Advantages

Case Study: Brand Launch

A biopharma startup gets the word out before its drug hits the market.

The Pro

Name: Chris Faris
Title: President & CEO
Distributorship: Boost Promotions (asi/142942), in Gloucester, MA

The Sale

Dollar Value: $10,000
Client: A clinical stage biopharmaceutical company
Product: Apparel and hard goods

The Promotion

When one of Chris Faris’s clients first approached his team for guidance with its marketing strategy, he knew the company had to get creative. As a Cambridge, MA-based clinical stage biopharma startup with plans to launch a new drug in 2018, the pre-revenue company had no product or official logo yet to market. But that didn’t mean it was too early to promote themselves as an up-and-coming player on the pharma scene.

Faris knew one of the company’s directors from her previous job, and once she decided it was time for a brand strategy, she gave him a call. Faris scheduled time to talk with her about the company’s long-term objectives, rather than what they thought they might need at the moment.

“I asked about their company, their mission and vision, so we could figure out how to grow together,” says Faris. “We pivot with clients as they grow, offering different programs. It’s all about looking to the future.”

For their initial promotional push throughout 2016, the company and Faris agreed to work on the branding of the company itself, since an official product won’t be available until next year. They decided on a variety of apparel and hard goods available for both small meetings with clinicians, investors and potential patients and their families, as well as employees’ personal use. The branded merch was used to educate prospects on the company’s objectives with their forthcoming drug, which will treat a relatively uncommon central nervous system disorder.

“Because it’s a small demographic of potential patients, they need to get their company’s name out there,” says Faris. “Raising awareness of the brand first is very important.”

In the first phase of the promotion, Boost provided a variety of items: apparel, Bluetooth speakers, beach chairs, towels, can coolies, golf balls and more, all at quantities from about 100 to 300 pieces, depending on the item’s cost. This way, says Faris, their product portfolio was diversified with on-trend products. Suppliers represented in the mix included Gemline (asi/56070), Sweda Company LLC (asi/90305), Par One (asi/75912), Pro Towels (asi/79750) and Hit Promotional Products (asi/61125).

“We wanted data behind the items,” he adds. “Our client stored everything at their facility, and then the items were given away as education pieces both internally and externally. We pushed them toward items with mass rather than niche appeal, and we ordered lower quantities so there weren’t a lot left over. Then we had reorders throughout the year as items were given away.”

By the conclusion of the product push at the end of 2016, Boost knew which products were the best-sellers. For 2017, the distributor was planning the second phase: taking the most popular SKUs from the first round, adding new items and launching an e-commerce site that Boost will continue to manage. Boost will warehouse all the items, and employees will be able to log in to the site to make purchases for both marketing and personal use.

“We have to expand with them,” says Faris. “The office closet isn’t enough anymore. Now, when employees order from the site, we can track who’s using which products. We’re very conservative on quantities, because you can always add more, and we’re very proactive on product trends.”

The Takeaways

  1. Show clients the importance of branded merchandise.
  2. Be creative with measuring product ROI.
  3. Use reliable, responsive suppliers.

Listen to This

GimletMedia’s compelling StartUp podcast details the real struggles in getting a business off the ground. The first season dove into Gimlet’s journey, while the latest series follows the exploits of controversial American Apparel Founder Dov Charney as he launches a new company. Listen here: