Brand Insights

For Health Science Executives

Life Science Startups: How Much Branding Do You Need?

Life Science Startups: How Much Branding Do You Need?

By Karan Cushman, April 8, 2017

Life Science Startup

Life science startups need great branding even more than the big boys do.

Branding isn’t typically the first thing life science startups think about when launching a company. You may just be starting your research. In many cases you don’t even have a product yet, or are just trying to get to trials. So why is it important for you to establish your brand right away? And what’s the bare minimum you need to get started?

Branding is critical to your survival

Established pharma companies have a big advantage over startups. They already have established brands that are household names. What’s more, doctors and consumers trust their track records. In addition to all that equity, they also have an army of experienced marketers and communicators driving their funding.

Compare that to most life science startups. To begin with, their leaders are more likely to be scientists first and communicators second. But if you can’t talk about what you’re doing in a concise and compelling way, it’s going to be tough for you to get the funding you need.

In short, branding helps your organization build the legitimacy and trust that established players already enjoy. That’s why it’s more important for you than it is for them.

Why a logo and business cards aren’t enough

Many life science startups don’t see branding as their strong suit. That’s okay. But here’s the hard reality: taking the time to do it will make it a lot easier to get the backing you need. Unlike established companies, you can’t prove your value with an existing track record. So no matter how eager you may be to get back to the lab, it’s worth your while to build the story behind your brand.

Logos, business cards, and investor presentations all have their place in a brand identity. But life science startups that thrive take the time to create belief in their story before they ever start thinking about any of those things. Most important, you have to be able to answer simple questions like these:

  • “Why should somebody fund your product?”
  • “What benefits can we expect from your research?”
  • “Why does it matter?”

The beauty of the life science business is that you’re talking about human health. That’s something every human being can understand the value of, even if they don’t have a science background. But this advantage has a downside. Every other life science company is also working to improve human health. That means your message has to stand out in some other way.

“Finding the cure” isn’t enough either

Many biotech companies are stepping away from the idea of finding cures. While the industry remains focused on cures, investors who are already entrenched in the biotech world understand that many small steps may be needed to reach a cure eventually. In addition, there’s a growing sense that extending healthy lifespans while seeking the cure has enormous value, both to healthcare and profits.

Know what your investors want for their money

Investors back life science startups for both logical and emotional reasons. As scientists, we tend to focus on logical motivations, such as return on investment. But emotional incentives like “contributing to something bigger” are often overlooked. That can be just as powerful, if not more so.

There’s also a strong temptation to talk from your organization’s perspective when making the case to investors. But the key to building trust and credibility is to know what’s meaningful to them. You don’t just want investors. You want believers.

We’ve talked a lot about investor personas and messaging platforms in the past, but these two elements really drive a strong brand. They’re especially powerful when they’re concise, simple, and speak directly to the reasons why your business deserves their investment. Together they serve as the foundation of your communications plan by giving you consistent answers to the most common things investors will want to know before they help move your research forward.

How much should you plan to spend?

Simply put, the point of spending money on your identity is to make it easier for your organization to attract more money. The stronger your brand, the easier and faster you’ll get the support you need to move forward. That said, life science startups have a lot of other big concerns competing for their startup capital, notably legal fees.

Be prepared to spend around $10,000 to get your branding off to a good start. And understand this is a “bare bones” number that only covers the basics. That may sound like a lot, but it’s an investment that pays off in the long run. That’s because organizations reap big benefits when the people who are doing the science can communicate the value of what they’re doing in a believable way. In the long run, that’s the most important thing.

For a case study of a life science startup branding package check out ours for Novo Biosciences.

And if you’d like to listen to more on this topic my podcast interview, Establishing A Strong Life Science Brand, with Chris Conner of Life Science Marketing Radio covers steps critical to the success of any life science brand.


Related posts:
Great Taglines Stem from Brand Positioning

Marketing Essentials for Up and Coming Brands

Perfecting Your Pitch to Potential Bioresearch Partners

Do You Need a Marketing Consultant

Brand Equity Boosts Your Life Science Company’s Value


Tagged: Biotech, Investor Pitches, Life Science, Start Up


  1. Betty Cosgrove on April 14, 2017 at 10:49 am

    Great stuff here…you have a new follower! Come down to Brooklyn’s SUNY Downstate Technology Incubator, there are a few potential clients who are at the ready stage for your message and services! Call me at 203.435.1598…..

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