Last week, a WSJ columnist asked why pharmaceutical firms do such a poor job of choosing names. Because Dupixent shrinks nasal polyps, “No More Polyps” would have been catchier. And, as for generics like Bupropion or Lisinopril, their names are even worse.
He made naming sound simple. But there is much more.
New Product Names
For new drug names, the FDA is especially worried about mix-ups. They want to be sure that a name’s sound or appearance is not similar to others. They have people write the name, they do computer searches and simulation studies. As they describe it, they want to be sure that the drug is accurately procured and prescribed. Also, it has to be “prepared, dispensed, and administered.” An “overly fanciful” name would be unacceptable. Spelling and pronunciation make a difference. You can see why the regulatory name approval process can take two years and why we wound up with Dupixent.
Golf Balls and Dogs
Somewhat different, we have other criteria with everyday products and pets.
According to recent research, control is another consideration. When consumers need to control something like a golf ball, they prefer the balls with easy-to-pronounce names, Somewhat similarly, the people who wanted a city-suited dog, perhaps for an apartment, selected the simpler name. Those, though, in the countryside who preferred a feistier pet did not like the easy-to-pronounce name as much.
Our Bottom Line: Behavioral Economics
During the past 20 years, we have increasingly come to recognize that there is lots more to demand than price. Yes, we still have the law of demand that proclaims the inverse connection between price and quantity. To that though, we need to add what behavioral economists tell us. Looking at our incentives, we see that the rational side of economics is a bit messier.
My sources and more: To start, I recommend taking a look at this WSJ column. From there, this second WSJ article came in handy as did the academic paper to which it linked. Then, finally, I’ve excerpted a paragraph from a past econlife about the FDA’s drug name approvals.