With Collapse Of SmileDirectClub, The Field Clears For Invisalign

There’s a shakeout in the smile business with the abrupt closure of SmileDirectClub this week. And Align Technology’s Invisalign brand is looking to make the most of it, reassuring consumers that clear dental aligners are still a reliable way to go.

SmileDirectClub’s announcement, following its bankruptcy last September, leaves customers in orthodontic limbo. It’s canceled orders that haven’t shipped and still expects customers to make payments. And that “Lifetime Smile Guarantee” has gone up in smoke.

Kamal Bhandal, vice president of Invisalign’s brand and consumer marketing, doesn’t think the shuttering of its most significant competitor will scare consumers away from the category. “Our goal is to put patients first,” she says. “Invisalign has a network of doctors ready to help the patients who need support.”



It won’t change Invisalign’s marketing approach, which continues to focus on the transformation people experience when they straighten their teeth. “These stories focus on people sharing how Invisalign has turned their lives around,” she says.

Those ads also underscore the trust people feel for the dentists they work with as they use Invisalign -- and for the technology itself.

So far, 16 million people have straightened their teeth with Invisalign worldwide. “So this campaign is global, running not just in the U.S. but in Asia and Europe.”

In the U.S., ads are running on social media to help the brand connect with Gen Z and on linear TV to reach adult audiences.

Influencer marketing has become increasingly important. “Influencers are the new heroes,” Bhandal tells Marketing Daily. “They can tell their story in an authentic way, and consumers want to hear those stories – they want to see real people.”

Football players continue to be part of that core, with more than 300 NFL players using Invisalign, including Max Crosby of the Las Vegas Raiders, T.J. Watt of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cam Jordan of the New Orleans Saints.

“This is a deep partnership and includes the NFL using our iTero imaging systems as part of the health and safety program,” she says. “They’re even using that scanner to create safer mouthguards.”

As it has in the past, the company will host an exhibit at the Super Bowl Experience. “It’s a great way for fans to engage with not only brands but also their favorite players. And because it’s a family event, we love how it helps us reach kids and adults.”

Gen Z continues to be the company’s favorite target. In its most recent quarterly results, shipments of clear aligners to teenagers jumped 9.9% from the previous quarter and rose 8.4% year over year.

But overall sales fell for the Tempe, Arizona-based company, declining 4.2% from the last quarter. And clear aligner revenue fell 3.3%.

While sales in the clear aligner market mushroomed early in the pandemic, the category has struggled as consumers have cut back.

“Our third quarter results reflect lower than expected demand and a more difficult macro environment than we experienced in the first half of 2023,” said Align Technology President and CEO Joe Hogan in its announcement.

“Dental practices and industry research firms have reported deteriorating trends, including decreased patient visits and increased patient appointment cancellations, along with fewer orthodontic case starts overall, especially among adult patients.”

Observers say that while that downturn is concerning, the company is well-positioned to bounce back. “With global teen case volumes up 10% year over year and global adult case volumes nearly flattish, even with soft September trends, we believe it's reasonable to believe pull-forward impacts from 2021 have largely normalized,” writes Jeff Johnson, an analyst who covers Align for Baird. That suggests that the company may recover sales growth by mid-2024, especially now that “competitive uncertainties have fallen.”

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