Choosing a name for a life science company, product or service can be difficult. Any choice will generate a strong, almost instantaneous response, carry great emotional weight and (ideally) last a long time. How do you choose a name while avoiding the emotional rollercoaster that such choices often bring?

In this post, we’ll outline several tips to streamline the selection process. This is a condensed version of a whitepaper by Forma CEO, David Chapin.

Starting Out

Apple, Coke, Microsoft, Nike, Target – these are all brands that instantly evoke images and emotions in billions of people. These names don’t carry intrinsic value, but instead come from our accumulated experiences and impressions we associate with those names. The name’s meaning eventually becomes significant. However, this takes a combination of time and a concerted marketing effort to achieve.

7 Criteria for Choosing a Name for Your Life Science Company

The most common pitfall we’ve seen in the life science space is the failure to seriously consider which criteria the name should fulfill. The criteria for your name is like a framework of guiding principles. Without these criteria, your name could be influenced by the personal preferences and whims of anyone involved. By failing to establish criteria for your name, you’re risking brand misalignment and organizational discord.

Here’s a list of some criteria to consider while choosing a name for your life science company:

  1. Uniqueness – Will your name set you apart from your competitors and stick in the minds of your audience?
  2. Sound – An unpronouncable name can do significant damage to your brand. Choose something that sounds elegant!
  3. Meaning – Arguably the most important factor. A name should have a meaning that is specific to your company. Also – keep in mind that a name can have multiple meanings depending on the language.
  4. Appearance – There is where you can flex your creative muscles. Choose a font and colors that represent your brand.
  5. Length – Generally, the shorter the better. Enough said!
  6. Imagery – Choosing a name that evokes an image is proven to be an effective marketing tactic. Apple and Amazon are examples of this approach.
  7. Availability – This might sound obvious, but make sure your name is available to be used. If you’re unsure about the legal availability of your name, check www.uspto.gov.

There are a few other factors to consider when choosing a name, but these seven are an excellent place to get started.

Popular Name Types

There are a myriad of different types of names to choose from. Here are a few different categories that have proven popular:

Real Words

Companies like Quintiles, Concert Pharmaceuticals, and Jounce Therapeutics have selected names that are brief and easy to pronounce. This is an effective approach, but it may be challenging to secure the name you want. Like we mentioned before, make sure to check your legal availability!

Compound Words

Companies like EastCoast Bio and Bio-Concept Laboratories feature names that contain multiple words linked together. These types of names are typically very easy to create and because they’re unique, you probably won’t have much trouble with availability. The downside is that these types of names are very common in the life science space, so it’s important to avoid sounding too generic.

Blended Words

Digilab, GenSyn Technologies, and Microtest are all examples of blended names. They’re created by combining two existing words to create a new word (grammar snobs may prefer the classical term: a portmanteau). These can be short and have a variety of meanings, and are typically easy to secure. Just keep in mind that a clumsy combination could sound cumbersome and cause confusion.

Invented Words

Companies like Oreo and Kleenex have seen wild success using words that they created. These names are usually short and distinctive, and can really stick in the minds of your audience. The downside is that because they’re made-up, there’s no intrinsic meaning to these words.

There are a few other categories, such as naming your company after a person or tweaking the spelling of an existing word. Ultimately it’s up to you to decide which approach suits your brand and workforce.

Forma has supported dozens of clients with branding, positioning, and naming services over the years. If you’d like to start a conversation about how we can help your company with a branding transition, please contact us!