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The Importance of Branding for Early-Stage Healthcare Companies

Innovation Forum Interview.

Building brand recognition is a long-term endeavour.

If you're a startup founder looking to attract partners, especially large companies and firms, the way your brand speaks to them is going to drive their first impression of your company.

Even if they don't engage immediately, they'll remember your brand the next time they came across your activities and this is usually key to getting a foot in the door and kickstarting the conversation.

Only then, they'll be able to learn and appreciate everything that is unique about your company.

Spending some time at the start to make sure the first impression fits what you're all about will pay dividends over time.

If you're interested in learning more about how to do that in the right way, without spending months and large amounts of resources, you can watch the interview with Belinda, from Arttia Creative Limited and the Innovation Forum.

Video transcript

Matt Graham:

So, hello today, we've got an interview with Arttia Creative, I'll be talking with Belinda White, who is the creative director. Belinda, try to introduce yourself and maybe give a brief overview of who Arttia Creative are.

Belinda White:

Oh yeah. Hi Matt. Yeah. Nice to be here and thank you for the opportunity for the interview. Yeah. Great. So our clients have one thing in common,

[00:00:30] they have a desire to make the world a healthier place, so we exist to help them achieve that goal via brand identity, website, slide deck, all sorts of communications. So Arttia Creative, we're a design agency and we fully focus on healthcare life sciences. Yeah, so that what's been.

Matt Graham:

That's interesting. So why did you choose to focus on healthcare and life science companies?

Belinda White:

[00:01:00] it's quite a rewarding sector. Obviously, it has an international focus and to make the world a healthier place is a fantastic thing to be a part of and over the years, we've found that we've got a real skill for making those sort of messages clear, adding clarity. So our agency has been running for just over 15 years,

[00:01:30] and a good chunk of that has been focusing on life sciences, biotech, healthcare, and we've found that we've got a real knack for making the messaging really clear, helping develop brands in that sector and really understanding either the audiences such as patients or partners, but also the investor side of things as well. So what are investors looking for from healthcare companies?

[00:02:00]And how can we facilitate those messages and branding and we have a real skill in that area? Our whole team is focused on that, so we have a blended team here of creatives, designers, developers, but also those with a scientific background.

Matt Graham:

I see. So that's a really good overview of what you do. So just taking it right back a little bit, how would you define branding?

Belinda White:

[00:02:30] Yeah, that's a really good question. So branding  is there to, particularly for a startup is to provide them with some difference, to provide them with a way of presenting their personality, their values, what they're trying to achieve and set expectations.

 

[00:03:00] So it's more than a logo, so it can include things like, the values of the venture, it distinguishes you in the marketplace, so if you're a startup, you need to have  a unique identity so that you can stand out and it can empower you to be really unique and original as well.

Matt Graham:

And why do you think it's important for healthcare companies to have a good brand?

Belinda White:

[00:03:30] With healthcare, you're dealing with people's health and wellbeing, so you need to build up a level of trust and also encourage people to want to be reassured and understand how you're going to help them with their healthcare needs.

[00:04:00] So in the healthcare sector, I think it's particularly important to have a really clear, concise brand identity that builds that trust and also empowers people interested in your innovation to become part of that brand and understand it and  feel that they can trust their wellbeing in your hands.

Matt Graham:

Yeah. I guess with healthcare, that idea of trust is really important to your startup. So a lot of what you've just said, that to me is what I would think of as marketing as well, so how do you distinguish marketing from branding?

Belinda White:

That's a really good question. So there is a lot of crossover definitely.

[00:04:30] So for us, branding really  is more about what your company believes in why it exists, the very much the why of your healthcare venture and how the consumers or the investors or your partners are going to feel about you, to me, that's the brand identity, all those values.

[00:05:00] Whereas the marketing side of things really it's more about the strategy of how you deliver those messages,  so the marketing aspect is a strategy to deliver brand awareness, promote those messages, promote the company's products or services, it's promoting the brand.

So they do go hand in hand, but they've both got very different roles. Yeah.

Matt Graham:

[00:05:30] I see. And you mentioned earlier about a brand being more than just a logo, more than just a website. How do you sort of embody what company, what startup  is, what their brand is going further than just a website and a logo?

Belinda White:

Again, that's a really interesting question because unless you're immersed in the design industry that we're in, then people do think immediately that the brand is the logo, but really that's just one aspect of a brand identity.

[00:06:00] So the logo mark or that visual element it's just an element within that, so the brand identity needs to include all the things around that. So the messaging, the tone of voice, your personality, your values imagery, and not just tone of voice, but the tone of the visual communications.

[00:06:30] So the brand can be part of that, the logo can be part of that,  so that includes things like, yes, the typography, the colours, but also tonal value of that visual communications and also imagery, photography and all that copywriting. Yeah, so all that needs to go into the full brand identity, whereas the logo is an element of that, so I hope that makes sense.

