Clinical Trial Branding
A common misconception is that branding is only for commercial products.
However, branding is merely the strategic process of creating and managing perceptions, emotions, beliefs and attitudes (or PEBAs, for short) around a product, service, organization, activity or person.
When you imbue a clinical trial with PEBAs that are meaningful and compelling to the targeted participants and transcend the clinical and scientific attributes of the trial, you are, in effect, branding your trial.
At Six Degrees we have branded many clinical trials and seen how branding can increase patient enrollment and retention by as much as 680%. Why does this work? The simple answer is that people make decisions about brands based on how those brands make them feel, and then use facts and data to justify their decision. That is, in a nutshell, how people make decisions. Accordingly, if you want to influence how people make decisions—and persuade them to participate in your trial—you need to manage those PEBAs.
Listed below are seven of our top insights from branding clinical trials.
For each patient group your trial is targeting, understand what patients are experiencing physically, emotionally and socially and then develop a compelling value proposition for each group. This can be done through direct primary research with patients and/or their caregivers, as well as in consultation with the appropriate disease-focused foundations and activists. On the basis of those patient insights, craft a unique value proposition for each patient group from which to drive primary messaging about your trial that will, by definition, be motivating to each patient group. The value proposition will also inform the visual creative.
Example: Trial for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD)
After researching the barriers, concerns and motivations of caregivers to boys with DMD, we realized that the trial communications needed to create a sense of hope for extended muscular function and patient mobility among the boys (without overpromising) while simultaneously acknowledging the courage the boys and their parents exhibited in the face of this difficult and ultimately deadly disease:
Value Proposition: Brave Trial
To: pediatric clinicians, parents and caregivers of, and boys with DMD
Who: are motivated to help demonstrate a hopeful new treatment with a well-known side effect profile
Our: promising new Brave clinical trial
Provides: the opportunity to determine whether an established product,
when used earlier in the course of DMD may increase mobility
and improve quality of life
Based on the same insights as #01, develop a set of “brand pillars” for your trial. Brand pillars are perceptions you are trying to create in the minds of your target patients and Health Care Providers (HCPs). These pillars, along with the value proposition will drive the creative expression of your materials. We typically develop 3 pillars, one for the personality of the trial brand, one for the offering or benefit of the trial and one for the nature or style of how the trial brand interacts with people.
Example: Trial in Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy
The value proposition and brand pillars are developed jointly with the client team during the brand workshop based on the patient and HCP insights. These pillars, together with the value proposition then guide the development of communications materials to patients:
A new and potentially better treatment for DMD
Rare Disease – DMD
A fully-integrated trial branding strategy, name creation, logo design and implementation of the brand across multiple applications, including caregiver brochures, website, posters, patient branded awards/giveaways, etc.
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Develop a meaningful and memorable “handle” i.e., (name and logo) to aid all stakeholders, rather than a scientific title that will only alienate patients and caregivers. Your trial name and logo should be appealing to and user-friendly for your target patients. Beyond the name and logo, a trial-wide look and feel should be established and adhered to, in order to maximize trial awareness and recognition.
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A Phase 3 open-label, controlled, randomized, multicenter study evaluating the efficacy and safety of StrataGraft skin tissue in promoting autologous skin tissue regeneration of complex skin defects due to thermal burns that contain intact dermal elements and for which excision and autografts are clinically indicated
A Phase 3, Randomized, Open-Label, Multicenter Study Comparing ponatinib Versus imatinib, Administered in Combination With Reduced-Intensity Chemotherapy, in Patients With Newly Diagnosed Philadelphia Chromosome–Positive Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (Ph+ ALL)
A Phase 3 Randomized, Controlled Study of AAV5-RPGR for the Treatment of X-linked Retinitis Pigmentosa Associated with Variants in the RPGR Gene
Create a consumer-friendly trial website. This website should serve as the central repository for trial information and resources, but also function as an active tool in the recruitment campaign as well as for ongoing communications with patients and trial sites, using modern, multi-channel marketing technology platforms like Marketo®. The trial website can identify which communications are most effective and which issues are of most interest or concern among patients, caregivers and clinical site staff to help you optimize communication and, ultimately, patient retention.
Example: Trial in Pulmonary Sarcoidosis
After the development of a trial brand strategy (value proposition, competitive position, brand promise and pillars) and brand name and logo, web portals were created as the foundation for all subsequent communications during recruitment and retention of trial participants:
Based on the established look and feel for the trial, build a ready-made system of interconnected communications pieces to assist sites and CROs in driving enrollment across different channels. Develop communication templates as needed, allowing for customization by trial sites and continuously monitor that all communications are properly branded. The principle here is to provide anyone who needs to communicate about the trial with an easy, “off-the-shelf” solution to avoid the “frankensteining” of trial communications.
Example: Trial in Philadelphia+ Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia
Sample templates for trial sites to customize for patient recruitment while maintaining a consistent brand look and feel for the trial to maximize recognition and brand image:
In your communications, appeal to patients’ sense of satisfaction and pride that comes from participating in the scientific process for improving human health. People want to feel they are adding value beyond their individual lives and contributing to the greater good. Far too few trial communications leverage this powerful motivator.
For example: After interviewing patients within a specific disease state, we discovered that many felt they were doing well with current therapies and were, therefore, less interested in participating in a clinical trial. However, further discussion revealed that patients were motivated by messaging that emphasized their role in the scientific process to help advance therapy for future generations, informing trial messaging for patient communications:
Align your trial brand early and continuously with appropriate disease area foundations and other patient advocacy groups. Trial sponsors and patient advocacy share the goal of making patients lives better through disease modifying therapy. Increasingly, these advocacy groups have become more active and are pushing upstream into R&D efforts like never before. As such, they are often a powerful ally in recruiting and retaining patients in clinical trials.
Example: Trial in Pulmonary Sarcoidosis
Collaborating with the Foundation for Sarcoidosis Research, we designed multiple automated drip campaigns to a highly targeted, opt-in list of sarcoidosis patients. The emails encouraged potential patients to visit the study website to find a trial site near them. As a result, trial enrolment per month doubled and exceeded sponsor goals.
These are our most important tips for making your trial brand more successful. Some other tips that should not be underestimated include using the trial branding process to galvanize excitement and increase support inside the organization, as well as increasing funding potential through a more sophisticated and credible-appearing asset.
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Headquarters | Scottsdale, AZ
Director, Client Engagement
International | Zürich, Switzerland
Managing Director, Europe
+41 78 207 99 22