Align Technology Inc. of Santa Clara is known for designing, manufacturing and marketing of Invisalign System, which is proprietary treatment for teeth misalignment, commonly known as malocclusion (Coughlan & Henessey, 2003). Invisalign System aligns both teen and adult teeth by deploying a series of removal aligners, which gently positions the teeth to the desired position. The molding of the aligners is a complex process that utilizes three-dimensional computer imaging graphics in order to forecast the movement of teeth in sequential stages (Coughlan & Henessey, 2003). Since this process does not depend on the deployment of ceramic or metal brackets, the system substantially reduced the aesthetic and other shortcomings related to corrective orthodontic treatment. Kesley Wirth and Zia Chishti founded the company in 1997 while taking their studies at Stanford University. The idea for their product stemmed from the accident of Chishti. The business objective of the organization was to establish Invisalign System as their standard method of treating teeth misalignment (Coughlan & Henessey, 2003). They marketed their system exclusively for teens and adults with mature dentition. The system was distributed within the US and Canada, though there were plans of marketing it to the international community. In this regard, this paper provides a marketing case for the organization by discussing the major issues facing the company, the available options to the company, lessons learnt from the company, and marketing strategy. The paper will also make some recommendations for the company to take.
The first issue faced by the company was that many patients did not have dental insurance (Coughlan & Henessey, 2003). The agreed price charged to dental patients was about 5500 dollar. However, this price also depended on the length and severity of the case. In addition, patients who had the dental insurance were only covered for about 1000 dollars for either traditional braces or Invisalign braces (Coughlan & Henessey, 2003). The organization had to charge orthodontists 1900 dollars per case. In contrast, the tradition braces usually cost the orthodontist approximately 500 dollars. However, given the best pricing of the system, the profit marhins for the orthodontists seemed almost similar to that of traditional methods.
Another issue faced by the company is that the product warranty did not offer any assurance concerning the outcome of the treatment using the Invisalign system (Coughlan & Henessey, 2003). Nevertheless, if the actual results of the treatment deviated substantially from the ClinChek simulation, the warranty covered the orthodontist from a single midcourse correction at the company’s expense. As a result, the orthodontist had to submit new molds for their patients. The company then used the molds to develop a tailored ClinCheck plan to be approved by the orthodontist (Coughlan & Henessey, 2003). Upon the approval of the orthodontist, consecutive series of aligners were produced and conveyed to the orthodontist to enable him or her to accomplish the treatment. According to Coughlan & Henessey (2003), the company could only provide additional midcourse at the expense of the orthodontist. Lost or damaged aligners could only be replaced at the expense of the orthodontist, though, in most cases, patients moved on to the next series of aligners (Coughlan & Henessey, 2003). In general, this was disadvantageous to orthodontists. In fact, some orthodontists might have switched to standard brace manufacturers.
Competition was also an issue to Align Inc. The company competed with standard orthodontic manufacturers for the attention of the general-practice dentists and orthodontists. According to Coughlan & Henessey (2003), the competition between Align and standard orthodontic manufacturers was strong for the consumer segment that was health conscious in terms of their health. Some of competitors to Align included Dynaflex International, 3M Company, Sybron Dental Specialties and Dentsply International Inc (Coughlan & Henessey, 2003). These competitors had significantly huge financial resources, marketing and manufacturing experience. Many of the competitors’ products had been in the market for many years and orthodontists were well-conversant with their applications and uses.
The company also had some opportunities to exploit. The large number of general-practice dentists and orthodontist was an opportunity for the organization (Coughlan & Henessey, 2003). According to Align Inc (2013), there were about 8500 orthodontists and over 120000 general practice dentists in the US in 2001. General-practice dentists received their certification after the completion of the undergraduate education. However, many general-practice dentists opted not to perform specialty work like prosthodontics, periodontics and orthodontics (Coughlan & Henessey, 2003). This is because they lack specific functional training, and risk of malpractice liability. These dentists typically referred patients to orthodontics. The offices of orthodontics were the locations for teeth straightening in the US. In other words, orthodontists helped in the distribution of the aligners to the target consumers (Coughlan & Henessey, 2003).
