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Name That Medical Device; a Guide to Medical Device Branding

What's in a name? More than you might think. An expert in healthcare branding reveals trends and opportunities in medical device branding.

There are more than 3,500 named, trademarked, and branded medical devices from hundreds of companies all over the globe. How do you name your medical device in a way that communicates a feature or benefit, is competitively different, is pronounceable around the world and can clear multiple trademark hurdles?

My partners and I recently completed an analysis of medical device names across the range of therapies and identified trends and, importantly, gaps to leverage when naming your next device. Here are three trends and two opportunities that can help you when naming your device.

How descriptive should your medical device branding be?

The descriptive name category consists of various mashups of a feature with a positive adjective. Examples of this category can include features relating to speed, like “rapid” or “fast,” or versatility, like “flex” or “multi.” These are then appended with positive adjectives. Examples include confidence with words like “sure” or “posi,” or the idea of intelligence with the words “smart” or “sense,” or superiority with words like “elite,” “supra” or “pro.” 

Descriptive names have the advantage of telegraphing a particular aspect of the device while imbuing it with an intangible positive quality. Descriptive names can be quite effective, but we have found that they often communicate too much information and can become long, awkward, or difficult to pronounce.

Should medical device branding be functional?

Functional names leave nothing to the imagination quickly conveying the device’s makeup with words or word parts referring to their components such as wire, catheter, or valve, for example.

While functional type names are direct and communicative, they lack the sizzle that can provide emotional resonance or competitive edge.

Don't forget about form factor in your medical device branding

Form factor names draw their inspirations from the device’s shape, number of component parts, or size. Examples of shape names include using loop, circle or spiral, or more image laden words that call to mind these shapes like flowers, shells, constellations, or other things generally found in nature. Numbers refer to the number of electrodes, leads, parts, or other aspects of the device. American English words are eschewed for their Latin or romance language equivalents duo, tri, quad, pento, etc. Size almost always speak to smallness with root words like “nano" or micro” predominating.

Form factor names can be an effective naming convention especially when your device is truly unique on this aspect.

Dare to be evocative in your medical device branding

Evocative names are image laden, evoking, as this category indicates, images or personalities that represent the qualities, attributes or benefits of the device. For example, in the catheter world navigation and mapping are mission critical so names from the age of exploration such as Magellan, Cortez, or Columbus can work. For devices seeking to project superiority and aspiration, words indicating heights like peak, Everest or ascent are powerful. Devices seeking to project assertiveness and action often look to nature with ideas that suggest activity and aggression like wolf, tornado, storm, or thunder. Other devices seek to project images of the intrepid with words like mountaineer, explorer, alpine, or Viking.

Selecting evocative names requires a bit of courage on the part of the manufacturer. They are not safe choices, but they are powerful ones. Doctors, of course, make decisions based on rational analysis but they are humans after all and a name that evokes images and emotions that resonate with them can be persuasive.

How to make your medical device branding extraordinary

If you have ever wondered about the utterly wacky sounding names of companies and products it is partly driven by trademark concerns. As noted at the beginning of the article, there are thousands of trademarked names in medical devices. Yet still, a real word that represents the qualities of the device can become an extraordinary brand name. A fruit worked for a computer company to make technology friendly. A deity worked for a sportwear company because it tapped the athlete in all of us. A respelling for the number one followed by 100 zeros represented unlimited search. And what better than the longest river in the world to represent the world’s largest bookstore? 

Consider themed architecture in medical device branding

While our analysis found some examples of names grouped by theme, say animals or weather events, these are the exceptions. Most names are one offs without an architecture or other sense of connection across the devices that could create a portfolio. A family of brands is not always the best course of action, but in many instances establishing some connective tissue across devices can create a positive halo among numerous products while it insulates them from competition. A portfolio or family approach can facilitate the sales process as it lends some efficiency to marketing spend. 

So even within a very busy competitive landscape, there are still ample opportunities for your device to stand out with an effective brand name.

Mike Pile is president and creative director of Uppercase Branding, a boutique consultancy specializing in healthcare branding.
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