So it's just part of the identity, and it's an important part absolutely and it will help build that recognition, but it needs to sit alongside all of those other aspects that I mentioned.

Matt Graham:

Yeah. So the logo and stuff come within the bigger brands from [inaudible 00:07:00].

Belinda White:

They can be very different and that's a really interesting question as well. So it can depend on how that startup's been founded, so it could be an individual, but very often, we find it's a group of people.

[00:08:00] So the startup is made up of, yes, scientists, but also research innovators or people that come can see a gap in the market, so there's very often not an individual founder who wants to head up that, so we're there to represent the whole ventures values.

[00:08:30] But if there is a founder that really wants to lead that organisation and lead the promotional side of things,  we would definitely support that, but I think that's part of the whole package, though.

And their personality can lead the venture, but all those people that you've mentioned there, all those innovators, they do have a strong brand behind them as well to support them, you'll know that brand identity without thinking of that person.

Matt Graham:

[00:09:00] Okay. So that's interesting; I think I've got a good idea of what branding is now and why is it important, but when you think of a startup, when you think of founders, in the early days, it's often running around, putting out fires as desperate as you can.

So why should a founder spend time developing their brands from day zero when time and money are so scarce?

Belinda White:

Yeah, absolutely. That again, that's a really good question.
[00:09:30] So a founder can very often be pulled in all different directions, and I've different focuses, different times of that business journey, but we would encourage the time spent on the brand identity early on for that founder because it will give them a framework on which to move forward and very often it didn't take up a lot of their time.
[00:10:00] We can work with them quite quickly to understand the values of the company, what their uniqueness is, what there "why" is and then we can develop the brand in conjunction with what they're looking for without them having too many touchpoints with us, but equally we want them evolved as possible, but we know busy they are.
[00:10:30] But I think in that process of working with them to develop their brand identity, it really helps them to clarify their messages, their why,  and put that into words or into a visual framework, so that then they can feel confident that they've got a clear message and a clear brand.
And because they're so busy, they'll have a team around them, whether that's a small team or a large team.
[00:11:00] And if they're all part of that brand identity and understand who they're trying to speak to, what their difference is, the clarity of that message, then the whole team have got something cohesive to take forward.
And they're all on the same page, and they can all talk in the same way when they're all meeting in different environments, or they're producing materials to speak to investors or partners; there's a cohesive message that's going through there.
So it's worth a founder spending time doing that, but it doesn't have to take up a lot of their time.

Matt Graham:

[00:11:30] Yeah. I guess that makes sense if they are forced to, well, not forced, but if they-

Belinda White:

They're encouraged to because they take everything out of their mind, their aspirations, the reason why they've created this venture and really put it into a piece of visual communication that really will give them something tangible to move forward with.

Matt Graham:

[00:12:00] Yeah, absolutely, I understand. So you've said there that it doesn't have to take much time, why would you say that it's beneficial for a startup to go to a professional branding agency rather than try and develop that brand themselves?

Belinda White:

As you'd mentioned before, founders have to wear many hats and do many different things.
And when you're developing a brand identity, it does take a certain skill set, and to create one quickly and concisely, it takes a certain amount of experience [00:12:30], and a founder, although they've got many skill sets, they might not have that area of expertise that is needed to put a really good brand identity together.
And really, the founders should be hopefully getting a brand that's going to take them forward many years without having to change that brand or evolve it too much as they move forward.
[00:13:00] The skills like, yes, creative design, illustration,  but also copywriting of messages, really getting that concise information put together so that within seconds, somebody really understands the brand.
[00:13:30] Using a specialist agency is going to provide a wide range of skill sets from the team and also perhaps give a fresh perspective, fresh eye on their messaging  or what they're doing and those creative ideas that come from that, it might produce something they haven't thought of.
Taking things in a different direction can be quite interesting that the founder might not have considered because sometimes you can be a bit too close to something and having that fresh view on it and a fresh team of people looking at that messaging can create something really unique.

Matt Graham:

[00:14:00]Y That's really interesting. So how would you try and tease out from a founder, from a team, what their brand is, and how would that come about during discussions?

Belinda White:

Are you thinking there of what process we would take?

Matt Graham:

[00:14:30] If you're talking to a team, what questions do you ask? How do you probe them to develop their brand? And I imagine they have this vague idea in their head, and you talked about making it a more tangible thing that can sort of rally around, so how do you get the thoughts on that head and make it into a more tangible brand they can relate to?

Belinda White:

We've been creating life sciences brands for many years; we do have quite a clear process for that. And we want to make it a great experience for founders because it's exciting to build a brand; it's really interesting to make sure that they've got that visual identity and that messaging to take them forward.

