cdisc website design

In a crowded market, it can be tough for brands to find whitespace. Identifying an ownable market positioning while maintaining brand authenticity is infinitely harder — but doing so is imperative for a brand’s ongoing success.

Our client, CDISC, was facing this challenge. CDISC began as a grassroots, nonprofit organization determined to develop and advance high-quality data standards for clinical research. Thanks to its devoted community of volunteers and members, CDISC enjoyed organic, global growth for years. However, things accelerated when the organization received unexpected recognition from leading regulators around the world — including the U.S., Japan, and China. Seemingly overnight, CDISC had matured from a volunteer-run organization to one recruiting a full-time staff to keep pace with its important work.

Catapulted into the global clinical-research spotlight, the organization found itself in uncharted waters. As the brand worked to navigate through its next chapter, it faced several critical questions: How would the CDISC brand mature to match its newfound level of authority? What role could it fill for its audiences? And what fundamental truths about the brand would always remain? Answering these questions led to five key insights about brand authenticity.

1. You can’t be all things to all people.

Without a formal staff focused on brand messaging and consistency, CDISC had flooded the market for years with a slew of topline messages, taglines, and catch phrases — all devoid of a unifying concept. From fear-inducing ads to chest-beating claims, CDISC’s muddled messages needed to be focused and filtered for its target audiences. It had to identify the one thing — that single, core idea — that both elevated its true value to its audiences and maintained brand authenticity.

For CDISC, this concept was ‘clarity.’ The organization works to simplify the complex. Its standards help uncover critical connections between disparate data sources. And the powerful impact this has on clinical research was clear. To help CDISC bring this concept to life, we developed a short brand anthem video that articulated its mission and goals, and engineered the new brand to align both internal and external audiences around this central idea of “Clear data. Clear impact.”

2. Know your role — and own it.

While the professional and personal benefits of CDISC were numerous, few were ever explicitly conveyed in its materials. To help the organization get in touch with its value proposition, we went straight to the sources that know it best: the staff, clinicians, and academics in CDISC’s community. Listening to individual anecdotes, we learned that CDISC was overreaching in its role and claims.

There was general consensus that the implementation of CDISC standards are a necessary first step in the development of clinical research or drug trials conducted in several leading countries. But could the organization credibly claim its role in unlocking cures and saving patient lives? Not according to the people in its target market. Though they agreed that you could ultimately draw a line from a research lab to a patient’s bed, there were too many intermediaries across that healthcare spectrum for this message to resonate with them. Moreover, it still didn’t speak to how CDISC helped them in their day-to-day work.

Turning to Carl Jung’s twelve archetypes, we explored the authentic role the CDISC brand can, and should, credibly claim. Because it was known for convening a community of industry-leading professionals around the world and facilitating the sharing of critical ideas, the “Sage” archetype was a clear winner for the brand. This identity leveraged the organization’s broad-based knowledge into a benefit it provided to others: CDISC standards fuel greater clarity so you can have a greater impact.

3. Use the voice of your people.

The face and voice of a brand matter. Every word and image will be scrutinized by the market, so bringing a brand to life requires careful consideration. Finding an authentic voice can assure the brand stands up to this scrutiny. If your employees and followers are passionate individuals with a strong sense of purpose, let them tell the brand story. Turn them into brand ambassadors — there is no more authentic way to showcase the soul of an organization than through the words of the people who truly believe in the brand.

Using case studies and testimonials throughout marketing materials and within a website is a great way to leverage your people. Not only do these explicit examples and quotes provide the proof a brand needs to credibly highlight its value, they also showcase audiences who are engaged, loyal, and feel positive about the organization. Encouraging these stakeholders to both re-share the brand’s social content and post on its behalf is another effective way to marshal the troops. During branded events, from smaller employee gatherings to larger industry conferences, encourage staff and attendees to promote everything from company culture to exciting insights.

4. Don’t just tell, show.

The organization’s annual conference, CDISC Interchange, brings healthcare professionals together to learn more about and question the organization’s approach to defining metadata standards. These are the people who are not just using CDISC’s standards day-in and day-out, but are also helping to develop, advance, and implement the standards in research labs around the world. Over the course of three days, we filmed interviews with them, tapping into their experiences with the brand and encouraging them to speak openly about how CDISC enabled and benefited them.

This video content highlighted the amazing diversity of CDISC’s global community. This small but mighty organization has attracted individuals with a wide range of expertise, perspectives, and passion — all united by a single purpose: to drive more efficient and meaningful research. Each person provided real-world examples of the impactful work they were able to do because of CDICS’s standards. From advancements in Alzheimer’s and anti-malarial research to finding meaningful connections between trials taking place in disparate countries, these stories were crafted into rich video content that authentically showcased the people and the impact behind the brand.

5. Be yourself.

Authenticity matters to audiences. And delivering that requires tapping into those ownable, repeatable truths that are woven in the brand’s DNA, the elements that underpin the organization from day one. For CDISC, its collaborative community was not just central to the organization’s important work, but was also the key to smoothing its transformation and inspiring confidence. By tapping into this community, it built its new brand on authentic storytelling that engaged a whole new wave of believers.

To learn more about creating brand authenticity, contact us.

Leyah Farber - DeSantis Breindel employee

About the author
Leyah Farber is a Director of Brand and Content Strategy at DeSantis Breindel. With an insatiable curiosity, she loves exploring everything from new countries and cookbooks to digital ecosystems and brand storytelling.


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