Clinical Trial Branding: What’s In A Name?

Are you faced with the challenge of creating a name and branding system for your upcoming clinical study? Where do you start? Chances are, you have heard or been told that you need an acronym borne of your study title. Well, nothing could be more limiting or potentially suboptimal to your enrollment objectives. Let me explain.

For every meaningful and logical acronym that is approachable and has some relevance to the intent of the study (BARRICADE: Barrier Approach to Restenosis: Restrict Intima to Curtail ADverse Events) there are many more that are forced, illogical and have little meaning (POLMIDES: Prospective randomized pilOt study evaLuating the safety and efficacy of hybrid revascularization in MultI-vessel coronary artery DisEaSe, or BEAUTIFUL: morBidity-mortality EvAlUaTion of the IF inhibitor ivabradine in patients with coronary disease and left ventricULar dysfunction).

While BARRICADE does suggest the intent of the study via the “barrier approach” and utilizes the initial letter of key words within the study title, POLMIDES is meaningless, the letters are randomly plucked from the title, and it does little to inform the intended audience as to the purpose of the study. Along the same lines, BEAUTIFUL completely misleads the audience into thinking there is something nice or lovely about the study (morbidity? dysfunction? etc.) as well as providing an inordinate amount of hope or optimism. Similarly, the letters have been haphazardly and illogically selected from the title, further adding confusion about its construct.

Let’s back up a minute and point out that the objectives of study naming and branding are to create something relevant, credible, meaningful and appealing to your study audiences, namely patients, caregivers, HCPs and the community at large. The goal is to create awareness about your study, drive interest (in learning more) and help guide the target audience to helpful resources that educate, inform and lead the audience to enrollment tools (such as landing pages, websites, study sites, etc.). You are competing for these critical audiences with other studies and sponsor companies so your naming and branding really must work harder for you than your competitor’s branding and communications.

Therefore, creating and force-fitting an acronym to a study title may not deliver on your objectives of leveraging a compelling, meaningful and unique study name and you just may be missing key targets. In the end, this can lead to studies that are under-recruited, run well past targeted timelines, suffer major cost overruns and risk being cancelled.

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Six Degrees believes that successful clinical study naming/branding should be purpose-built based on the desired messaging or story deemed most effective for the specific audience. Therefore, do your research, ask questions, uncover what motivates people to participate in a study and develop naming and branding around these important drivers. While coined or blank-canvas names may be appropriated for launch brands (to help navigate regulatory, safety and legal concerns), study names should be more meaningful, approachable and relevant to the study and the desired outcomes. And the messaging that supports your study brand should speak to what your research informed you would motivate patients, HCPs and sites.

There are a handful of naming styles Six Degrees regularly explores that are not acronyms (along with supportive logos and branding) that can be considered for your clinical studies. They include (but are not limited to):

1. Disease state-suggestive names

The PulSar Study – short for pulmonary sarcoidosis, but also meaning a guiding star.

2. MOA-based names

The Traction Program (with affects on the Rac1 pathway) – suggests providing traction or stability for patients with FSGS who are now able to resume a more normal lifestyle.

3. Patient benefit-driven names

The Clarios Trial is suggestive of the end-benefits of improved vision as well as reduction in light-sensitivity, discomfort and pain for patients with Severe Noninfectious Intermediate, Posterior or Panuveitis.

4. INN-driven names

FENtrepid, FENhance, FENopta for a family of studies in multiple sclerosis (PPMS, RMS and SPMS) leveraging the strong equity of the fenebrutinib non-proprietary name.

5. Emotive names

The Brave Study in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (built on the idea of the brave boys who work so hard to keep up with their friends on the playground, in class and at home).

6. Descriptive-use names

Stratavera, a name for a study in burn care capitalizing on the idea of layers of skin replacement coupled with something very artistic – the Stradivarius violin.

7. Hopeful outcome names

The Ventura Study (suggesting a hopeful study for patients with major depressive disorders with anhedonia seeking to ‘venture out’ into their once-normal lifestyle.

So, as you go to name your clinical study, don’t be afraid to venture out beyond the expected and often limiting acronym naming strategy towards which the industry seems to relegate itself. Go out and identify your targets, speak to them and understand what motivates them and create purposeful and approachable names that inspire and differentiate you from competitive studies. Then carry that through the visual branding and all trial communications. Remember, branding is about persuasive, emotional pull.

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Kris Larsen
Kris has nearly three decades of experience leading global organizations across a variety of industries in the planning, development and implementation of their brand assets. Kris’ career began with branding pioneer Interbrand New York in 1986, and in 1989 he opened their Chicago office to serve the company’s growing Midwest client base. In 2010 Kris joined pharmaceutical naming firm Brand Institute as President in Geneva, Switzerland, where he expanded its visual identity and clinical trial identity expertise while growing key life science, ag chem and animal health clients. In 2016 Kris joined Six Degrees and opened its second location in Chicago. Kris has an MBA in international marketing management from the Thunderbird School of Global Management and a B.A. in economics from the University of Colorado, Boulder.

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