How to think about clinical trial branding

…And why it’s worth doing right

Clinical trial branding. It’s a key element in helping optimize perceptions for a given clinical trial. But why is it so important?

First, let’s look at the broader landscape.

I was speaking with a friend and former clinical client recently from a small biotech company about the changes going on these days in clinical development and how dynamic, competitive and fast-moving the industry is today.

The two of us had previously worked together on a pre-commercial initiative for an exciting new asset he was championing. One of the debates we had back then was about clinical trial branding, and whether his team should be investing in that, when the reality of his asset actually making it to market was in some question. With all the other expenditures the clinical team was facing, and management’s reluctance to ‘soft spend’ early on, they decided it was an unnecessary expenditure at the time.


Clinical trial branding – today

Fast-forward to today and he shared with me that our discussion was something he had not taken lightly and, in fact, had thought about over the intervening years.

His asset had continued to progress and Phase II/IIb data subsequently supported continued advancement to Phase 3. Alas, the clinical trial for his asset required a large number of patients. Time-to-market was getting shorter, and competition for patients was, in a word, fierce. The company proceeded as best they could, but the reality was, they faced significant recruitment challenges, and as typically happens, some patients failed the screening process. It took much more time to reach enrollment goals, making the trial take far longer than expected and, thereby, delaying product launch.

Today, launch delay revenue losses are estimated to range from $600,000 – $15,000,000 per day. You do the math! We are talking many, many multiples of the modest investment in trial branding in lost revenue. These are tough losses for any company to absorb, let alone a smaller organization with just one or two assets in their pipeline and nothing on the market.

Which brings me back to my primary point. Clinical trial branding and patient recruitment tools and campaigns are critically important to a successful product launch. But these are not separate or mutually exclusive components that, on their own, will help drive enrollment and retention. Rather, the power lies in creating an integrated trial branding system with associated patient recruitment tools and campaigns that together provide a comprehensive and strategic tool kit for success.

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More than “just a name”

Unfortunately, many clinical and pre-commercial professionals still think of clinical trial branding as just a name or an acronym of the trial title. In fact, a more contemporary and progressive view of clinical trial branding is a strategically developed, integrated system of branding, messaging and communications that allows you to build a relationship with patients and caregivers who have choices to make. After all, good branding is not just a naming or design exercise, but a coordinated effort to instill desired perceptions and motivate desired behaviors in a given target audience.

Professional branding in the clinical trial phase is critical to overall asset progression, approval and launch. Trial branding will help you compete for difficult-to-reach patients, bring the science to the world in an understandable fashion, build credibility in your product and prepare your asset for eventual launch. It is therefore vitally important to invest in clinical trial branding and recruitment tools as early as Phase 2 – in fact, they should be part of your get-to-market strategy and planning.


Building patient relationships

As my friend later told me “I shouldn’t have looked at this as an expenditure in an uncertain asset, I should have looked at it as an investment in creating a communication and education tool to build relationships with patients and help attract them to our opportunity”.

In the end, he was right. The comparatively minor investment in proper clinical trial branding they decided against led to a longer trial, missed deadlines and delayed launch…and millions of dollars of additional costs and missed revenues.

So don’t wait! Apply the power of branding to your clinical trial efforts now. Our clinical trial branding programs at Six Degrees have resulted in recruitment gains of 160%-690%.

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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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