No One Remembers Zeppo: Why a Dental Practice is Like the Marx Brothers

April 13, 2021 by AACD Executive Office

by Michael DiFrisco, CAE

Here’s a universal truth: The more similar the services, the more important the differences.

And most businesses—and that includes dentistry—just blend into the background. Yet our brains are hardwired to notice only what’s different. Dentists need to discover how to articulate their competitive advantage—what makes them different from the dental office down the street—and consistently communicate that benefit through their marketing.

To be memorable, remarkable, and a dental practice your patients would be happy to talk about with others, you must be differentiated in the marketplace.

Here’s an example.

The Marx Brothers were an American family comedy act that was successful in vaudeville, on Broadway, and in motion pictures from 1905 to 1949. Their most beloved films include comedy classics like Duck Soup (1933) and A Night at the Opera (1935). They are widely considered by critics, scholars, and fans to be among the greatest and most influential comedians of the 20th century.

And yet, when most people think of a Marx Brothers’ movie or conjure up a mental image of the siblings, it’s really the core act that we think of: Groucho, Chico, and Harpo. That’s because each of them developed a highly distinctive—and memorable—stage persona. Yet, few people remember Zeppo. (There was a fifth brother, Gummo. But he never appeared in any of their movies.)

Groucho was known for His distinctive appearance which included quirks such as an exaggerated stooped posture, spectacles, a cigar, a thick greasepaint mustache, and eyebrows. These embellished features resulted in the creation of one of the most recognizable novelty disguises simply known as Groucho glasses.

Chico’s persona in the act was that of a charming, uneducated but crafty con artist, seemingly of rural Italian origin, who wore shabby clothes and sported a curly-haired wig and Tyrolean hat. On screen, Chico—a talented pianist—is also frequently seen trying to outfox Groucho. 

Harpo's comic style was visual, combining both clown and pantomime traditions. He wore a curly reddish-blond wig, and never spoke during performances (rather, he blew a horn or whistled to communicate). He frequently used props such as a horn cane, a bulb-horn, and he played the harp in most of his films.

But brother Zeppo never developed his stage character to the same extent as the elder three. He was content to just be the straight man—a regular guy—and as a result, blended into the background of golden age Hollywood.

Positioning your dental practice in the marketplace through differentiation will help you cut through the clutter, stand out, and be perceived as something remarkable; something your patients will remember and talk about. 

Because no one remembers Zeppo.


Learn more about building your dental brand, developing your marketplace positioning, and discovering your differentiating factor, plus so much more, at the AACD Cosmetic Dental Marketing Institute. 

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