Kass Clinics: Their name is key

  • Article by: TODD NELSON , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 2, 2008 - 10:26 PM

Under its new banner, the chain positions its vein treatment and cosmetic care clinics for name recognition and growth by emphasizing the owners' medical backgrounds.

Dr. Sidney Kass performed an ultrasound exam on patient Cindi Gordon's legs.

Photo: Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

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After 15 years in business, Dr. Sidney Kass and his wife, Bonnie, are rolling out a new name for their suburban vein treatment and cosmetic care centers.

They're doing so quite literally, revealing their company's new identity -- Kass Clinics -- via two bicycle-pulled "leg carts," which made their debut last month at the Twin Cities Marathon. Four mannequin legs, demurely clad in short white socks, sprout skyward from each cart. The idea is to have Sidney Kass treat your varicose veins, using laser technology and other alternatives to surgery, so you can show off your legs, too.

More traditional marketing elements featuring the new name also are on the way, including radio ads, an updated website and new signs at their St. Louis Park headquarters and Woodbury office. The Kasses hope the campaign will establish name recognition and begin to develop a brand for their practice at a time when the economy is sliding into recession.

Two entities under one banner

The old name -- Twin Cities Vein and Laser Clinic and SpaMed of Minnesota -- never did much for them or their clients. Two entities operate under the new Kass Clinics banner -- Kass Clinic for Vein Therapy and Kass Clinic for Cosmetic Care. They also believe the Kass Clinics identity will position the practice to grow and add services, especially those medical insurance will pay for. Insurance typically does not cover vein treatment not deemed medically necessary or laser-assisted cosmetic treatments such as acne therapy, hair removal, cellulite reduction or other skin-care procedures, in which the clinic also specializes.

Revenue has been flat, about $1.7 million in 2007, with a similar total projected for this year, Sidney Kass said. Their practice has nine employees.

"The economy is not the greatest," said Sidney Kass, who is considering hiring another doctor to expand his vein-treatment work in Woodbury. But people will do insurance-reimbursed procedures during an economic downturn, he said, and "that's why I'm ramping up now more on the vein side."

Sidney Kass also has gotten certified in a new specialty, age-management medicine, largely targeting men. It employs hormone therapy, diet, exercise and other steps to improve men's health. He also plans to try to persuade family practitioners, who often are not eager to send their patients to surgery, to begin referring vein patients to him.

Another aim of the name change is to highlight the couple's medical backgrounds, which they said distinguishes their practice from most cosmetic care centers. Stanley Kass, an anesthesiologist, practiced for 10 years at Regions Hospital before he left in 1999 to focus on his vein practice. Bonnie Kass, who operates the cosmetic-care side of the practice, is a registered nurse and certified anesthetist.

'They are so professional'

Sue Dahl said she had gone to the Kasses for cosmetic procedures, including laser hair removal and facial treatments, for many years.

"The fact that he's a doctor and she's a nurse, that makes me very comfortable," Dahl said. "They are so professional, they're very well trained and their facility is immaculate."

Cindy Gordon, who has been going to Sidney Kass for vein treatments for seven years, said she could not have had better treatment.

"This is like a miracle because my legs were absolutely a mess," Gordon said. "I've had 12 kids. They've done everything they can to make my legs look pretty much normal. I love these people. They make sure you're happy.''

The Kasses went into business in 1993, with Bonnie Kass performing electrolysis treatments while her husband, who financed the start-up himself, worked at the hospital.

"I wanted to do electrolysis, I wanted to have a hobby while we were raising our children," Bonnie Kass said of the couple's two sons.

"It was too expensive to be a hobby," her husband said. "That kind of hobby is like owning a boat. It's like a hole you throw money into."

They got their first lasers in 1996. Sidney Kass joined the practice full time three years later, adding Twin Cities Vein and Laser Clinic to his wife's SpaMed cosmetic care center.

"I'm very glad I made a decision a few years ago to diversify the business," Sidney Kass said. "I think if we had just been a medical spa, we'd have been out of business. With this kind of overhead on the spa side, with the lasers and the economy and everything, we would have been out of business."

The expert says: Avinash Malshe, assistant professor of marketing at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business, said he thought Kass Clinics' new name adds the medical credibility the company seeks to project. But it risks being so general that people not familiar with the business might not understand what it does, he said.

Adding descriptive language below the name on signs or promotional materials will help, he said. As an example, Malshe said he liked the additional wording on the leg cart: "Say goodbye to varicose veins -- without surgery."

"That language helps me, a consumer, decode what that brand is all about," Malshe said. "When a brand is starting out, it needs to have more than a name to understand what it is all about. You have to give customers some clues about what your business is."

Malshe encouraged the Kasses to emphasize their medical backgrounds as they go forward. "From a branding standpoint, with him being a doctor and her being a nurse, they can take advantage of that," Malshe said. "That reinforces the promise of this being a clinic and a medical environment and builds their authenticity and credibility."

Todd Nelson is a freelance writer in Woodbury. His e-mail address is todd_nelson@mac.com

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