Why and How Clinical Trials Should Be Branded and Marketed

by | Jan 17, 2024 | Clinical Trials

It is widely acknowledged that the most significant challenge in completing clinical trials on time and within budget is the difficulty of recruiting and retaining patients. This challenge aligns with the primary purpose of branding and marketing, which is to attract and retain customers. Consequently, the optimal approach for clinical trials to attract and retain patients is to apply branding and marketing principles and best practices to the realm of clinical studies.


Start with insights.

Similar to commercial products and services, the initial step in recruiting and retaining trial participants involves gaining a deeper understanding of the individuals the trial aims to target, surpassing the medical diagnosis and required symptomology for the trial. For each targeted audience, this entails comprehending their lifestyles, concerns, aspirations, and motivations, specifically in relation to their participation in the clinical study. These insights enable the sponsor to tailor value propositions and trial communications that resonate with each target audience, recognizing that every study appeals to various target audiences, necessitating a nuanced approach for each group.

Ideally, research should also involve engaging with relevant personnel from the study sites to ensure that site personnel act as true facilitators of the trial rather than unintentional barriers for patients.

A parallel between study branding and marketing and that of products and services lies in the value of assessing the competitive landscape. By analyzing and learning from messaging and creative style of competing trials and relevant in-market therapies, the trial brand and communications can avoid being too similar and instead stand out distinctively.

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Craft a clear brand strategy.

Drawing from insights gathered from target audiences and competitive reviews, the subsequent step involves crafting a value proposition for each target audience, defining a competitive position, formulating a study brand promise, and establishing brand pillars. These elements guide the development of creative campaigns designed to recruit and retain patients.

Execute consistently and against the strategy.

Only after completing these strategic elements should the development of a brand name, look-and-feel, and communication materials for the trial commence. This ensures that the study is presented in a compelling and differentiated manner.


Similar to any engagement initiative, a clinical trial must initially understand its target audiences and the competing offerings to make its trial offering compelling and distinctive. Post-enrollment, participants require regular feedback and communications, even after completion, to perceive their experience as highly positive. While functional factors such as trial duration, clinic commitments, and travel are crucial, the true strength of well-branded and well-marketed studies lies in emotional engagement, leaving functional factors for participants to rationalize their decision to participate.

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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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