When I first made the leap from academia to marketing in the life sciences, branding was a foreign concept to me, and I had a hard time relating it to biotechnology products. Wikipedia defines branding as “a symbolic embodiment of all the information connected to a company, product or service . . . which serves to create associations and expectations among products made by a producer.” Translation? The best example I can think of is from one of the world’s leading brands, Coca Cola. You see a can of Coke, with its red imagery and logo, and you know what to expect when you pop the top and take a drink. Can you imagine if tomorrow Coke cans came in yellow? Would you expect the same refreshing beverage as you placed the can to your mouth? Probably not, and that’s because you have “associations and expectations” with the Coca Cola branding, which you wouldn’t have with a new labeling of the product.
Why should you care? Branding can be used in a lot of different ways at any sized biotech or life science company. Most consider Invitrogen to be the first company that brought formalized marketing and branding to the life sciences, with a distinct “look and feel,” which was incorporated into their product packaging, newsletters, catalog, and clever, consistent Ads. All of these materials work together to evoke an overall opinion of the company in the mind of the customer. When a scientist opens a kit from a well-branded company, s/he already has an expectation as to how the product will work, and normally this is a good association, otherwise it would not have been purchased.
Large companies normally have a branding style guide which directs them on which colors and fonts to use, layouts for Ads and all communications with customers, and sometimes even a “voice” which describes the style of the verbiage used. These style guides are done by trained branding professionals, and can be expensive for smaller companies. However, smaller companies can take advantage of branding without this large expenditure, by keeping a few key concepts in mind.
Start with a web/graphic designer to design your logo, website, and brochures–there is no shortcut for this, and doing it yourself can be disastrous. While you are at it, have them design some key items that you know you’ll need in the next 6 months, which may include product inserts, fax cover page/letter head, business cards, email blast template, and newsletter. Getting these items now will save you time later, and may also give you a “head start” with other materials you’ll need. I once heard that there are three things that are needed for effective branding: consistency, consistency, and consistency. This rule may be even more important for a small company, as potential customers are looking for clues as to your company’s reliability in all of their communications with you. With some forethought, you can portray a consistent branding message to your customers. When consistency is paired with high quality products, researchers will associate your marketing materials and communications with your products, leading to increased loyalty and purchases. Here are some tips to help you to remain consistent:
- Consider product packaging and inserts carefully. All should be consistent in content and with the brand.
- Utilize a consistent font in all of your advertisements, and communications when it is feasible. This should be part of the package that the designers give you.
- Ask employees to include a company-wide, consistent signature in emails, with all contact information.
- Make sure the company letterhead and fax coversheet are easily accessible to everyone in the company, and utilized.
- Make sure that your voicemail system is user friendly and consistent (you can even suggest a greeting for employees).
- Consider a short training for all employees on the importance of company image and consistency of the brand. You’ll likely find that employees are proud of your products, and are eager to keep the branding consistent, once they understand the importance.
Do you want to learn more about how you can leverage effective branding for increasing market share for your biotech and life sciences products or services? Comprendia can help, contact us to schedule a free one-on-one or web-based presentation, and ask about our Marketing 101™ workshop. This post is part of Comprendia’s Marketing 101 Blog Series, designed to help you grow your business by developing marketing strategies and tactics that work for biotechnology.