Inject the Strategy Back into Brand Name Development

With all of the regulatory obstacles we face in marketing pharmaceutical products, it is surprising that one of the most undervalued strategic goals is a truly marketable brand name.  Increasingly, it seems the focus for many teams has shifted to simply getting to a name that will clear the regulatory and trademarking hurdles.  But is that really enough?

In the quest for “a” brand name, rather than “the” brand name, pharmaceutical marketers must often select from a pool of strategically disconnected names.  The term “word jumble” springs to mind.  The search for a memorable and marketable brand name is more than a regulatory task or “stage gate”, it is a key strategic endeavor that will have a significant impact on the success of your brand.

A successful pharmaceutical brand name must sell itself rather than have to be sold.  Great brand names make an instant and indelible connection with patients and practitioners and usually deliver a much better ROI after launch. Adlyxin, Rapiflo, Penlac, and Lunesta are prime examples of brand names which link seamlessly to the products’ respective positioning.

Your product’s brand name embodies the visual and verbal impressions for your brand driving perception and recall. Every advertisement, medical review, tradeshow, detail aid, sales call, prescription, label, website, etc. will feature your brand name. Therefore, isn’t it imperative that the name works as hard as possible to communicate and support your brand’s positioning?

An often-overlooked aspect of a marketable brand name is its importance in the patient-prescriber dialogue. Time and again we’ve seen research results where nearly 80% of patients have difficulty recalling brand names, yet they can recite many of the messages associated with the brands. We can infer that without a seamless connection to the brand’s strategic positioning, the name itself will never find a prominent place in a patient’s mind.

For example, a study we recently conducted in the GI category revealed that in 8 out of 10 interactions, when a patient was recalling the marketing messages for a product, the physician actually prescribed a competitive brand!  Promotional dollars had been spent, the message had been delivered, but the name failed to resonate and stick.  The moral of the story is that without a strong connection to the brand’s strategic positioning, the name itself will never take hold in a patient or practitioner’s mind.

Certainly, this situation presents an enormous challenge for healthcare marketers.

The following are a few tips from our everyday experience that will help expand the range and quality of marketable brand name options while remaining compliant with guidances from regulatory agencies around the world.

#1 – Seek Inspiration from the Brand’s Position

We’ve seen far too many brand name generation exercises geared completely to the development of names based on a mix of attributes and benefits. We recommend generating names that help support a brand’s positioning. A proper brand positioning should make a lasting emotional connection and be focused on owning an unmet need within the market. Simply put, the brand name should be an extension of that brand’s positioning.

For example, Lunesta is a prescription sleep aid. Its positioning focuses on a “Restful Night’s Sleep.” 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. The presence of a luna moth implies gentleness. In essence, the brand name is working hard to drive home Lunesta’s brand positioning. Achieving that key association in a patient or practitioner’s mind is a big reason it is the #1 prescribed sleep aid.

#2 – Do Not Weigh All Attributes & Benefits Equally

Not all benefits and attributes carry the same weight in the minds of your target audience! Be sure you understand which attributes and benefits of your product will work the hardest either in 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 development on those that are the most differentiating and strategically appropriate. Our practice of using the brand’s positioning (or “pre-positioning”) to drive name development makes this task very simple.

#3 – If No Brand Positioning is in Place, Focus on Key Areas of Opportunity

Because of the long trademark and regulatory review process pharma brand name development often begins in Phase II. In these situations, we generally recommend preliminary brand positioning exercises to uncover and prioritize potential strategic avenues for the brand prior to name development. When budget is not available to engage in preliminary brand positioning research, especially for products in early stage clinical development, a market audit should be conducted to highlight key areas of opportunity which can be leveraged. This will enable the development of names that will dovetail with the ways a brand could potentially be positioned. At Phase III when the brand positioning is finalized, the brand team will have a pool of strong, marketable name candidates that already fit the strategic goals of the finalized brand positioning strategy.

#4 – Avoid “Blank Canvas” Names that are Completely “Blank”

The path to Rx brand name approval is full of regulatory challenges.  The last thing your team needs is an unexpected curveball that eliminates the strategically sound options developed.  This is why including a few “blank canvas” name candidates is always a smart move.  However, while these types of names are often seen as having a better chance of clearing regulatory hurdles, that is not always true. Avoid the urge to focus only on blank canvas names for which ‘not running afoul of the regulatory agencies’ is the only criterion. Creation of blank canvas names should not simply be an exercise in identifying novel combinations of letters (enough with the x’s and z’s already). Well-crafted blank canvas names which have no direct link to the product or its attributes can still create a positive emotional impact and should resonate with the positioning through tonality and personality.

The importance of brand names for our products is not in question.  Your product’s name will be its most long-lasting and memorable attribute.  As we are all aware, the path to that great name can be frustrating and fraught with regulatory peril if the process is not disciplined and strategically focused from the start. Focusing on high volumes of names delivered quickly may seem like the expedient thing, but it could cost you down the road. Positioning firms who are adept at brand name development will always go a step further to ensure name options make a connection and send a message that goes beyond the letters.

We must always scrutinize, streamline and evolve the brand name development process with a view to maximizing strategic effectiveness and optimizing brand performance.

Look to the long-game and always be sure the brand name you choose will compete as hard for you as possible.  Your brand is your most precious commodity, why not give it the best chance for success?

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