CEO Blog: Branding medical research projects

When I asked myself the question “what’s the most successful brand of all time?” – two things immediately sprung to mind – Catholics and syrup.

I was reassured when doing some googling that I’m not the only one. John Hegarty,  founder of Bartle Bogle Hegarty states:

“…when you want to think about brand… go straight to the Church….the first great global brand. And also how did they get people to think about this brand? They got the greatest artists and musicians to work for them. 2000 years later it’s still going and not a lot of brands can say that.”

It’s a brand centred around belief – something that charities can resonate with wholeheartedly.

In respects to syrup – Not only is Tate and Lyle’s Golden Syrup “officially Britain’s oldest brand”  – it is also recognised by 86% of consumers.

I would argue that the most important part of any research project is the impact that it aims to make. This relates to what the project adds to the current thinking on a given matter and crucially, what difference it’s going to make to patients and clinical practice.

Cue the mission of Bowel Disease Research Foundation – to improve people’s lives through impactful research.  It’s exactly what we are all about.

You could say it’s exactly what it says on our tin.

It might be just my perception, but I’m sure that in the last four years, the medical research community has become a lot more tuned into branding. Particularly in the field of colorectal research.

Notwithstanding the importance of impact when running a research project, the way that piece of research is branded has become increasingly important and plays a critical role in enabling the project to succeed.

I first noticed this with the NASBO (National Audit of Small Bowel Obstruction) audit that BDRF funded back in 2016. Their use of social media to attract centres to join the audit programme along with the branding they created for their final report is a great example of this.

To find out more I spoke to Matt Lee, trainee colorectal surgeon and clinical lecturer– who headed up NASBO:

“With NASBO we knew we had to get people to immediately link the visuals with the project. We thought about this carefully. We picked a font and colour scheme and stuck to it. Now when anybody involved sees teal they probably think ‘NASBO’. We also tried to stick to a tone of communication as well. Factual, accurate, but with a bit of fun. Brands like Virgin Atlantic do this really well.

….And Peter, to correct your assertion above regarding the most successful brands of all time, I think you will find NASBO is also in the mix.” 

So, it’s not all about getting a fancy name a funky logo and a twitter account. Branding goes a lot deeper than the image that you create. It goes back to the impact you are trying to achieve and this, in turn, goes back to the whole purpose of what your project is all about.

If you continuously ask the question “Why is that important?” when setting up your project this will go a long way in helping you devise the foundations of your brand.

Richard Brady, consultant colorectal surgeon and digital guru for the like of ESCP, ACPGBI and NIHR comments….

“Branding – in its simplest sense as an identifying mark, is the ability to sense mission, goals, delivery and personnel from a logo or design and is so important in this age of social media, data obesity and information overload.

People do not have the time and are simply not going to read text-heavy document summaries of a researcher’s greatest thoughts or indeed the minor details of their research.

Journals have evolved and learned the power of the visual abstract in this regard. BDRF’s focus on this to move this up the agenda is so important and should be commended.

Recruitment, dissemination of message and creation of an interested research community is what modern collaborative research is all about and researchers ignore the power of branding to their detriment”

Once you have firmly laid the foundation of the impact your research project aims to achieve – it’s time to turn your attention to your brand.

Developing a brand that helps your study stand out from the crowd will assist you enormously in recruiting both patients and medical professionals to collaborate.

The field of colorectal research has some incredibly amazing examples of great branding. For some time now, I have been mulling over writing a blog article about my top ten. It has proven, however, nearly as difficult as selecting 8 records for my recurring daydream of appearing on Desert Island Discs.

I’m pleased to say that I’ve stopped my procrastination and have decided to nail my flags to the mast.  Below are my favorites of past and present colorectal research project brands.

These are my personal favorites based on brand – in respect to the logo and appearance as opposed to Impact ( I’ll leave this for a future blog article)

I hope that this helps fuel a conversation with patients and professionals. My intention is to help raise awareness about the importance of the work of researchers in the field of coloproctology.

And to get you to ask the question “Why is that important?”

Well, your life could, one day, depend on it.

I’ll leave the last word to Sue Blackwell, a proud recipient of a BDRF grant last year and a patient representative extraordinaire. Sue comments;

“Working in marketing I know how important branding is to a company, and the same goes for research studies. A strong brand will not only make your study stand out, but it will also help you get the message across to those impacted by it, your patients. Gone are the days that patients only found out about research at hospital appointments, now they can interact with studies on social media and ask their clinicians if they can be involved”

It’s not all about a great logo but, like the crucifix and the lion on the syrup tin, it goes a long way in helping to ensure longevity and success.

Do let me know what you think and I’ll also be pleased to hear of any of your favorites not mentioned below.



SupPoRtive Exercise Programmes for Accelerating REcovery after major ABdominal Cancer surgery

Twitter: @PrepareABC

A no nonsense logo that encapsulates the project with a clean easy to understand visual




PregnAncy Outcomes & Experience in Patients with IleoStomiEs

Twitter: @PapooseStudy

A nice play on words with an image that brings the project to life




National Audit of Small Bowel Obstruction

Twitter: @NASBO2017

An excellent example of a report that is well designed, concise, clear and to the point. Highly commended.

Further Information 


Reduction Of Surgical Site Infection using several Novel Interventions

Twitter: @ROSSINI2Trial

Clever and distinctive branding. The SSI (for Surgical Site Infection) really stands out. Although slightly complicated, it draws you in and sums up this multifaceted project excellently.

Further Information 


Can we Save the rectum by watchful waiting or TrAnsanal surgery following (chemo) Radiotherapy versus Total mesorectal excision for early REctal Cancer

I can’t help singing the Spitting Image song when I see this project. My apologies to all involved. Universally renowned in the colorectal world, this project is a cleverly positioned and very well executed brand.

Further Information


Patient preferences and current Practice for adults with STERoid resistant ulcerative colitis

Twitter: @PoPSTER_Study

Bang! Smash! Pow! This logo jumps out of the page right at you. Pop art with aplomb. Love it!

Further Information 


GeneRAtiNg sUrgicaL rEcruiters for randomised trials.

One, just one of BDRF’s most treasured and successful projects. It’s global. It grows on you. It comes to life. Brilliant.

Twitter: LINK

Further Information 


Imagine there’s no bowel disease. Its easy if you try. Spectacular. I doff my hat to you.

Further Information


A placebo controlled randomised trial of intravenous lidocaine in accelerating gastrointestinal recovery after colorectal surgery

This one just sings off the page and takes you away on a musical journey. Simple but sublime.

Twitter: @ALLEGROtrial

Further Information

Number 1




PITSTOP wins the title for me. The imagery used in the publicity and recruitment drives is second to none. Big respect to the people behind this project who continue to wow with their innovative and creative approach to marketing their project.

Investigating surgical options for the treatment of pilonidal sinus disease

Twitter: @PITSTOP_study

Further Information 



Would love to know your thoughts.. what’s your favourites?

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