Your Brand Name is a Message

With all of the regulatory issues we face in marketing pharmaceutical products, one of the most forgotten strategic goals is a MARKETABLE brand name. It seems that at times the goal for many teams has shifted to a process of just getting to a name that clears the regulatory hurdles. Already I’m sure the red flags are going up in your mind, but for a team in the midst of an approaching launch this is the harsh reality.

Being that our product’s brand name is going to create the visual and verbal impressions for our brand, it’s imperative that the name works as hard as possible to communicate and support the brand’s positioning.  Every ad, medical review, tradeshow, sales rep, prescription, label, website, etc will feature your brand name. Constructing a strategically appropriate name can save significant promotional dollars while also avoiding confusion and prescription misinterpretation. Yet, an often-overlooked aspect of a marketable brand name is its importance in patient-prescriber communication.

Time and again we’ve seen research results where nearly 80% of patients have difficulties recalling brand names, but can recite many of the messages associated with the brand.  When the patient has learned about a product via DTC ads then asks their physician about the product they will recite these messages.  The physician is then left to guess the name of that brand. (I experienced this recently). With so many options in so many therapeutic categories, the chances the physician will select the same product the patient has requested is minimal. As an example, one study we conducted in the proton pump inhibitor category revealed that in 8 out of 10 interactions, when a patient was reciting messages for one product, the physician actually prescribed the competitor!

Certainly this situation presents a huge challenge in healthcare marketing. But there are a few tips that can help expand the range of options we have for a brand name while remaining compliant with guidances from regulatory agencies around the world.

#1 – Seek inspiration from the brand’s position:

We’ve seen way too many brand name generation exercises geared completely on developing names using a mix of attribute and benefits of the product. We recommend generating names that help support a brand’s positioning. A proper brand positioning should be emotional and focused on owning an unmet need within the market. With that, the brand name should be an extension of that brand’s positioning.

For example, Lunesta is a prescription sleep aid.  It’s positioning hones in on a “Restful Night’sSleep.” The main attribute/benefits are that Lunesta helps you fall asleep AND stay asleep. Clearly, the name Lunesta is intended to communicate the concept of nighttime, alluding to the moon, which most would associate with sleep and peacefulness. In essence, the brand name is working hard to drive home Lunesta’s brand positioning. Making that association is a big reason it is the #1 prescribed sleep aid.

#2 – Do not weigh all attributes & benefits equally:

Be sure to understand which attributes and benefits of your product have the most value in either supporting your brand positioning or connecting your product with an unmet need in the market. Many attributes can be seen as cost of entry or irrelevant to prescribing so focus brand name development on those attributes and benefits that are the most differentiating and strategically appropriate. Again, following our practice using the brand’s positioning to drive name development makes this task very simple.   

#3 – If no finalized brand positioning is in place, create brand name candidates on areas of opportunity:

We understand that in many cases pharma brand names are being generated as early as phase II as a result of the long trademark and regulatory review period. Ideally in these situations we recommend conducting preliminary brand positioning exercises to uncover and prioritize potential strategic avenues for the brand prior to name development. We understand that the budget is not always available to engage in preliminary brand positioning, especially with products in such early stages of clinical development. In these cases, a market audit should be conducted as part of the brand name immersion phase highlighting key areas of opportunity within the market. This will allow for development of names within the many ways a brand could potentially be positioned. Then, when a brand positioning is finalized, the pharma brand team can choose name candidates that best suit the strategic goals of the finalized brand positioning strategy.

#4 – Avoid “Blank Canvas” names that are completely blank:

Rx brand name approval is full of regulatory risks.  The last thing your team needs is a curveball that eliminates the strategically sound options developed, which is why including a few “blank canvas” name candidates is a is always smart move.  These types of names are seen as having a bit more success in clearing regulatory hurdles, although that is not always true.Just because a “blank canvas” name has no direct links to our product or its attributes does not mean it should be void of any form of connection.  These names can still create positive impact and should resonate with the positioning through tonality and personality.

The importance of brand names for our products is not in question.  However, we must further scrutinize the brand name development process with a view to maximize strategic effectiveness to optimize brand performance.