Branding vs. Marketing

by Vaughn Anthony

Welcome to our blog series called Branding Your Clinical Trial. Let’s begin with definitions to make sure we understand each other. Branding is the distinctive identity created for a product, and in our case, the product is a clinical research trial. Think of your trial as a who, or a what.

Right now your trial is likely a series of letters followed by a series of numbers. Your company might decide to leave it right there and move on to patient recruitment. However, a trial can be more than numbers, letters, an indication, and a study medication. Your trial can take on a distinctive identity through branding, which can make it more appealing to potential participants and breathe life into patient recruitment.

Branding is distinct from marketing, which is the actions you take and the tools you use to promote your study. However, branding and marketing are not two separate creatures; there is marketing found in branding, and branding is found in marketing.

Branding is what the end-user will perceive. Think of the five senses: sight, smell, hearing, touch, and taste. Another sense of perception to consider harnessing is emotion, or feelings.

Branding also includes the customer experience, which can encompass everything from the study name and study logo, to how a site interacts with potential and enrolled patients.

Branding very often evolves, and this can happen intentionally through your own tweaks and changes. But like a child you send out into the world, you don’t have full control over the results. Customer perceptions take on a life of their own. Think of the New Coke disaster. In 1985, The Coca-Cola Company changed the formula of its beloved Coke, thinking it was a smart move and time to do so. However, brand-loyal customers revolted and executives quickly returned to the earlier formula and admitted defeat. New Coke no longer exists, but the brand is stronger than ever. New Coke is a lesson of a marketing disaster, flat with no fizz.

Customer-driven brand evolution isn’t always bad news. A more recent example is McDonald’s and its relationship with one of its popular products, Coca-Cola. McDonald’s has processes in place to make sure its Coke is the freshest of any restaurants. Customers noticed, and McDonald’s then launched a campaign to advertise that fact. McDonald’s hasn’t given up on advertising burgers and fries, but who would ever have expected them to boast about Coke?

Back to branding in clinical trials — in this series, we will chiefly be addressing study naming, study logos, and the look and feel of materials. Practical information will be shared that you can apply to successfully brand your next study and make it stand out.

Please check out the other blogs in our series: Content Meets Design: Bringing Your Project to Life and Selling Your Ideas to Stakeholders: 6 Tips for a Smooth Approval Process


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