Blog: Naming Pharmaceuticals – The Real Challenge
08 Feb 2018
Pharmaceuticals are among the most difficult products to name. Partly because there are so many trademarks already registered for medical products and indeed because the prospective market is very often global. And companies would rather use the same name everywhere. This means, apart from involving the trademark registers of 50 or more countries, that the name should be linguistically viable in all those countries and languages. At the same time, the pharmaceutical authorities of each individual country can obstruct local registration of the name. Most companies will also want to register and own the name as a domain name under dot com. And finally, of course, you have to find a name that will be accepted and approved by the people internally involved in the naming process, and very often other stakeholders of the company.
For marketing reasons obviously the name has to have a number of qualities: easy to read, write and pronounce in as many languages as possible, distinctive and memorable. It should also in some way reflect the desired brand image. Therefore an analysis of the proposed marketing profile and other marketing data must be made before the actual name production can begin.
For global prescription drugs in particular, the pharma companies will very often engage external naming agencies to help them develop new brand names. In fact there is only quite a limited number of agencies fully equipped to handle global pharmaceutical naming.
To handle the challenges of a global naming project, the process has to be rigorously planned and take into account all the issues involved, right from the start. In pharma naming, the standard procedure is to start with a list of 1000 or more names, that are then evaluated and sifted down to a final shortlist of less than 30 names. These will be free from any very similar conflicting trademarks, obvious regulatory problems, identical dot com domain names as well as linguistic problems in key markets. Then the names will have to go through a final assessment, where every possible obstacle must be identified. The final assessment will produce a very short list of names that are annotated for any potential problems that still remain. Normally in the end, only a very small handful of the names will be available for the company to actually register, get approved by the medical authorities and make use of.
The mathematics of pharma naming – out of 1000 or more initial names only a few will actually be available for the company to use – mean that whatever qualities you wish that the new brand name should have, you will have to compromise in the end and accept the name or names that are actually available. This is a hard lesson, that, fortunately, many of the big pharma companies have learned. At the same time it opens up the road for original and innovative names, with great brand potential, that would perhaps never have been chosen, if more streamlined and unoriginal names would have been available.
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