Innovating All the Way to Acquisition for CNS Pharmaceuticals

From inception to acquisition, a St. Paul, Minn., pharmaceutical company needed a marketing partner that would evolve, adapt, and innovate along with their product offering. Olive & Company became this partner, lending strategy and creative direction to each phase of their brand journey.

Founded as an answer to the pharmaceutical market’s need for a more pure, convenient way of producing and packaging a treatment for spasticity, CNS Therapeutics made innovation their mission from the day they launched. With a sole focus—intrathecal baclofen production—clearly defined, the company positioned itself to break into a market that had grown stale with a competing product that hadn’t been improved upon in years.

In 2007, the ingenious minds at CNS Therapeutics launched the first product, which delivered the baclofen in sealed vials as opposed to traditional glass ampules that had to be broken before physicians could administer the therapy. This updated product was not only more convenient for physicians, but also safer for patients. In the subsequent years the CNS team continued to deliver on their mission of innovation with additional concentrations and prefilled syringes. Within five years of launch, the startup attracted attention from the pharmaceutical giant, Mallinckrodt. By 2012, Mallinckrodt had put an offer on the table that CNS couldn’t refuse.

Challenge: Keeping up with the Innovation

A dream client, CNS Therapeutics gave Olive the opportunity to showcase a product that was light years ahead of the competition. And while this made aspects of our job relatively easy, our partnership with CNS also introduced some unique challenges. The first of which was establishing a brand that was as innovative as the product itself, starting with the name. This first challenge was compounded with the urgency often associated with getting inventive products to the market before competitors catch wind.

As CNS continued to build upon their groundbreaking products, our marketing partnership deepened with the introduction of each new launch. We would have to take the brand through three full innovations, introducing the new concentration options and prefilled syringes after the initial product launch. The first product iteration meant educating an audience who had been using the same product for years, if not decades. And while that first launch entailed the largest learning curve, each subsequent launch would require an educational component.

Naturally, each challenge we faced was further complicated with the stringent FDA regulations around pharmaceutical marketing as well as the hard-to-reach nature of the medical community. If CNS was going make a dent in this market as a new company, the Olive team would need to come up with some revolutionary ways to break through.

Solution: Inventive Enlightenment

When the CNS Therapeutics team first engaged with Olive, we knew there was little time to waste. Our team dove deep into the therapy, establishing an understanding of its history, the current marketplace, the audience we would need to reach, and exactly what set the product apart before branding CNS as a company as well as the therapy. Once we knew exactly how to position what we christened Gablofen, the team established an identity that was then carried through to labels, collateral, and a microsite. All of which satisfied the strict FDA guidelines.

So pleased with the success of the first product launch, CNS continued our partnership into the launch of an additional concentration. Our team employed some creative lighting techniques and a drastic color pallette shift to showcase the new formulation as the Goldilocks of the product line—a concentration that was just right. Once the new product was clearly positioned, we developed the Drug Supply Guide, an educational piece physicians could keep at their desk to determine the best concentration for their various patients’ therapy programs.

With the introduction of what would be CNS’ final product, Olive worked to develop a tagline that succinctly summed up the latest feature. “Good to go” perfectly described the prefilled syringes that would further simplify Gablofen administration for medical professionals. Our design team carried the dark color pallette established with the previous product launch through to the new materials, leveraging a pearlescent finish that allowed the product photography to pop.

With the entire product line carefully defined, we were able to focus our attentions back on the Drug Supply Guide, which we determined would need to be updated to further reflect the innovation CNS brought to the table. We took the concept of the first guide and brought it to a digital platform with an interactive, engaging, and easy-to-use app that would allow physicians to customize patient dosage according to their own treatment preferences.

Results: An Irresistible Market Share

Over the course of our extensive marketing partnership, the signs of success were undeniable. At conception, CNS and Gablofen had a zero percent share of the baclofen market. Within five years, their innovative products paired with our carefully executed campaigns and initiatives carved out a 45 percent market share for the pharmaceutical startup.

This rapid expansion and near dominance of the marketplace made CNS incredibly attractive to multibillion dollar pharmaceutical companies. One such company, Mallinckrodt, made a $100 million buyout offer, which was accepted in September of 2012.