Do Rx Brand Names Correlate With Commercial Performance?

Do Rx Brand Names Correlate With Commercial Performance

In the course of our work, we are often asked if a correlation exists between high performing Rx brands and trade names with meaning.  

Experience told us the answer is “Yes!”, but we thought we would should confirm our hypothesis with some scientific research.

OptiBrand Rx compiled a list of the 58 top performing Rx brands.  The list included the Forbes 19 all-time best-selling Rx brands plus 39 high performing brands based on consecutive annual sales vs. the industry as whole.  

We highlighted the meanings of the names we developed and then leveraged our industry realtionships to confirm the meanings of the names we did not.  We inferred meaning from the remaining few names.  In the end, six were left without a perceptible meaning (blank canvas).  

We found that 90% (52 of 58) of these brands possessed a brand name designed deliberately to represent and convey a specific meaning and/or emotional connection.

These top selling pharmaceutical brand names can be classified into one of five broad categories:

1. Descriptive of Product Attributes
Example: Crestor.  A double entendre with Crest implying it is ‘the best’ at restoring normal cholesterol levels.

2. Alludes to Product Composition
Example: Janumet (Januvia +metformin). Linking the base brand (Januvia) with metformin so that prescribers immediately understand what this antidiabetic combination contains.

3. Conveys a Non-Clinical End Benefit
Example: Abilify. Alludesto the ability to live life again.

4. Alludes to the Indication
Example: Eylea.  Conveys that this product is an ophthalmic agent. 

5. Associated with Imagery
Example: Invega.  Associated with a bright star.  In this case the brand name is chosen to communicate positive values. 

When the top 58 names were indexed against the key attributes of brand communication described above, a valid correlation between brands that outperform and those which have a meaningful brand name existed.

To us, this is not a surprising reveleation.  It has always been our point of viereww that development of a pharmaceutical brand name is more than a regulatory exercise.  Regulatory approval is table stakes!  A brand name must be an extension of the brand strategy and while positioning usually comes later in the process, a name that dovetails seamlessly with brand positioning is always less costly and more effective over the lifecycle of the product. 

We concluded that, while a meaningful name will not in and of itselfmake your brand an instant blockbuster, it can be a strong catalyst in unlocking a brand’s true commercial potential by unifying the brand’s perception and reducing mental complexity.

Meaningful brand names have a tendency to be more memorable to HCPs, patients, and caregivers, avoiding confusion in written and verbal communication. Further, it’s safe to conclude that meaningful brand names that align with positioning strategy effectively reduce advertising and promotion expenditures.

What does this tell us?

For years, pharmaceutical marketers have been led to believe the biggest risk in brand naming was regulatory rejection, which some would have you believe should be the ultimate focus of brand naming endeavors. 

Understandably, one can’t promote an Rx brand name without thoroughly vetting name safety and obtaining regulatory approval.  However, that approval should be considered ‘table stakes’and not the sole measure of a successful healthcare brand naming initiative. 

The marketing impact of your brand name should be a major driver in name selection.

With over 72,000 Rx brand names in the FDA databases - and nearly twice that number in the Health Canada databases - plus some 17,000 new Rx trademarks filed each year, developing a great brand name isn’t easy, but it must be done. Why? Because in today’s highly competitive marketplace Rx brand names must work smarter and harder than ever before.  

A deliberately strategic brand name has the opportunity to transcend word jumbles and traditional conventions to work harder and smarter for the products they serve. Incorporating the commercial component of brand naming should always play a central role in the development process and add its value in a way that does not subtract from the safety of the name.  

Admittedly, that is not always easy to do, but our research would seem to indicate the pay-off can be substantial.

How do names worker harder in the marketplace?

Beyond regulatory fit, well-concieved brand names provide context, make a connection, have meaning or can be associated with a related fact that prescribers can remember. Strong associations also make for safer names with low likelihood of confusion with other brands.

In our experience, names with an inherent meaning that is relevant to the product also tend to score higher in metrics such as memorability, ease of spelling, ease of pronunciation, general likeability, fit to strategic concept, fit to therapeutic category, and fit to product profile.

The greatest risk is creating a name that diminishes the brand’s commercial potential.  

At the end of a decade-long research commitment and a billion dollar investment to deliver an Rx product to market, the brand name had better align with positioning, differentiate your product and resonate with prescribers so they can clearly identify the right patients, the right dosage, and the right time to prescribe your product and maximize overall commercial success.

Why is getting the brand name right so important?

It is the one aspect of your product that is least likely to change over the product’s lifecycle.  The brand name will generate billions of impressions each time it is written, read, spoken, or heard. Thinking in those terms, a brand’s name should be seen as one of the most important brand assets your company owns. 

In summary…

While not the sole driver, there is a high correlation between a meaningful brand name and commercial success.  Your brand name provides context for your product in the minds of prescribers.  Associations derived from your brand name help increase memorability and accuracy in prescribing / dispensing.  

As the one aspect that is the least likely to change over time, getting brand naming right is much more than a regulatory endeavor.  The brand name must be seen as an extension of your brand’s positioning and a key component correlated to its commercial success.

If any of this resonates with you, we’d love to share more of our point of view. 


At OptiBrand Rx, we are passionate about uncovering unarticulated tensions and understanding the emotional triggers that underpin Patient and Prescriber behaviors and we have developed tools to translate these triggers into clear, singular and emotionally connected strategic brand positioning and powerful trade names.  We were established in 2006 with the singular vision of providing deep, unbiased  strategic vision to maximize commercial opportunity for healthcare brands.  We believe that brand success equates to better access and improved patient outcomes.  OptiBrand Rx has provided strategic vision and guidance for 10 of the 20 highest performing healthcare brands.  Our experience ranges from orphan to blockbuster products and includes virtually every therapeutic category.