The recent suspension of baseball’s Manny Ramirez has created quite a marketing mess for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Based on Manny’s spectacular success after his arrival there last year, and despite some obvious warning bells, the Dodgers decided to make Manny the centerpiece of their marketing efforts for this season. In other words, they made a conscious decision to hinge their success — at least in terms of profits — on one star, and now they are paying the price.

The Dodgers dilemma leads to a question pertinent to medical device companies: is it better to market products or the company name?  Companies that have wrestled with this issue have taken different tacks for different reasons. For example, we work with a large corporation that has built its brand almost entirely around the company name. In fact, though some of their products have names, many have numbers only. In the market, the products are often referred to by the company name, not the product name. This strategy works well for them for a couple of reasons:

First, they do not have one star product —  they offer many similarly weighted products. This breadth of products has helped their reputation grow to where it is today — a provider of high-quality products in the healthcare industry. Each product boosts the reputation of the others.

Second, in many head-to-head comparisons with competitors, this company’s products don’t offer any advantages in terms of price, features and, in some cases, even quality. But since they enjoy such a well-earned reputation for quality and reliability across the board, they often win when a healthcare organization has no compelling reason to pick one product over another. Theirs is a safe choice.

The fact that the company’s brand and reputation is known versus each of their individual products also helps when a healthcare organization wants to standardize on one company to gain efficiencies, streamline buying processes, and enjoy better compatibility.

Other companies take the opposite approach. They market their products, not the company. If the product is successful, the company will profit, and if the product is lackluster, or worse — encounters some serious problems — their other products and the company won’t be dragged down as a result. This strategy is more common when product offerings are independent of each other.

So as you begin to review your marketing strategy, you have to assess what will work best for your company in the long run — particularly if some problem comes out of left field.