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Written by Robert England, PhD | Uppsala
on September 09, 2022

What drives scientists? What really motivates them? If we understood this better, the messages we transmit to the scientific community would be significantly different. A headline in a traditional fact-based marketing campaign in life sciences might read “this instrument is X% faster than that instrument”.

Go deeper than the purely technical and it might change to: “You have this problem in the lab and this widget will help you solve that problem”. However, this still only talks about the single benefit to the individual or the collective benefit to the lab. It’s based on the concept of utility. Let’s go a level further.

Communications can focus on the facts (specifications), benefits (solving a specific problem), or motivations (emotional truths). Which works best with scientists?

What are some of the true human motivators for scientists? Achieving something that has never been done before; revealing new insights; highlighting new methods of exploration; coming up with an original idea. We believe that the most successful scientists pursue such goals.

Can a brand sway a scientist?

The trend is getting stronger for life science and technology companies to do more interesting things with their branding and communications, and to speak to the emotional motivators of scientists with their messaging.

Jenoptik rolled out refreshed brand identity with clarified values, which was encapsulated in the company's tag line: More Light.

Many of our clients want to clearly express their raison d’être. This is where the journey begins of establishing their brand. We have to help people to clarify, or even get them to ask themselves the question, “Why do we go to work every day?” What do we want to do with our lives? What are we trying to do with our work? These are central questions to branding, addressing the purpose of the organization.

Silk Road Medical innovation allows vascular surgeons to address carotid artery disease while reducing the risk of stroke and side effects:

These might be expressed in the company’s vision and mission statement. Getting these statements to reverberate, to be credible and motivational, means you should get them as close as possible to the company’s true DNA. Otherwise, they are just so many words.

Read more: Seven things scientists won't tell you about how they choose products, goods and services

Nurture a science brand worth trusting

Perhaps the most crucial quality of a brand is that it must be authentic. Scientists are wary of overstatement; they appreciate truth and proof. Anything artificial in the brand will undermine confidence in it.
To achieve an authentic brand, it’s essential to get to know the company and their science. This requires knowledge to understand the business, to pinpoint their true value, and to understand the environment in which they operate.

Getting the organization’s brand right requires constructive creativity – to create a dream or a vision of the future that is unique to the organization, easily understood, achievable and valuable. The goal is to create a brand that scientists can believe in, and that they want to associate themselves with.

Here, an exercise in value propositions is important. Consider three types of value propositions:

  • Functional. Value propositions can be functional; these are propositions that you can probably attach a number to. For instance, samples analyzed/hour, bases sequenced/minute. These may be factual, but they are hardly ever the propositions that make a scientist choose a brand.
  • Emotional. Then there are emotional value propositions, which are very important to the scientist. These may be related to all the aspects listed above: empowering discovery, benefitting humanity, improving health and knowledge.
  • Self-expressive. And not least are self-expressive value propositions: what their choice says about the scientist. This can be very relevant for many life science brands like Illumina, Zeiss and Eppendorf, where the brands speak of a certain status.


Branding at its best does just that: it defines an authentic set of propositions that attracts scientists to invest in them. Everything the organization does and says, should be true to the value proposition. It should impact every single communication that the organization releases. This is the true meaning of being ‘on brand’.
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