It seems so easy, right? “Let’s simply whiteboard some brand names,” some might say. But the stakes are high. Since the emotional impact of a brand, product or service line name will influence stakeholders who come in contact with it, the rationale must align with and enhance core differentiators. Plus, a trademark needs to be available. Many healthcare and medical marketers don’t initially realize that many of the most obvious of names are already taken, not to mention all the other factors crucial to a successful naming endeavor.
Key Steps for Naming Success
Over many years of experience in branding, naming and identity initiatives for healthcare organizations and companies with a medical focus, we’ve seen it all. This includes companies who have approached us after experiencing a brand hangover due to online naming generators, C-suite randomization, internal contests, IT department defaults and beta project name holdovers. We usually get the call from prospective clients after the realization sinks in that a working name for a $40 million product has no strategic value. All these scenarios are the brand equivalent of “Wheel of Fortune,” and in no case should the future of any organization, product or service be left to chance by a hasty, haphazard approach to naming.
Naming health and medical brands is much more complex than many clients initially realize. Three primary areas must be integrated for naming success: the Art of Naming, the Science of Naming and the Emotion of Naming–all sharing a common thread with the Guiding Principles of the Name. Each area requires its own specific type of research. Ideally, we follow these steps from an objective perspective to create a brand name that is competitive, resonates and has lasting impact.
The Art of Naming
The Art of Naming is the fun part! This is the glory stage that takes the limelight, but in reality, it is just one of several steps related to naming success. Although it is a creative process, the “art” is really about being able to craft a right-brained solution for a left-brained challenge.
First and foremost, it is important to understand the core reasons behind the brand name, which we learn via a discovery-based form of research for answering a multitude of questions. What are the business objectives driving this effort? What are the creative naming solutions for communicating this? Getting even deeper: How is the competitive marketplace affecting this? What are the brand messages, the brand personality, brand position and value propositions behind the brand ― and how can we artistically conceive a name to address this? How will this name bring to life the spark of your organizational culture and communicate this to your target audiences? These elements are crucial to naming, since these factors lay the foundation for the name. To be successful, we need to uncover how the brand is differentiated, but then equate it to a verbal encapsulation in the form of a name. This is especially relevant for health and medical brands due to the complexity and importance of their offerings and the competitive nature of the category — all requiring an imaginative approach to naming to best differentiate.
Guiding Principles of the Name
Once a brand strategy is established, we can begin to build a framework for what the name needs to achieve. Our process at Maricich Health includes aligning the brand strategy to the Guiding Principles of the Name. These principles are the directional “dos and don’ts” that must be considered at each step of naming. For instance, a company may need to have a short medical product name to support doctors, nurses or other healthcare professionals (HCPs) who don’t have a lot time to type long product names into electronic medical record (EMR) systems. Is it relevant, easy to say and spell, and will it be quickly visible on pull-down menus and via search engine queries? Other Guiding Principles could factor in the names of your competitors. For example, you would not want your name to be too similar in cadence to your core rivals. When we take clients through naming, those Guiding Principles become the checklist for what we aspire to see in the final brand name. For reference, the following is an example of Guiding Principles for a healthcare system client of ours at Maricich Health that we engaged to develop an organizational brand name:
Guiding Principles of the Name (health system example)
- Short name
- Easy to get and understand
- Not a 3 or 4 word name
- Cannot sound like competitors (e.g., Presence or Essence — cannot end in “ence”)
- Simple and straightforward
- Can be real or made up (just not too pharmaceutical sounding)
- Right vibe (high energy, short, positive, reflective of who we are)
- Cannot be a silly name or a reach, shouldn’t have to explain
- Perceive us as high energy
- Give a feeling of innovation and beautiful facilities
The Science of Naming
Furthering the quest for left-brained rationale, the Science of Naming supports the business-oriented part of the naming process via various forms of research tools, sources and stakeholder conversations. This validation process will ensure that the name aligns with the Guiding Principles so that it functionally differentiates with competitors; that it can be trademarked; that it has domain name URLs available; and that it clearly communicates the technical, and many times scientific, aspects of the brand. This is where we also may conduct research sessions with internal stakeholders, brand advocates and key opinion leaders (KOLs) who are familiar with the organization or product, its offerings or technologies, and the subtleties related to names under consideration.
The Science of Naming is also where we start culling the big bulk of names through a system of elimination based on objective analysis. When we look at these names through this scientific and factual lens, we will eventually get to a point in which we narrow it down to a short list. After we determine those golden final names, we focus on the Emotion of Naming, which leads to a final name decision.
The Emotion of Naming
The Emotion of Naming is exactly that: emotional. The research we use in this area is more qualitative in nature. We want to make sure the feeling of the name is in check with what we are hoping to communicate. There will be an emotional response from not only the stakeholders who are developing the name and who may have their own favorite (or least favorite) name, but also from key audiences: your customers, members or patients. In the case of hospitals and health systems, the emotional connection related to legacy name changes can be strong since local residents form lifelong connections with these organizations. In many cases, residents and stakeholders may view a particular hospital that cared for a loved one as part of their community. The emotional factor truly needs to be addressed in situations like this.
When naming a medical product or innovation, the scientists, engineers or executives who have developed this product may have polarizing views on what they feel the name should represent. In these cases, we present names that are perfectly aligned with the Guiding Principles and work with clients to understand their own subjective preferences.
Names can also have double meanings or connotations to certain people, cultures or communities. This is why conducting research with people from different backgrounds — and in the case of consumer brands, multicultural audiences — should also be incorporated. Even when a product’s audience in primarily in English, a negative or confusing brand name association in another language is a risk that should be avoided.
Complexity to Simplicity = Naming Success
Beginning with a comprehensive view of business objectives; branding; Guiding Principles; and the Art, Science and Emotion of Naming, all supported by research — the end result should be a strong brand name that is simple, memorable, easy to understand and has lasting brand impact. As result of the branding process, we often create a tagline to provide additional brand context related to its unique market position. The following are examples of some brand names that Maricich Health has created for various companies and organizations within the integrated healthcare ecosystem. These naming initiatives included master brands along with those for products, services or innovations.
At Maricich Health, we have an extensive history and success in brand development and naming for healthcare and medical brands, products, services, technologies and new product launches. We have organized and led naming development and creation for successful brands for hospitals, health systems, service lines, health insurance products, business-to-business companies, healthcare technologies, medical devices, diagnostic products, medical startups and differentiating innovations for leading healthcare brands.
By Mark Maricich, CEO of Maricich Health
The seasoned team at Maricich Health partners with clients in the integrated healthcare ecosystem, including hospitals, health systems, payers, retail-focused providers, device/life science innovators and emerging healthcare companies. Learn more about how we can help you plan for your important upcoming branding and marketing initiatives.