December 08, 2016

Three Questions to Ask When Determining Your Pharma Brand Name Strategy

Today we are excited to have a guest blog from Joshira Maduro, Verbal Branding Associate at Addison Whitney!

By understanding the general buckets of naming strategies and the scenarios in which these types of names thrive, pharmaceutical companies can hone their naming strategy.  At the same time, these teams can hedge their risk by including options from different strategies, specifically blank canvas, to avoid the need to start over.

When looking into a naming strategy for your product here are a few questions to consider:

  1. Is this drug being marketed to patients or doctors?

The answer to this question can help you hone in on your naming direction.  Is this drug going to air on TV with commercials that say “ask your doctors about __.”? If so, then creating a marketable story through the name will be vital. In that case, an aspirational “risky” name could be a big payoff if it became memorable enough to stay at the top of the patient’s mind. It will be easier to building a remarkable story behind an emotional name than to try to build brand recognition behind a very scientific, functional name.

Blank canvas options can also work well for patient-facing drugs because they can stand out more: blank canvas names will be unlike anything the patient has heard before, which gives marketers the opportunity to build the story behind the name to be memorable. While the drug itself needs to be effective with proven results, a memorable name and story can cause patients to seek it out proactively.    petry-dishes

On the other hand, if doctors are the primary audience, then a scientific name would tend to yield the best result: the doctor can quickly identify the drug and its indication which will lessen the possibility of confusion. Doctors will not be as interested in a memorable story; they are more concerned about knowing that the drug will work for their patient and that they are prescribing the right medication for them.

  1. Is this a first-in-class or a “me too” drug?

Often the naming strategy for a drug will depend on the other drugs that are already in the market to treat the same indication. A “first-in-class” drug uses a mechanism of action (MOA) that currently does not exist. For drugs that are first in class, a scientific/functional name can be an excellent way to stand out while also being a safe name. First, in class would mean that there are no competitors in the same space so look alike and sound alike would not present a significant issue.

On the other hand, when the drug has nothing unique regarding MOA, an aspirational name may be the best route to go. By working with a key emotional benefit, the name can find a way to stand out in a crowded space.

  1. What if my first choice name gets denied by the FDA?

The process of getting the marketing team, product team, and senior level management to agree on a top choice name is already hard enough. But even when they can all agree on the same name, there is still the hurdle of FDA approval to overcome. A thorough screening process can significantly minimize the risk of FDA denial, but there is always the chance that the first choice name gets denied regardless.

To hedge your risk, you need to make sure that there are options for each type on the name in the top 5 list of name candidates: functional, emotional, and blank canvas. In the end, the blank canvas will always be the safest route to go, because it is meant to look like nothing else, but it can be hard to get an entire team on board to adopt a meaningless name.


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