The direct-to-consumer model, from Dollar Shave Club to Casper to Warby Parker, has disrupted incumbents by removing the middle man, building modern brands, and delivering on specific consumer needs. These vertically integrated businesses own the entire consumer journey and, along with it, valuable data to enable hyper-personalized experiences. But surely, you can’t disrupt the recommendation of a dentist? I was considering getting ClearCorrect invisible aligners, recommended through my dentist, when I was flipped by new-comer, Candid. Here is the story of how Candid, a two-year old company, beat out a 13-year old brand trusted by dental professionals around the world and a road-map of actionable practices every brand can apply.
Allie Goes to the Dentist
My Candid Consumer Journey
The alignment of two of my teeth was causing me severe pain and my dentist informed me that invisible aligners could offer a solution. The downside? A $6,000 price tag and the need to get a mold of your teeth before you even know how long you’ll have to wear the aligners. I went home to decide if I could just deal with the pain rather than endure this overpriced and inconvenient option.

The challenger brand, Candid
The next day, I got served an ad on Instagram for invisible aligners that were a third of the cost and didn’t require any molding. In fact, you could come in to their office get a 3D scan of your mouth, then get a virtual treatment plan, showing a 3D model of how your teeth will shift over time, BEFORE you committed to anything.
Without dwelling too much on how Instagram knew to serve me this ad in the first place (coincidentally right after I had been speaking about getting braces), I happily clicked on it because it was highly relevant, solved a problem, and offered a convenient, more affordable solution.
Within minutes, I had scheduled an in-person visit at their Santa Monica location.

Not your typical dentist's office
The next day, I was greeted at the door by a friendly chalkboard sign, prompting me to “Laugh Out Loud, Smile 4 Selfies, Smile Often, Be Candid”. The office couldn’t have contrasted more with that of my dentist. Cool blue walls surrounded a hip, open space with bright, soft light and modern furniture. Aesop products and greenery sprinkled throughout the room. A girl at the front desk checked me in and handed me an eco-friendly, bamboo toothbrush, to keep. This was paired with a flyer about Candid’s partnership with Smile Train, a non-profit that provides free dental surgery for children in need, around the world. Signaling the company’s deeper purpose and setting the tone for the experience.
After I brushed, one of the associates used a Carestream device to take a 3D scan of my mouth and, within minutes, produced a 3D model I could see and move around on the screen. This was a welcome process compared to biting down on strawberry flavored putty and waiting weeks for the mold. I kept reflecting on how much easier all of this was compared to the process with my dentist.
7 days later, I received an email with a 3D rendering of my teeth shifting over time. Produced by a qualified orthodontist. From there, I would just need to place my order (under $2k, with payment plans available) and my full set of aligners would be mailed to me. No office visits needed.
Candid Delivery Boxes
My Candid delivery arrives
Candid masterfully moves the consumer from acquisition to purchase and streamline everything from the marketing to the service itself. Most importantly, they demonstrate a strong understanding of their customer. They “got me”, knew what mattered to me, and ultimately, won me over.
More and more incumbents are recognizing the need to transform how they benefit their customers. Align Technology, leaders in the space who pioneered invisible braces with Invisalign, recently invested in Candid competitor, Smile Direct Club, hedging their bets against disruption. Dental offices are also starting to adopt new technologies like the 3D scanning. Investing in, or partnering with the right emerging startups, can infuse your long-standing organization with new ways of thinking and doing and drive significant results.
Diagnostic Questions
  • What part of your consumer’s journey is sub-optimal?
  • Is your brand top of mind at the right place, right time?
  • Is it easy to buy?
  • What are you doing to streamline the customer experience?
  • Is your brand purpose clear? Does it align with your consumer’s values?
  • Is your brand evolving with changing consumer tastes?
  • Do you understand what motivates your consumers?
  • Are you looking outside of your organization for new thinking?