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To Derm or Not to Derm?

By: Alisa Marie Beyer
Posted: May 4, 2010, from the May 2010 issue of GCI Magazine.

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The next rung of the ladder, a long-term relationship with a dermatologist, or team of dermatologists, is ideal for brands that desire a derm association as a permanent part of their branding strategy, or that foresee the need for an extended affiliation —such as an acne brand, for example. As with a “derm-for-a-day” option, a long-term association with a dermatologist can and should be used to create branding collateral, generate press releases, for photo shoots, product development and claims. And for specific categories of brands (acne care, sun care, antiaging—categories that are intimately associated with a dermatologist in a consumer’s mind), this sort of brand evangelist is particularly useful because it reassures the consumer that the products they are considering (to treat a skin concern that might otherwise require a trip to the doctor) are efficacious.

A dermatologist panel is another type of long-term dermatologist relationship that is rapidly gaining steam, and brands across all facets of the industry are starting to embrace this trend. A derm panel is a group of experts that can be contracted to help research, develop and endorse a brand. However, as an added dynamic and in addition to dermatologists, these panels often include plastic surgeons, estheticians and other skin care experts. Much like a short-term and long-term relationship, a derm panel can be called upon for quotes, speaking engagements, collateral development, photo shoots, press releases and other corporate outreach. Derm panels are a great way to add a wealth of expert authority to a brand that will truly appeal to a wide consumer base.

’Til Death Do Us Part

The most permanent association a brand can create with a dermatologist is also one that carries a singular position in the market. Dermatologist-founded or -owned brands, such as Murad or Perricone MD, are recognized not only as brands that are endorsed by a derm, but also as brands that are the dermatologists themselves. Often called doctor brands, brands where the dermatologist is the founder, owner and developer of the brand are the darlings of the beauty world, and consumers often hold them in high regard and as scientifically or clinically superior to traditional skin care brands, even those with a derm endorsement. Besides the derm association itself, choosing to create a doctor brand offers other valuable benefits. When the derms are the founders, they become built-in presences or figureheads for the brand, leading all communication and outreach such as press releases, quotes, speaking engagements, photo shoots and any other media exposure. Many derms also bring with them the added benefit of associations with colleges, universities and hospitals that will only provide the brand with another level of credibility and potentially provide access to research and development opportunities for future products.

Happily Ever After

While there are many ways to work with a dermatologist, not all will be right for a brand. In order to get the most out of this dynamic relationship, a brand owner needs to make some determinations. Does the brand need full-on participation by a dermatologist for the long-term or only a minimal amount of participation, such as a day’s worth of press releases and consumer testing? Once the goals of the association have been established, you will be able to then create a strategy to bring the most benefit to your brand. Regardless of the strategy chosen, the benefits of affiliating a brand with a dermatologist are benefits that will reap powerful results for a brand both now and in the future.

Alisa Marie Beyer is the founder and creative director of The Benchmarking Company (TBC), a global beauty consulting firm offering business, strategy, consumer intelligence and branding. As publishers of the “must-read” Pink Report and WomenTrends, TBC keeps its fingers on the pulse of the industry and offers unparalleled consumer insights and intelligence. E-mail:;