Meet the dentist aimed at Millennials
How Mint*d Smile is taking the dread out of dentistry.
With its millennial-mint and white décor, dental hygiene studio Mint*d looks more like a blow-dry bar than a dentist – which is exactly what founder Jessica McKimm hoped to achieve.
“We want to have a totally different vibe to a normal dental practice, so we’ve spent a lot of time investing in the architecture of the space, the colours and the way it feels,” she says. “We want people to enjoy coming here.”
For a dental practice, that’s a bold aim. Yet since launching in Miranda in August this year, McKimm says her ‘smile crew’ of dentists and technicians has treated more than 400 clients, many of them repeat customers, and a second Mint*d studio is opening in Bondi Junction on December 11.
“I love that we’re seeing exactly the customer we wanted – and they’re raving about the experience,” she says. “We’re hoping to expand all over the country in the next few years.”
Targeted at millennial consumers who don’t have health insurance, Mint*d is a full-service dental practice that aims to disrupt dentistry in the same way blow-dry and nail bars opened up a new segment of the beauty industry.
Many of the traditional downsides of dentistry – such as drab waiting rooms and the inevitable ‘bill shock’ at the end of the appointment – have been removed in favour of a more modern, millennial-friendly and transparent approach.
Customers can choose from a range of packages – from a 15-minute ‘Speedy Sparkle’ stain removal for $69 to a one-hour, in-chair ‘The Whitening’ treatment for $399 – while walk-in appointments are welcome.
“Our services are affordable enough that you can come in for a clean as part of your preparation for a night out, just as you might get your nails done, or your hair,” says McKimm. “We have 15-minute polishes and 30-minute cleans, but we’re also a full-service dental practice, so you can have a check-up and [other treatments] too.”
Our services are affordable enough that you can come in for a clean as part of your preparation for a night out”- Jessica McKimm
McKimm says Mint*d addresses common and well-documented fears surrounding dentist visits; one study found that fewer than half of all Australians had undergone a check-up in the previous 24 months.
“Our research shows that millennials only go to the dentist when there’s an immediate need – for example, when something starts to hurt – or after an accident,” says McKimm. “They’re not loyal customers, they’re triggered to return by a specific event.”
Mint*d is funded by Bupa, where McKimm works as a project manager, but the idea was one she developed with the help of her boss, Stephen Druce, the director of business development and marketing. “Mint*d opens up a new market for us,” says McKimm. “Our practices serve the health-insured customer really well, but Mint*d caters to those who don’t have insurance. It’s a way of making sure oral health is on everyone’s radar.”
McKimm and her team have worked hard to make the Mint*d experience as calm and frictionless as possible. An external digital board outside the studio displays Mint*d’s services and corresponding next-available appointment times so clients can, say, book an appointment to fit in with their morning’s shopping trip in the mall, says McKimm. They make their own bookings and notify staff of their arrival using a digital check-in and booking station just inside the door.
All forms for medical history are completed online in a simple three-step process – and once clients have signed in, they sit at a bar with complimentary tea and water. During the actual appointment, clients wear protective eyewear with earpieces that can connect to their own device so they can listen to a podcast or playlist.
Afterwards, clients can access a digital treatment plan online, so they can manage their own dentistry experience. “Our aim is to be clear and transparent about what we’re offering, which is new for the industry,” says McKimm. Treatments are cheaper, too, she adds. “For $199, you can have a full check-up and clean, including X-rays, where that might cost you $300 at another dentist.”
Several different payment options are available, including treatment ‘bundles’, memberships and Afterpay. “Afterpay resonates with our target demographic, so we saw it as a pull for our business to attract customers,” says McKimm. “Also, dental is seen as an expensive [category] and this is one of the barriers we’re trying to remove by offering affordable treatments, so it made sense to partner with Afterpay to help bridge this barrier with us.”
In the next few months, McKimm will evaluate the effectiveness of the Miranda and Bondi studios before rolling out more outlets nationally. “The experience of launching Mint*d has been incredible,” she says. “It’s a privilege to be able to watch your idea come to life.”
Jessica’s tips for success:
1. Take the time to do your research: My boss and I were lucky to be able to draw on the expertise of Bupa’s Insight Team, as well as a Melbourne-based market research agency, Quantum. We conducted brand testing – such as what the studio might look like, the brand elements and name – before we launched, to ensure the brand would resonate with our target consumers, aged 25-40.
2. Invest in digital: Pick digital platforms that both appeal to your consumer and enable you to measure the effectiveness of your [media] spend. Our media agency recommended some outdoor advertising for launch – a billboard near the store and some bus shelters – but it’s really hard to measure the ROI on those. For Bondi Junction, we’re investing more in digital, which is measurable and easy for us to manage. We use some page search and we’re sticking with Facebook and Instagram; we considered other platforms like Snapchat, but we don’t have the time to manage those well.
3. Hire the right people and lead from the front: I would have had fewer sleepless nights if I’d been less of a control freak! But I think it’s important to be organised, efficient and lead by example. Hiring the right people is so important; the whole point of our digital journey is to keep the customer experience as frictionless as possible, but, if problems occur, you need to switch to the human-with-paper approach and that needs to be frictionless, too.
Felicity Robinson is a journalist whose work has appeared in Sunday Life and marie claire Australia. She is the co-founder of PRIMER. Photos by Brian Doherty.
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