1. You have no product
2. You can't make any promises
3. You have six months to promote it
Welcome to the world of patient recruitment for clinical trials.
Patient recruitment as a marketing specialty is a field that's in its relative infancy. Although the parameters described above may sound unachievable, creating an effective and engaging brand for a clinical trial will help drug developers complete enrollment faster and more cost-effectively.
Here are some of the challenges we face every day and how we overcome them.
Brand Challenge #1 -- No Product
Brands are typically associated with a certain product or service. A clinical trial, on the other hand, is evaluating an investigational compound. There is no product available to the general public. The drug most likely doesn't even have a name -- just a series of letters and numbers at this point.
Brand Challenge #2 -- No Promises, yet
A basic tenet of any brand is to make the consumer feel good about the product that he or she purchases. A brand reflects a personality and establishes a connection. It makes promises, for example, "If you buy me, you will feel confident about how you look."
A clinical trial is a strictly regulated scientific venture. Pharmaceutical companies are asking patients to help test a new drug to see if it may be safe and effective. They cannot make promises because they don't know if there will be any benefits to taking the drug (or placebo, for that matter).
Brand Challenge #3 -- The Clock is Ticking
Traditional brands are built over time and evolve to reflect changes in attitude, technology and pop culture. In contrast, a clinical trial is a short-term project. Three, six or twelve months to enroll patients are usually all you have. Direct-to-patient communications need to drive qualified inquiries to participating physician offices as quickly as possible.
Why You Need a Brand for Your Clinical Trial
Given these challenges, you may be wondering if it's worth branding your clinical trial. The answer is, you must brand your clinical trial precisely because of these challenges. Due to limited time, resources and messaging options, you need a brand to transform a complex clinical trial into a memorable, patient-friendly health care option.
Brand Benefit #1: "Feel Good" Factor
You can't make promises, but you can make people feel good about participating in your clinical trial. Clinical trial communications often focus on the clinical aspects, not the human face of research. An effective brand must connect with the aspirations of the patients. Since you can't say the medication will do this or that, you must focus on what its promise may be. Time and again we've seen that clinical trial ads with a positive, aspirational brand image generate a higher response than ads focusing on the problem.
Brand Benefit #2: Speed
Patient recruitment outreach campaigns are best conducted by reaching a targeted population with a high frequency during a short time period. Since response phone numbers and URLs can be challenging to remember, an effective brand reinforces both. Greater brand recall means more people will be able to inquire about the study, resulting in more patients enrolled in a shorter time frame.
Brand Benefit #3: Cost-Efficiency
If more patients respond to outreach because of successful branding, you will enroll more patients for your outreach dollars. Furthermore, enrolling patients more quickly means your clinical trial will be completed faster, resulting in savings on clinical development costs as well.
The world of branding may be unfamiliar and misunderstood for many on the clinical operations side of pharma. But if you want to enroll patients quickly and cost-effectively, it's something to consider for all your clinical development programs.