Creating a clinical trial brand: Where to start?

Companies invest in branding—whether for a clinical trial or a commercial product, a service or company—for one reason and one reason only: To improve the odds of success for their offering. For clinical trials, success typically means enrolling and retaining the required sites and patients on schedule. And branding works: At Six Degrees, we have seen acceleration of patient enrollment following trial branding and marketing as high as 650%. So, how does branding accomplish this? Simply put, branding a clinical trial consists of activities that make the trial credible and compelling to your target HCPs and patients while differentiating it from competing trials and other messages that vie for your audience’s attention.

Where to start with clinical trial branding?

At its heart, branding is the strategic process of building and managing perceptions for your trial among your target audiences.

As branding is about managing perceptions, it can help at virtually any time during clinical testing. For example, in Phase I, applying branding to your scientific story, your MOA animation and your PowerPoint deck will create perceptions of sophistication and quality amongst your early clinical/scientific and business/financial target audiences. Ideally, by Phase II, you are conducting some target patient research to understand their needs, wants, barriers and opportunities that your trial and your trial communications can and should address. But, even if your Phase III trial has been recruiting for a while and the progress has been less than expected or desired, trial branding can be applied to get enrollment across the finish line successfully. Of course, as with most things, starting early makes for more success.

Regardless of when you reach for branding to drive your clinical trial to greater success, the critical elements required for that success will always be the same.

Discovery

The first step in the branding process is to understand the environment in which the trial will seek to enroll HCPs, sites and patients. This includes understanding what patients and their caregivers are going through, what competing trials are communicating and what existing therapies are offering and not offering patients. This information, combined with your aspirations for the trial and asset, defines a perceptual “white space” for the trial that is subsequently formalized in the trial’s brand strategy and brought to life in the brand identity.

Strategy

Based on Discovery efforts, the trial branding process next develops a competitive positioning for the trial as well as identifies the value propositions for each of the trial’s target audiences. A value proposition is a concise articulation of what the trial participant will get out of the trial that Discovery has demonstrated to be motivating to them. In addition, brand characteristics (known as “pillars”) are developed to help with the creative execution of the trial brand that follows. Brand pillars are the key perceptions and values the trial seeks to build in the target audiences. Finally, the brand promise is a short, memorable phrase that sums up the power and value of the trial in a handful of words.

Verbal & Visual Identity

Once the Strategy has been developed and agreed upon, the next step is to create a powerful verbal and visual identity for the trial. Your trial name will be the all-important vehicle to concisely and impactfully communicate your trial to multiple audiences. It will be used in place of the often long, cumbersome, and scientifically focused title and will differentiate your trial from competitive trials in the category while also being more ‘user-friendly’ and approachable. The visual representation of your name (the logo) and the look and feel of the communications materials for the trial are important in that they should accurately represent the unique positioning of your trial and motivate targeted audiences to learn more about and enroll in your trial. Thus, the linkage from Discovery and Strategy to Brand Identity should be clear and direct.

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Outreach Campaign

The final element in clinical trial branding is the actual outreach to HCPs, sites, and patients. Using modern marketing techniques and technology to engage these target audiences with well-branded and well-messaged communications is the culmination of the trial branding process and the one that should now “move the needle” on achieving your success metrics quickly and strongly.

Conclusion

Taking the first step in this type of process can sometimes be the most daunting, but with a strong understanding of the process above as well as the requisite time and resources, an effective brand can be developed and implemented. In return, your trial will present with a consistent, coherent, and considered identity that will aid in your enrollment, outreach and educational objectives and ensure your trial delivers.

Regardless of where in the clinical process you start, the power of branding to create effective perceptions in the minds of your target audiences is clear. When you’re ready to tap into this power, Six Degrees is ready to help you harness it for your trial(s).

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Frank Schab
An experienced marketing and branding strategist, Frank has been helping clients optimize the value of their brands through insightful analysis and effective strategy for more than three decades. Along with holding positions at General Motors and Pfizer, Frank served as a Managing Partner at Interbrand New York and VP of Global Brand Research at Opinion Research Corporation before co-founding Six Degrees. His brand-building work in various sectors including hospitality, medical device, pharmaceutical, automotive and technology has taken him to 17 countries on four continents. Frank holds a doctorate in psychology from Yale University and speaks fluent German.

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