Steve Madden, GM and MM+M editor-in-chief, spoke with Brannon Cashion, Managing Partner at Leaderboard Branding, a Fingerpaint company, and Roshawn Blunt, Managing Director at 1798, a Fingerpaint company about how taking a few early steps in the commercialization process can set a brand up for long-term success.

Madden opened the conversation by asking about the right time to start engaging partners for bringing a product to market.

“In the last ten years we’ve seen companies start the process earlier and earlier,” said Cashion, referring to naming, branding and thinking about messaging and scientific lexicon. He cited the issue of drug safety when it comes to naming. “Medication error does happen because of name confusion, when a retail-dispensed product has a similar name to another product. Or, say, a pharmacist misinterprets a doctor’s handwriting.”

“Naming is actually a big concern with the health authorities,” said Cashion. “A lot of research goes into breaking down how syllables fall, how names are intended to be pronounced versus how they actually would be pronounced.”

This is where an early start can help market access, too, Blunt pointed out. “It’s important from both the regulatory side and the payer side. If there’s medication error, the cost falls back on the payer to deal with the associated challenges.”

When Madden asked what things should be considered early in the process, Cashion replied, “Many times people don’t think it takes much time to get from point A to point Z. If we’re naming a clinical trial, some might say oh, that only takes a week or two; they think it’ll be easy to push the core team’s recommendation through the rest of the organization. But executive teams and extended teams take a lot longer. And if there’s a speed bump, such as a health authority rejecting a name, you’re adding months or potentially years to the process.”

“And time is money,” Madden interjected.

“Time also affects downstream activities,” added Cashion. “If you don’t have an identified brand name for your product, many things have to wait: packaging, labeling, logo, colors, collateral, go-to-market strategy and messaging. That can jam up the pre-launch, launch and approval activities.”

Madden asked how a product’s specific elements can impact how you’d advise a company on going to market or seeking access.

Blunt said one of the first thing they consider is patient demographics. “Is the product trying to serve an older population? Are there ethnic propensities to be aware of? What do these patients go through every day? How much do they have in their bank accounts? How difficult will it be for them to access this? From there, I try to understand the marketing implications. Because if a patient in need can’t get to therapy, that’s critical to their health.”

“One of the most rewarding areas is a product in a rare disease where there’s no current treatment,” said Cashion. “That inspires how you might name a product, or bring messaging or disease state branding—you want a logo and color palette that are more patient-centric. We encourage our clients to think about the patients as much as they think about the brand.”

When Madden asked Blunt how she builds market access into early stages of development, she replied, “You should be thinking about market access as early as phase two. It’s a question of what you’re building in, what data you’re capturing in clinical trial designs.” Blunt said thinking about market access is just as important as thinking about getting past the FDA. “If you weren’t actively thinking about the information you need to capture, and how to turn that data into a story for payers, we might have to start later than we’d want.”

“And what do you hope a potential client takes away from this conversation?” Madden asked.

Both Cashion and Blunt said they hope the conversation encourages potential clients to start engaging naming and market access experts earlier in the process.

Cashion mentioned that many activities point in the same direction. “Years ago, a company would have one group doing access, a group doing naming, others doing communications, scientific language, pricing, consulting. Now, companies make sure they’re informing all of these work streams, and having different complementary activities going on, versus keeping them siloed. When you weave a collaborative team early in the process, you’ll prepare your partners—whether they’re advertising agencies, PR firms, KOLs—and you’ll have an organized message and story to tell.”

Blunt agreed, saying, “Having multiple minds thinking from different ways gets us a much better result.”