[00:15:00] We've got a process that we would go through that we would tailor for every organisation, but it would consist of a discovery workshop, speaking to all the stakeholders, perhaps some market research around the area of healthcare that they're looking to commercialising.

[00:15:30] We might look at competitors or indirect competitors and see, do some research there to make sure that they've got a really strong difference and found a story that we can take forward, so a lot of discovery and research.

And then from that, those conversations and the research that we do, we then work to put together a strategy to take that forward and then once that strategy is agreed upon, then we can create the deliverables, which are the things that you would use on a day-to-day basis to promote that brand.

Matt Graham:

Sounds like a really interesting process to me.

You mentioned copywriting a few minutes ago; how should a founder think about copywriting? What is it maybe for those who don't know?

Belinda White:

Copywriting was originally used for printed materials before the internet, so a copywriter could potentially be working on a range of different pieces.

[00:16:30] It could be as simple as a headline for a piece of advertising, which it can take quite a long time to refine a really strong catchy headline to a piece of content that's more of a long-form article for a magazine, so they're different types of copywriting doing different things.

In the internet age, the online space, again, they're different roles that a copy copywriter needs to do, and that includes things like [00:17:00] developing the messaging for the company and making sure that tone of voice is consistent, providing a "tone of voice" guideline document, they would do that as well and also going forward different types of copy for that particular company.

[00:17:30] It could be that they need landing page copy for a website, which is a certain skill set, or it could be that there's a white paper that would need some copywriting to bring out the non-scientific information alongside clearly presenting the scientific information.

But also our copywriters have experience of writing for the web, which includes writing for people that are just going to scan information through to long-form articles on the web but also copywriting for keywords, SEO, and then copywriting for what I call conversions.

[00:18:00] Making sure that when somebody is reading an article, they know what to do next.

Matt Graham:

From what I understood, that makes a lot of sense. Yeah. So I understand now why having a good brand is so useful for a startup, so now I'm just going to focus on what benefits may arise from a startup having a good brand, for example, what role does good branding have in the role of raising capital and getting investment for a start?

Belinda White:

Raising capital and getting that investor interest can be challenging, and we've seen how challenging that could be. And really, the more things you can have, that give you the power to meet that challenge, the better, and brand identity can certainly go towards encouraging investor interest and raising that capital.

[00:19:00]  A solid brand identity will help you as a founder create the presentations that you need, so the investor may have to present information on the particular innovation that they're doing, so the very scientific aspect, but they might also need to create content or a presentation around the business numbers.

[00:19:30] What's the market opportunity? How is the investor going to see a return on that? What size is the market that they're going into? What partnerships do they need to build going forward?

The investors are going to be interested in all of that information, and the founder needs to put that together in a really clear and concise way.

[00:20:00]Having a strong brand identity which includes messaging, copywriting, the values, and tone of voice with all that wrapping around that information, it's going to make it a lot easier for the founder to communicate that value to a potential investor.

It's just going to make it easier for them to present a company that looks like they're professional, they know what they're doing, it just gives that reassurance to an investor that they're serious about that business.

[00:20:30]  If they've considered brand to be more important than the investor, I think would really relate to that because it's going to make them feel like they're going to gain some traction a lot faster if there's a solid brand that in the marketplace can really gain some traction.

Matt Graham:

You talked earlier about having a good brand can sort of rally the team; again, a lot of investors focus and look at the team and see who's in it and what cohesiveness is there, and I guess that can really be built up by having a good brand to begin with.

[00:21:00] Also having a strong online presence can also play a big role in attracting the right talent into a startup, so have you got a couple of examples of where you've seen that happen?

Belinda White:

[00:21:30]  As a startup-up grows and moves forward, they need a fantastic team around them, so whether that's on the science side or whether it's on the product development side, so they need to attract the best talent from around the world.

And what we've found is that candidates and people working in the healthcare sector they're interested in working in really innovative and forward-thinking companies.

[00:22:00] Being part of something early on, being able to help develop and mould that business as part of their job is incredibly rewarding over and above remuneration and what holidays they get. They want to be a part of something really exciting and something that's going to make a difference in the world.

[00:22:30] And if you're trying to attract that sort of talent that's really passionate about moving the business forward, so it's more than just a job.

[00:23:00]  Then presenting a really solid brand, having a stunning website that makes the company fit with those values, a company that looks innovative, exciting, that's doing some groundbreaking things, then a candidate that's potentially got access to an international market, if you really stand out to them, then they're going to be interested in being part of that journey and part of that company.

Matt Graham:

And I guess that starts at where there are fewer people having a good brand that is attractive to any new recruits, is especially important. Just some of the things we've talked about so far, so branding, it's hard to quantify what a success would be, so how would you quantify successful branding?

