You know my BRAND name (look up the number)


The FDA approved 46 novel therapies in 2017, a 21-year high and more than double the number approved during the previous year. Fantastic news for pharma, patients, physicians and payers. Not such great news for those in the industry charged with the increasingly challenging task of developing a brand name for a new drug.


Think about it.


Think about the stringent criteria the brand name must meet to be approvable, and the constraints this places from the outset on the possible options. Consider how many brand names already exist and have existed in the past. All off limits and all forever sequestering lexical capital.

Think about the need for fluency, for people to be able to process information, or in this case the name, effortlessly. The easier a name can be processed, the more it is liked (Forster M et al.), and fluency could even have an effect, however small, on product adoption (Alter AL and Oppenheimer DM).

Finally, remember that the name obviously needs to work as a critical element in communicating the brand.



There is surely a risk that at some point, and it can’t be too far off, we’ll reach a stage when satisfying all these requirements will simply become impossible. Forget the patent cliff. Exhausting the finite resource of possible brand names is a looming problem that deserves some scenario planning too.

While it’s not at all scientific, below is a short selection of names from the 2017 list that suggest we might be getting close to the edge.  Perhaps it’s time to start thinking about using numbers (or emojis!) rather than words to provide a product with its unique identity.


  • Kisqali
  • Siliq
  • Idhifa
  • Aliqopa
  • Mepsevii
  • Tremfya
  • Bevyxxa


As a footnote, there is a product that was approved in 2016 whose name indicates there could be a new seam to mine.

How many single-syllable brand names can you think of?

There aren’t many. Taltz (ixekizumab) is certainly the most recent, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we start to see more in the near future (grab ‘em while you can).




Forster M et al. PLOS ONE 2015; Everything’s Relative? Relative Differences in Processing Fluency and the Effects on Liking; DOI:10.1371


Alter AL and Oppenheimer DM PNAS 2006;Predicting short-term stock fluctuations by using processing fluency; 103:9369-72


Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

Photo by Leio McLaren on Unsplash