INDIANAPOLIS - Prozac. Viagra. Lipitor.
The names of these incredibly popular medicines don't have defined meanings. But millions of dollars are spent creating just the right sound and image.
Research shows letters with a hard edge like P, T or K convey effectiveness. X seems scientific. L, R or S provide a calming or relaxing feel. Z means speed.
Drug companies often delve into a weird science that ties symbolism to letters or prefixes when they hunt for the next hot brand name. In the case of Prozac, the first syllable makes the speaker pucker up and push out a burst of air, which grabs attention and implies effectiveness, said Jim Singer, who is president of the branding firm Namebase and helped Lilly name the antidepressant.
Companies try to keep the name within three syllables so people can pronounce and remember it. "It can't be too intimidating in the look, the feel, the tone, and the meaning itself to patients," said James Dettore, chief executive of the consulting firm Brand Institute Inc.
The naming process isn't easy, or getting any easier. Regulatory guidelines are becoming more restrictive, and the brand market is more crowded. More than 14,000 new drug names were filed last year with the US Patent and Trademark Office, a 23 percent increase from 2003, according to Thomson CompuMark, a trademark research firm.
The payoffs, however, can be huge. Global pharmaceutical sales totaled $643 billion in 2006, according to IMS Health, which tracks prescription information.