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Naming is always tough. But naming medical devices  especially ones that touch, cut, push, pull or mend the body  is about as tough as it gets. We work in this sector regularly (see PentaPoint and a pending case study for Teleflex), and have realized that smart medical device names deal head-on with duality, or the tension between two competing factors. Here are a few examples:

Physicians vs. Patients
Physicians are scientists. They like specific, tangible, factual things. Patients on the other hand come from all walks of life. While some may be more analytical, most just want to get better and back to their regular lives. What you say to each audience via your brand name, and how you say it, varies dramatically.

Physicians tend to prefer:

  • Clear claims
  • Medical language
  • Believable imagery

Patients prefer:

  • Accessible language
  • More emotional approaches
  • Caring & confident tone

(Note: We’re leaving out payers and other types of providers to keep things simple here. But in many instances, their needs will factor into how you name the brand, too.)

Functions vs. Emotions
The duality between physicians and patients drives the difference between functional and emotional appeals made in brand names. In our experience, the majority of physicians will say they prefer more descriptive, functional names during quantitative and qualitative testing. Accordingly, if you look at a swath of legacy medical device brand names, they’re often descriptive of the the device and functional in nature.

Take laparoscopic medical devices, for example, where prominent brand names include:

  • LAPRA-TY (Ethicon) from “laparoscopy” + “tie”
  • MiniLap (Stryker) from “mini” + “laparoscopy”
  • SILS (Covidien) from “single incision laparoscopic surgery”

Traditionally, physicians have been the primary target, but this is rapidly changing. As patients play a bigger role and have more say in their health, naming needs to balance emotions. Why? From a patient’s perspective, any healthcare experience is partially an emotional experience. And we’re already seeing the shift to cater to patients with device names like the following:

  • da Vinci (Intuitive Surgical) from the famous artist & inventor
  • Harmonic (Ethicon) a reference to harmony and precision
  • Within Ethicon’s Harmonic line, there are a variety of subnames, like “Ace,” “Focus” and “Wave,” that continue the more emotional line while balancing out with a subtle functional message

Differentiation vs. Transcending the Category
Branding 101 usually starts with differentiation – you must stand out in the category. While this remains true, we have seen a push from medical device manufacturers, and others in the healthcare space, to not just stand out in the category, but to create a whole new category of their own. This is a noble tactic that has worked in several areas (“Minimally Invasive Robotic Surgery” by da Vinci and again SILS by Covidien).

The only catch is that the product, service or solution innovation actually needs to be in a category of its own for you to position it with credibility. Just saying it is not enough.

So from a naming perspective, how do you differentiate in the category, or better yet, transcend the category all together?

  • Create a name that comes out of left-field and doesn’t evoke anything like the existing naming landscape
  • Balance the wants and needs of both doctors and patients, like we’ve mentioned above. While some brands already do this, the current trend is still to go descriptive or functional, so automatically you’ll most likely step into new territory.
  • Create a new category name that is credible, memorable, easily understood and clearly denotes how your innovation and the new category are actually unique.

So.

There are a lot of these dual factors pushing and pulling medical device names in different directions, so there is always a heck of a lot to think about when positioning and naming a new device. But with the right perspective, focus and strategy (plus an eye for good taste in medical device names, which we address here!), the chance of developing a super successful medical device brand name skyrockets.

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