The Optimal Approach to Clinical Trial Branding: Starting With the End in Mind

Far from a simple exercise at creating a catchy name and pretty logo, clinical trial branding is your single best tool for simultaneously achieving multiple important communication, education, engagement and advocacy objectives — all of which are critical to the success of your trial. Beyond the tangible elements of your trial name and logo, proper clinical trial branding is about discovering and utilizing what motivates (and even what frustrates) your target patients and HCPs and imbuing your trial’s branding and communications with these compelling elements and themes.

In our experience, the most effective clinical trial brands have one thing in common: They start with the end in mind. By this, we mean identifying the objectives and opportunities needing to be addressed that lead to a successful trial, i.e., one that is on target, on time and on budget.

It is important to begin by establishing the purpose for the trials and the situation the trial faces. What are our target patients, caregivers and HCPs facing (in general as well as how it relates to trial participation)? What is competing for their attention? What barriers exist to their participation? How can we best make them aware of our trial? What must we do to be seen as credible? How should we communicate to the scientific community? What and who are our priorities?

More specifically, are we targeting HCPs? Patients? Both? Equally? Also, it is important to understand the approach to trial branding in different therapeutic areas. For instance, oncology trials are much more influenced and driven by HCPs, necessitating a more ethical or scientific style and message than perhaps a trial in more lifestyle areas such as dermatology or birth-control where patients are more the focus.

With these initial questions in mind, we believe that the ultimate role of clinical trial branding is to translate a scientific study objective (from the sponsor company clinical team) into a credible (HCPs) and hopeful (patients/caregivers) treatment opportunity through professional and patient touchpoints. To fulfill this purpose, we need to articulate the trial branding (and here we mean name, logo and brand implementation) through carefully selected and crafted styles and messaging.

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As such, from a branding strategy and style perspective, we believe clinical trial brands should typically fit within three primary styles:

  1. Patient or caregiver-focused: emotive, friendly & approachable, eg. The Brave Trial (Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy) — suggestive of the brave little boys stricken with the disease and their desire to keep going
  2. Balanced between patient & HCP: with both approachable as well as a scientific messaging: The Traction Study (see example below)
  3. HCP-focused: incorporating a scientific message that reinforces MOA and ethical credibility: The Ph+ALLCON Study (for Philadelphia positive ALL) a powerful, credible and targeted therapy

Clinical trial branding begins by identifying the initial trial objectives or title. This is typically a technical and highly scientific description of the trial objectives:

A Phase 2a Multiple Ascending, Placebo-Controlled Study to Evaluate the Safety, Tolerability, Pharmacokinetics, and Pharmacodynamics of GFB-887, a TRPC5 Channel Inhibitor, in Patients With Diabetic Nephropathy, Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis, and Treatment-Resistant Minimal Change Disease (meaningful to clinical and medical audiences)

Then depending on the objectives and targets laid out above, a brand strategy (brand positioning, promise and pillars) is developed that drives verbal and visual branding and subsequent HCP/patient engagement initiatives, for example:

Clinical Trial Name: The Traction Study

A meaningful, approachable and versatile name that works and communicates on multiple levels and to multiple target audiences.

To HCPs, the emphasis on ‘rac 1’ in Traction alludes to the scientific story of its Rac1 pathway activation or signaling leading to the re-localization of the TRPC5 ion channel from the endoplasmic reticulum to the cytoplasmic membrane (also identified in the ‘Tr’ prefix). This message reinforces credibility and confidence while also reinforcing elements of the scientific story.

To patients, the real word traction suggests ‘the support or interest that is needed for something to make progress or succeed,’ which provides opportunity, optimism and hope in the context of a trial or disease state.

The scientific underpinnings of the trial name are illustrated via the logo or visual identity:

The logo design highlights important scientific story elements such as the Rac1 pathway called out by the purple color as well as spotlighting the kidney-focused therapeutic area via the imbedded kidney design within the letter ‘o’. In this case, both the patient and the HCP audiences were considered during the translation of the name into its logo, thereby driving scientific credibility as well as approachability.

Following the development of the visual identity, clinical teams then determine appropriate communication vehicles (PowerPoint®, stationery, brochures, website, etc.) as well as communication campaigns (social, email, etc.) in order to engage with their targeted HCPs/patients.

For more information or help with your clinical trial branding and patient recruiting needs, call us at Six Degrees.

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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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