Comic Strip Makes Case for Surgical Blade

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The Curette Crusader comes to the aid of dermatologists nationwide in a direct mail campaign breaking today from Curetteblade Inc.


The effort uses a superhero theme to promote a single-use surgical curette blade developed by the company last year. It is used in procedures such as biopsies and the removal of skin lesions.


"To jump-start our business and get the word out, I realized that we had to do something in the way of direct mail, as opposed to e-mail mailings or doing print advertising," said company founder/president Orin M. Goldblum. "We wanted to appeal directly to decision makers, and we felt it would have the most impact in the first year, which is crucial to our success."


The Curette Crusader will be unveiled in a four-tiered postcard drop to 8,500 dermatologists. Recipients consist of current customers and prospects. The campaign runs quarterly throughout 2004-5 and includes public relations and collateral materials.


Each postcard's story line draws upon a competitive advantage of the product and addresses problems dermatologists may experience with other surgical blades.


The first postcard, which drops today, features a female Curette Crusader with the words "The Adventures of the Curette Crusader" above. An image of the blade is in the background, and the postcard is titled "To the Rescue."


On the right side of the postcard, the campaign begins with the Curette Crusader visiting Dr. Dex Dexter's office. Dexter is having trouble using "Flimsy-Foil" brand disposable curettes that just "aren't cutting it."


In the next panel, Dexter asks: "Why can't they make a disposable curette with the strength and sturdiness of a reusable?"


The Curette Crusader, in disguise as a nurse, says to herself, "Looks like a job for Curetteblade." Then -- whoosh -- in the next panel she becomes the Curette Crusader and says, "Introducing Curetteblade single-use curette blade! It makes other disposable curettes obsolete!"


Dexter then says, "Finally, a disposable with the feel of a reusable ... and it fits my favorite handles!"


In the last panel, the Curette Crusader winks and says, "Curetteblade saves the day." Dexter then asks, "Who was that masked person?"


The cartoon style "is distinctive and catches attention," said Pam Selker Rak, president of CommuniTech, a full-service marketing agency based in Bridgeville, PA, near Pittsburgh, that designed the campaign and developed the brand mascot. "It is something completely opposite of what the competitors are doing."


The mail pieces also address "the problems that they are possibly having with the current products," she said.


Goldblum decided on the campaign after noticing a similar brand mascot and comic-book-style direct campaign in CommuniTech's portfolio for another customer, Conco Systems, Verona, PA, a manufacturer of condenser and heat exchanger tube cleaning products for the power industry.


"I thought the [brand mascot, comic-book-style campaign] was a really interesting idea for an industry where you need to grab attention," he said. "I get tons of postcards every day as a physician, and they just go right in the trash because they are so drab. They don't catch my eye. They are not attention-grabbers."


On the back of the postcard, a call to action drives recipients to Curetteblade's Web site (www.curetteblade.com), where they can sign up for an offer of a Curetteblade stainless steel blade handle at no charge when they buy two boxes of Curetteblade single-use curette blades online. Curetteblade recently upgraded its site to accept orders, or customers can download an order form to fax or mail to Curetteblade.


When they sign up, recipients are asked to opt in for additional marketing and e-mail marketing programs.


"We can develop an e-mail database for continued marketing efforts," Goldblum said. "We can inform them of special offers or new products."


Responses can be tracked through unique page landings given on each of the four postcards.


For physicians who prefer to order products through medical-surgical distributors, the postcard also lists distributors. The company recently expanded its distribution network to encompass companies including Moore Medical, C-Med Surgical and Delasco.


The next postcard, to be sent in July, features a male Curette Crusader in another doctor's office. There is a backlog of patients in the waiting room, and a shortage of sharp, sterilized curettes. The doctor's assistant is shown sterilizing reusable curettes. The assistant then becomes the Curette Crusader and explains how the single-use curetteblades never have to be cleaned or sterilized.


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