A confrontingly human brand for Psygen
Psygen is a manufacturer of pharmaceutical-grade psychedelic drug products for clinical research and therapeutic applications.
"Truly a great company that has lighted and shaped our brand digitally and beyond."
For generations, “drugs” have been taboo. Emerging from the taboo space of psychedelic medicine, the efficacy of psychedelics in treatments for conditions like depression, anxiety, and a long list of other mental and physical health issues continues to gain validity through research. With scientific breakthroughs in the field and the prospect of legalization, the market is full of potential. Consequently, it is also noisy with companies looking to cash in on the opportunity.
Psygen, the Calgary-based manufacturer of pharmaceutical-grade psychedelic drug products for clinical research and therapeutic applications, had all the makings of the perfect startup: passion for the cause, expertise, and access (their Clinical Research Advisor also served as the Chair of the Board for MAPS Canada, one of the largest and most successful psychedelic research non-profit organizations), and it was time for them to claim their position with impact, but they needed help.
When Psygen approached Skyrocket, the founding team had been longtime advocates of psychedelic research in medicine and knew the right language to communicate with their peers in the space. They’d created a basic logo and pitch deck and even hired a writer to create a brand manifesto. Still, they found themselves struggling to really distill who they were visually and verbally. They were experts in their own field, but they were scientists and researchers, not brand strategists, designers or marketers.
The founders knew a strong brand would be crucial to their success and that it was time to invest. It didn’t make financial sense for them to expand their internal team, so they brought in a full-service digital agency — Skyrocket — to take care of it all. They’d loved the brand work Skyrocket had done for Numinus, a client in a similar space, and trusted us to guide them in the right direction. With Skyrocket handling the brand, website, and marketing, Psygen’s team could focus their energy on product development, relationships, and securing funding, so they could continue to grow.
Diving into our strategy for Psygen
At Skyrocket, we know that how we think differentiates us from our competitors. These questions and concepts were key to our strategy for Psygen:
- Who is the target audience today? How long will it be before psychedelic medicines are made available to the general public? How long will it take for them to become commonplace?
- How do we cut through the noise in a market bubbling with newcomers and misconceptions?
- The public already associates psychedelics with complex visual imagery and bright colours all together in overwhelming compositions. How do we seize the opportunity for visual storytelling while addressing dated perceptions— without falling into the visual trap of the tie-dyed aesthetic of the 1960s?
- What makes a strong brand name? How does an audience perceive PsyGen?
- What are the near-term business goals? What is the vision?
Finding the line of best fit — Managing time and resources, staying flexible
For Psygen, our Minimum Viable Brand process made the most sense. In this process, we deliver everything an early-stage company needs to raise funds: a cohesive brand, clear messaging, and a web presence. We applied our time-tested frameworks for brand development and delivered the following:
- Value proposition design - discovery workshop and value proposition canvas
- Brand identity - including key messages and visual identity
- Brand toolbox - Digital assets, lean usage guidelines, company pitch deck
- Landing page complete with lead capture
Our team presented, refined, and finalized deliverables, and in three months, Psygen had everything they needed for take-off.
Psychedelics + medicine, solving a branding puzzle
Conveying “what they are” and “what they are not”
When investor interest in psychedelic medicine and healing grew, too many startups sprouted, mostly piggybacking on the hype of cannabis and hoping to score a big IPO. Psygen is not that. They are chemists and scientists who believe these molecules are needed to improve the state of humanity and have the skills and ideas to make it happen. Psygen needed a brand that would reflect their life’s work — they were the veterans in a room full of newcomers — and the brand needed to convey precisely that. To raise the millions in funding and to garner investor support for their cause, Psygen needed to set themselves apart and be taken seriously. These experts in their field needed a brand and messaging that would signal leadership, passion and their ethical stance.
The power of one word as a brand - “Psygen” not “PsyGen”
Originally noted as “PsyGen,” the company name came from combining the words “psychedelic”, and “generation”. The brand name needed to be more than the sum of its parts, so we dropped the uppercase “G,” turning it to “Psygen.” As a new word, Psygen will define something much larger than its roots and be recognized as a brand name, not a compound word.
Dark and sunny - Telling the complete story with light and dark
The visual identity brought in a few key elements and strong application of colour theory.
The twist on the P of the wordmark represents the idea that there is no need to upend the current medical establishment. It just needs a slight tweak. We can achieve this by acknowledging and building on a technology that has been used by humans for hundreds of years. We need to gently twist how we currently think about health and healing.
The dark, brooding image of the young person who appears subdued. This is by design. So many of the psychedelic startups use colourful imagery and beautiful landscapes to represent the state of mind that can be achieved, but fail to address the elephant in the room — the conditions we’re treating, depression and anxiety. Psygen is committed to solving this problem, and it’s a big one, so we made sure the problem was present in their visual identity. Tying the brand to a patient’s current state would be a powerful visual differentiator.
The primary orange colour helps to contrast with the dark brooding image and is meant to feel warm like the sun. The secondary colours are also inspired by nature, so no colour in the brand feels unnatural. Overall, the palette evokes a feeling of comfort.
Value Proposition Design
The psychedelic space is complex. A key challenge for Psygen was educating their audience on how important it is to have a psychedelic-specific drug manufacturer instead of the typical large drug manufacturers producing psychedelic compounds for treatments. We shaped the value around Psygen’s commitment to humanity — a value that not all companies in the pharmaceutical space share.
Key messages for today
While Psygen’s long-range goal was to produce psychedelic medicines to be used in treatments for patients suffering from a number of conditions, we knew it would be many years before they'd be able to actively target the general public. If we were going to foster change, we needed to target the changemakers, so we shaped the messaging to target clinical researchers and investors. If Psygen could obtain contracts selling medical-grade products to researchers and get them on side, they would be involved in the regulatory process and would be in a strong position as the drugs receive approval in the years to come.
Authentic, elevated and ready for take-off
When it came to Psygen’s brand, website, and marketing, they came to Skyrocket because we know how early-stage startups work, their challenges and how to help them to compete in the market and capitalize on the opportunity before them.
Psygen was equipped with marketing tools they could send out to their network and had a renewed confidence in their company and big purpose. Suddenly, this mission they had set out on was more real, and they could prove it. Showing up authentically with a world of experience, empowered them to pitch their business to investors with confidence. Fellow manufacturers and businesses in their community took notice and voiced their approval, praise, and overall relief that the new Psygen brand was taking the industry in the right direction — it could help change prevailing perceptions of psychedelics and usher in a new way of working for those treating depression, PTSD, addiction or simply interested in elevating the human condition.