Branding to Reach New Heights: Thought Leader Select

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March 10, 2011
Thoughts by
The Trig Team

Properly designed logos pack meaning into a visual shortcut

As part of a corporate re-branding initiative that included a revamp of its corporate website, Thought Leader Select engaged Trig Innovation to revisit their corporate logo.  Through Trig’s consultative process, the two parties spoke in great depth about what Thought Leader Select stands for as a research and consulting partner to the biopharmaceutical industry, how they are different from their competitors, and the customers they serve.

Thought Leader Select understood that brand elements such as logos create unique icons that become shorthand for all the positive and negative associations experienced by the customer with that company.  Logos become meaningful as file folders of the minds of customers—they store their brand experiences mentally, using the logo as an instantaneous trigger to recall memories, both good and bad. Thus, icons are a powerful shortcut past language to a deeper emotional connection.  Properly designed logos pack a lot of meaning into a visual shortcut

The first stage was to discuss the brand strategy in terms of a 3C (company, customers, competitors) analysis and determine how that strategy would be expressed in the visual assets.  Thought Leader Select’s marketing team had already done a great job understanding their customers and competitors, through its recent completion of a client feedback survey and exhaustive competitive landscape research, and has developed a strong awareness and appreciation for the people in its own workforce and their respective skills and experiences (the company has doubled its number of employees in the last two years).

Comments from one of Thought Leader Select’s employees, a research manager named Rhonda Napier, stood out in particular during discussions.  The fierce pride within the company came out with comments like “Doctors aren’t a search term. They deserve to be honored and not reduced to a number or data set.”  Thought Leader Select’s employees exemplified the company’s commitment to its core service—identifying and profiling medical experts for collaborative work on new medications—and the industries it serves (healthcare and biopharmaceuticals).  “We respectfully connect companies with the doctors they need to advise them on medical and clinical issues as they bring new medicines to market—the right people for the right reasons,” stated Kristen Smithwick, a vice president at the firm. “We believe that our objective, validated methodology opens up opportunities for more physicians and health care providers to provide their expertise pharma and medical device companies in the ultimate service of public health. “

When asked what brands would inspire the new direction of the company brand, principals at Thought Leader Select loved the modern, clean look of pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer and Eli Lilly, consulting companies such as McKinsey, Bain, and even some art museums such as the Guggenheim and the Museum of Modern Art.  Trig Innovation had to strike a balance in the visual assets’ appeal to both pharma and the medical community.  Previous brand iterations utilized color references for scrubs, white spaces, and a general sense of antiseptic sterility.  After some thoughtful discussion, the antiseptic scrub colors were less emphasized, though the palette couldn’t stray too far away. Trig drew from the bold, dynamic presence of advertising agencies while establishing the brand as a trusted resource that can overcome skepticism.  And, just as importantly, Trig team had to accomplish these goals in a way that amplified the humanity of the highly trained people that assess the research data with a very hands-on process. 

Of particular interest was the competitive landscape data that Thought Leader Select had processed in the months prior to engaging Trig Innovation. Many of Thought Leader Select’s competitors employ a completely different model where they try to evaluate doctors through software and web searches—an approach that simply commoditize the data sets that reflect actual medical careers. These technology-driven companies don’t have the same intellectual appreciation for the medical professionals they are profiling and are prone to missing the deeper nuances that have a big impact on the selection of doctors to evaluate developing medicines.  In example after example, TLS explained the downsides to this approach, making a convincing case that their competitors can’t provide the same depth of analysis or collect the same quality of information.  Its employees, like Napier and her fellow research managers, Lynda Scott and Clarissa Noureddine, have decades of experience in both clinical practice and medical research.

As it turned out, there was already a lot of brand equity in the check mark of the existing logo, which the company had utilized since its initial year in business, beginning in late 2005.  In generating the updated logo, the different versions provided a creative path forward while remaining grounded in the company’s solid reputation.  Successful iterations used the check mark in negative space to allow experimentation with new formats and color fields.

The existing logo had too little emphasis on the word ‘select,’ a word had come to define the company at a much deeper level during its development.  In laying out the typography, the balance shifted to increase the size of ‘select’ while not overwhelming the total composition.  Admittedly, Thought Leader Select is long for a company name, and finding the right balance in text placement presented a challenge.

Images selected for the new company website shared a  striking blue color that did not match the existing logo palette.  The blue stethoscope belonging to one of the physicians in the signature home page image formed the basis of a new palette providing inspiration for the subsequent greens, blues, and browns that would be created and added. 

At the end of the process, both parties realized that the end was just a new beginning—a new beginning for the Thought Leader Select brand, well-positioned for the immediate future, now with a logo ripe for expansion as the company continues to expand its branded suite of services and tools for facilitating engagement with medical experts.

To see the development process from start to finish for the Thought Leader Select logo, please check out our Flickr page.

For other branding identity projects by Trig, check out the Payback Partners case study and the BruVue Brand Identity and Website Design case study and the Miller Pediatric Dentistry case study

The Trig Team

The Trig Team sometimes likes to go stealth. Engage stealth mode.


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