How Smart Branding and Marketing Can Make Clinical Trial Recruitment More Effective and Efficient

The statistics on clinical trial recruitment are jarring.

Although the majority (75%) of people say they’re willing to participate in a clinical trial1, nearly half (48%) of clinical trial sites underenroll volunteers, and the majority of trials take twice as long as originally planned to reach recruitment goals.2

Applying Branding to Clinical Trial Recruitment

Recruiting for clinical trials is an area where branding skills and experience can make a real impact.

Professional brand-building is designed to create awareness and instill appropriate perceptions, emotions, beliefs and attitudes — something we call PEBAs for short. Regardless of whether it is for a product, a service, a company, an event, a person or, in this particular case, a clinical trial, branding can help.

Branding is the process of creating and managing PEBAs. Unfortunately, too many clinicians and clinical trial managers still associate branding only with the development of a trial name.

A strong trial name is neither the beginning nor the end of trial branding and represents merely one output of the branding process (for further information on the branding process and how it can be applied successfully to clinical trial recruitment, visit our clinical trial branding page.

Applying Marketing to Clinical Trial Retention

Even when excellent branding helps achieve trial enrollment goals more effectively and efficiently, the statistics strike again: Nearly one-third (30%)3 of trial participants on average end up dropping out of the trial.

While there are numerous reasons why (e.g., inconvenient schedules, side effects, fear/anxiety, feeling underappreciated, etc.), the vast majority of reasons are manageable by providing the right information, encouragement or assistance to participants at the right time.

Modern marketing approaches and marketing technology are ideally suited to doing just that.

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Trial apps for smartphones and tablets as well as websites can serve as a central repository for appropriate information. In addition, they are also the ideal backbone for an opt-in, behavior-based campaign of reminders, trial information, appreciation messages, offers of support services, etc.

Marketing automation platforms like Marketo can be used to provide relevant and timely content via email or text messages to trial participants, as well as identify any enrollees who may be at risk for dropping out of the trial based on their responses and/or lack of engagement.

As with any brand, ensuring a helpful and pleasant brand experience is crucial to sustaining brand engagement.

Once you think about clinical trial recruitment in terms of creating and managing a branded experience, you can begin to harness the power of branding and marketing to make your clinical trial more successful.

Of course, all information provided to prospective and enrolled participants must be objective and balanced and free from any medical/clinical claims. But that does not mean it has to be presented in a dull and boring fashion.

With a bit of skill and effort, the scientific and clinical can be made understandable, appealing and rewarding to the population at large.

Ready to discuss your clinical trial project? Contact us today.


  1. CISCRP 2017 Perceptions & Insights Study: Public and Patient Perceptions of Clinical Research (
  2. 89% of Trials Meet Enrollment, but Timelines Slip, Half of Sites Under-Enroll, TUFTS CSDD Impact Report, Vol. 15, No. 1, January/February 2013 (
  3. Bairu, M. and Weiner, M. (2014) Global Clinical Trials for Alzheimer’s Disease. Elsevier, San Diego, CA.

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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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