a lot of people don’t like going to the dentist. What we’re excited about with this campaign is that it’s an unexpected, fun, consumer engagement that hopefully will generate conversation about the importance of good oral health. We also want to drive home the message that the dentists and teams at Aspen Dental practices are willing to do virtually whatever it takes to make dentistry easier.
bc: It’s well known that Tony Stewart can be unpredictable. And while that may be fine for a blue jeans brand or beer, did it raise any eyebrows at a dental brand? Or is this a benefit?
Cardona: We’ve had a strong partnership with Stewart-Haas Racing for five years now, and one of the things we love about both Tony and Danica Patrick is their willingness to do the unexpected to help us create a conversation about a topic that people really don’t like to talk about: oral health.
In Talladega, Tony literally spent hours roaming the track as “Tony the Tooth Fairy,” surprising fans and even climbing into a helicopter to go to the nearest Aspen Dental office. It was a blast capturing footage of him having these unscripted moments—fans’ reactions to Tony, and his engagement with them, are what brought the whole thing to life.
bc: How much of Aspen’s brand building is a struggle with decreasing dental insurance benefits? That is to say, how do you message against something you can’t control?
Cardona: What’s interesting is that while there are a lot of challenges across the industry as a whole—which includes factors like changes in dental benefits and declining adult dental visits—Aspen Dental practices are growing and thriving.
Today there are 550 Aspen Dental branded practices across 33 states. Collectively, those practices care for an estimated 20,000 patients a day, and a new Aspen Dental office opens every five or six days. The reason we’ve been able to defy those larger industry trends is because the Aspen Dental model is all about breaking down barriers to care by doing things differently from traditional private practice. Healthcare delivery is changing rapidly: Consumers are demanding better access, lower costs and more convenience. This rise in healthcare consumerism means that patient-centric models like ours are better positioned for long-term growth and success than traditional delivery models.