The large number of people suffering from teeth misalignment provided a significant opportunity to the organization. Teeth misalignment was and is still one of the most popular clinical conditions affecting more than 200 million Americans (Coughlan & Henessey, 2003). This is approximately 75 per cent of the entire population. Statistical reports have also indicated that about 2 million people seek orthodontic treatment yearly in the US. These generates the industry the industry approximately 7 billion dollars (Coughlan & Henessey, 2003). The large number of consumers generated profits to Align Inc. Coughlan & Henessey (2003) also agreed that over 50 per cent of those with teeth misalignment had mature dentition and were consumers of the Invisalign system that represented a significant opportunity.
The first lesson learnt from the marketing management of Align Inc. is that advertising has significant rewards. The system was marketed to consumers directly through national advertising. In 2000, the company had spent about 40 million dollars in advertising campaigns that conveyed the benefits of the system (Coughlan & Henessey, 2003). Four significant adverts ran on famous cable networks and broadcast networks. The company also used full-page adverts in famous consumer magazines like GQ, Vanity Fair, People and Modern Bride. The extensive advertising performed by the company widened their customer base. From September 2001 to January 2001, the company call center had received approximately 300000 calls (Coughlan & Henessey, 2003).
The company had developed a system of layering orthodontists, which encouraged the sales force to channel more time to orthodontists who were most proficient in using the Invisalign system (Align Inc, 2013). Align Inc. deployed the objective criteria to tier the orthodontists. Patients’ inquiries through customer call center of the company and website were channeled to higher-tier orthodontists. The deduction, in this case, was that the process would rapidly improve the penetration of the product within the selected offices of orthodontists.
The first recommendation is that Align Inc. should be effective in manufacturing their aligners in order to improve quality (Align Inc, 2013). This can be achieved through the use of Total Quality Control (TQC) activities. The applications of TQC will help the company generate process oriented way of thinking and come up with strategies that assure continuous improvement. Through TQC, the company can also implement an effective manufacturing framework that ensures high product quality. High quality will enable the company to overcome competition from its major competitors.
The company executives should also implement emergent strategies from both positioning view and resource based view in order to increase the awareness of the Invisalign System (Coughlan & Henessey, 2003). An integrated framework for resource and positioning view will assist the company in maximizing its competencies. This approach will also enable the company sustain a competitive advantage, which requires the exploitation of external and internal firm-specific competencies. In the dynamic international market, the company should deal with the external dynamics and seek the appropriate ways of using their resources. Unless the company deploys an all-inclusive approach in the design and implementation of their brand, their efforts will be useless.
Align Inc. should employ miniaturization strategy in order to improve its primary competencies. Consequently, the company, marketers, engineers and technologies should have a common understanding of consumer demands (Coughlan & Henessey, 2003). They need to comprehend the possible technological possibilities in order to become customer oriented (Align Inc, 2013).
In conclusion, the molding of the aligners is a complex process that utilizes three-dimensional computer imaging graphics in order to forecast the movement of teeth in sequential stages. The business objective of the organization was to establish Invisalign system as their standard methods of treating teeth misalignment. The first issue faced by the company was that many patients did not have dental insurance. Another issue faced by the company is that the product warranty did not offer any assurance concerning the outcome of the treatment using the Invisalign system. The company competed with standard orthodontic manufacturers for the attention of the general-practice dentists and orthodontists. The large number of general-practice dentists and orthodontist was an opportunity for the organization. The first lesson learnt from the marketing management of Align Inc. is that advertising has significant rewards. The company had developed a system of layering orthodontists, which encouraged the sales force to channel more time to orthodontists who were most proficient in using the Invisalign system.