Belinda White:

Are you talking about quantifying the brand in terms of the impact it's having on the business that sort of thing?

Matt Graham:

If you work with the company and you said, "Okay, these guys have got a great brand, they're doing well, these other groups of people, haven't got a great brand," what are you basing on?

Belinda White:

Having a solid brand identity can be hard to quantify and it does take time.

[00:24:00] There're various ways that we can measure brand impact and that marketing strategy impact; I mean, previously, in traditional advertising, that was quite hard; it's hard to track other than if you were doing customer surveys, et cetera, to measure the brand awareness.

[00:24:30]  I think with the digital age and being able to track and measure things with some real data gives us the opportunity to measure that brand impact, and measuring the brand impact can mean different things to different people.

So does it equate to, has it been successful in raising awareness?

Another measure could be, has it, has the brand been successful in driving sales?

Has the brand been successful in creating that investor interest?

[00:25:00] Those are different data points to measure. And because of the online space, it is easier for us to measure those data points, but I think with a brand identity, you are probably looking at months and years to measure success rather than days or those smaller touchpoints.

[00:25:30] I think the brand success, you should be looking at what's that long-term success looks like and what do you want to measure that against?

Matt Graham:

That's interesting. You talk about some sort of long-term success there over months and years, do you ever see a company change their brand as they get bigger?

Belinda White:

[00:26:00] It can do, yes. I think startup companies in the healthcare space do need to evolve as they get feedback from the commercial side of things as they evolve the type of audiences, the type of people they're trying to reach with their innovation.

[00:26:30]  It could be that the brand does need to evolve, and we have worked on projects where it's been a rebranding exercise. We've taken a company with no brand identity and created an identity based on where they are at that current moment in time, so where are in their journey, and what their vision is for the future?

But because we're very lucky to work with companies over many years, we've got clients that we've worked with for over 10 years.

And during that life of the company, their strategy can evolve, and they might discover new markets that they weren't aware of, new opportunities arrive, and that does mean that they then might have to slightly reposition the brand.

[00:27:00] I mean, if you look at very well-known brands, even like Apple, their original brand is very different to where they are now, but it does have some history and heritage there that you can follow that journey.

[00:27:30] We definitely work with companies where over time, their brand will evolve, and it will be refined and enhanced and incorporate the new things that they might discover about the marketplace that they're in and bring that to it.

[00:28:00] And it could be that the corporate brand remains the same, but their products or their services might end up then having a sub-brand or brand or a product brand that sits within a brand family that is supported by the corporate brand. So things can evolve definitely.

Matt Graham:

It's more sort of like fine, fine tweaks instead of reassessing the foundations.

Belinda White:

Very often, it's not a full change; it's definitely something that evolves over time, and that's the best way forward, really, is to evolve the brand because that's why it's important to spend some time on it at the start because you build up some brand recognition.

[00:28:30]  Some people will start to get familiar with that look and feel of the brand, whether it's the logo or the tone of voice or the messaging, and really, you don't want to lose that brand equity going forward; you want to build on it.

The ideal is to evolve the brand so it's got a natural journey that it's been on that you can bring your customers with you on that journey.

Matt Graham:

That's good, could kind of go a full circle there starting it. Why branding right now, and then how that evolves over time. But we're just going back to the present a little bit just to finish off, if a founder is watching this now, and they're wanting to build up an online presence, what advice would you give to them?

Belinda White:

[00:29:30] I would definitely say that it should be critical for their strategy going forward.

They are going to be pulled in different directions and have different priorities, but working on brand identity, that whole process is going to deliver so much value going forward because it'll give them some clarity.

We think it's a priority within the framework of what they're working on, so we would say, yes, you need to get that focus early on, and it will really help you drive those business decisions going forward.

[00:30:00]  Once you've got a clear identity and a set of values, they're in front of everybody; it's not just a thought in your head or an aspiration, it's been defined, and the whole company's on board with that, and you've got a really clear direction then.

[00:30:30]  I would say it would be a priority early on, and the sooner they can get started on that, the sooner they'll gain some real momentum that we can track and measure and have a story that investors are really going to get excited about.

Matt Graham:

Cool. Brilliant. Well, that makes a lot of sense and is very useful for people I've watched, I'm sure. Belinda, thank you very much for your time.

Belinda White:

Thank you. It's been a great pleasure.

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About Belinda White

Website consultant, digital strategist and award-winning designer with over 30 years’ creative industry experience. Creating successful brands, digital and print campaigns for UK and international clients. Creative industry experience includes design for GSK, Nike, BP, Shell, P&G, Marks & Spencer, Kings College, Master Foods, Co-op, Argos and Sage to name a few. Specialist experience in Life Science and biotech web design, SEO and digital marketing.

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