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Clinical Trial Branding: 5 Mistakes to Avoid

by Carol Moshier

As we’ve discussed in this series, branding a clinical trial is an important step that can impact enrollment. Study branding begins with a comprehensive campaign incorporating an identifiable logo, appealing look and feel, and consistent messaging. Effective branding will differentiate your study from other trials and establish an identity that is recognized and inspires confidence.

Avoiding the following five common pitfalls will help make your trial stand out, and make the path to patient recruitment a smoother one:

1. Unprofessional visuals

It is tempting and personally satisfying to design your own logo. But a professional logo is essential, since it is likely to appear on all materials, and is also the first representation people see and the last thing they remember. People think visually, so an effective logo must be memorable for the right reasons.

Your logo created by a professional designer will have standards that define the color palette, visual style, font size and style, and usage requirements. This information can then be used to set a tone of consistency and competence throughout all of your study materials.

A logo that lacks professional polish sends the message of inexperience, or worse yet, an unintentionally negative image.

 2. No study name or shortened study title

Official study names are complicated, lengthy and difficult to remember. They are impersonal and not immediately recognizable to patients, study staff or internal sponsor employees.

Due to limited time, resources and messaging options, a study brand needs to change a complex clinical trial into a memorable, patient-friendly health care choice. Developing a catchy study name and a shorter more relevant study title makes your study more recognizable and approachable, and it promotes brand recognition with study sites.

Carefully select a memorable study name that says something about your study and will make your study stand out.

 3. Duplicate names

Choosing a study name that has already been used for multiple studies with the same or similar indication can easily lead to confusion and negate the benefits of your branding.

When deciding on a study name, explore several options. Vet each option to ensure that the study name isn’t used for similar type studies, isn’t the branded name of a medical device, drug or facility, isn’t trademarked, and isn’t a medical term or the name of an organization.

4. No proper vetting in foreign markets

If your study is global, make sure you carefully vet the study names for cultural context in all study languages and countries involved. A famous example of an international branding mishap occurred in the mid-1990s when home computers were new, and for many potential customers, intimidating. Panasonic, a Japanese company, wanted to find a way to make their new touch-screen computer seem more approachable. Executives made the decision to use the cartoon character Woody Woodpecker for the theme of their new system. They named the device “The Woody,” its touch screen “Touch Woody,” and its automatic web browsing feature “The Internet Pecker.” Panasonic was unaware that this posed an issue until the day before they launched. That’s when an American staff member let them know those terms carried unfortunate slang connotations in the U.S.

If an issue is discovered before the materials are developed, the final formatted materials can be changed to remove and/or replace the offensive text or image. With careful vetting; time, cost and embarrassment can be avoided.

5. Reactive approach

Proactive sponsors know up front that there are inherent challenges to the way the protocol is designed and to the way that they will have to execute the study at the site level. They have also taken the time to understand the patient and caregiver perspectives, and factor that into the type of support the study requires to be successful. Planning ahead and having a comprehensive branding program prior to the study start will optimize patient recruitment, and keep the trial top-of-mind at busy sites.

Waiting until there is an enrollment crisis to begin branding a study is a costly decision. A study branding and recruitment program requires about two to three months from concept to initiation. If you wait until enrollment is faltering, you have lost important days, weeks, and months. Time is money in clinical trials.

These marketing mistakes can keep your trial from being a priority for sites and prevent it from inspiring interest and confidence in subjects. This can all contribute to less than optimal recruitment numbers, costing valuable time and money.

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