When a molecule becomes a brand
While proprietary medicinal products used to have a high degree of in-crowd names and language, cultivated by the pharma industry and medical specialists as their domain of expertise, today pharma has become a brand dependent industry. Moreover, this dependent industry is owned by the public, debated by the media, commented on by patients and caregivers on internet and requested by name in general practitioners’ surgeries.
These developments have created a necessary paradigm shift in how healthcare companies should approach the concept of brand development.
The need to engage with the end-user has caused companies to rise to the challenge of speaking the patient’s language as much as the prescriber’s language, ultimately resulting in a new way of pharma and health branding to create a relationship with both prescribers and patients.
A good balanced brand name has therefore become a strategic tool in the communication of the product and has come to be recognized as a powerful wealth creator by the pharmaceutical industry.
As pipelines produce more diminished returns and as generics prove an ever-greater force to be reckoned with, one of the fundamental challenges for the pharma industry is making the important transition from the current model of profit maximization before product obsolescence, to one of brand maximization to prevent obsolescence.
This calls for a radical reassessment of the value of brands within the industry and a rethink of how brands are developed, managed and maximized. The patient is more concerned with what a drug can do for them than how a drug works. Therefore, brand names should be more benefit-oriented, communicative and relevant to a wider set of target audiences.
Globrands health&pharma delivers evocative and memorable names, executed in a manner that differentiates your product from the competitive landscape. We work on creative name development for hundreds of brand names every year, with clients ranging from the world’s largest multi-national companies to start-up companies with only one product in the pipeline.
A crowded trademark class
A name for a new drug is subject to a level of scrutiny unknown in any other industry. Any brand name for a pharmaceutical or healthcare product has to be cleared and registered in Class 5, notoriously one of the most crowded trademark classes:
- Every month, an average of 1,000 names are filed in Class 5 at the USPTO;
- No fewer than 663,000 registered trademarks exist in Class 5 in the EU alone.
Once a shortlist of names has navigated the legal labyrinth successfully, applications to file should be made to afford the requisite protection of those marks.
Why 35% of submitted pharma names are rejected
Data from the American FDA and the European EMA indicate that approximately 35 percent of names submitted for approval are met with rejection. This very high percentage clearly shows how serious the matter is, as well as the matter of the saturation of approved brand registrations. Regulators follow a very strict control of possible errors and, therefore, tend to watch the whole chain of use (from storage, purchase or prescription to use or final effects).
One of the reasons for the high rejection rate is that a name can be a matter of life and death. Seemingly innocuous interchanges of names have resulted in temporary harm, permanent harm, patient hospitalization and, in some cases, ultimately, in death. Rejection is therefore largely down to the potential of confusion with other brand names and thus, the resulting risk of dispensing errors and misprescription.
In order to avoid those problems related to availability and safety, the FDA recommends to present 3 names in the application so that the regulator can make sure he has an acceptable one, which does not hinder commercial plans or puts a people’s health at risk.
Pharmaceutical naming needs specific treatment, as it is a matter of capital importance, which requires knowledge, experience and effective tools. Besides, the naming team has to work in perfect coordination with the legal, medical, marketing and pharmaceutical team developing it.
Generics becoming brands
There is also another aspect emerging, being that the generics themselves will become brands with time. This change has already occurred in FMCG – if you look at private label brands such as Sainsbury’s ‘Taste the difference’ or Albert Heijn’s ‘Excellent’. (And taking the case of Tesco, private label now accounts for 50% of their income.) Consumers understand this shift in FMCG, so why should they be any less receptive when it comes to pharma?
The brand as key differentiator
The end of drug patents also introduces complexity for brands with the rapid emergence of competition, who can deliver the same performance as the brands but cheaper. Taking the product formulation out of the equation, what is left? The remaining key differentiators are the brand name and personality. In addition, brand resonance is the key to keep valuable connections and reasons-to-believe with the consumer.
However, this is not a future scenario and given that this is happening as we speak you could also argue that for most brands the gate has closed for them to ramp up their brand expression as a rearguard action against the new copycats.
The competition of the future no longer takes place between different products and services. The competition takes place between the values built into names. Many names are worth much more than the product itself.
Therefore, it pays to develop a better product, as well as developing a stronger name the can make the product successful and longer lasting than the patent does.