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Whose name is it, anyway? Firms clash over credit for Vuity

What the Elizabeth Holmes verdict could mean for marketing
Written by publishing team

Who actually came up with the brand name for Allergan’s new eye drop for farsightedness?

The double press releases, some of them less than obvious, cast a shadow over the experts who deserve credit for creating the name.

Vuity, a new formulation of an ancient eye drug, hit the market this month. As the first FDA-approved eye drop for age-related blurry vision (also known as presbyopia), Vuity’s October approval and subsequent loud launch didn’t go unnoticed by the mainstream press. A range of stories across digital and traditional channels have promoted the impacts of lifestyle change.

Some of the biggest companies in the field have stepped up to claim the drug’s catchy name. The Brand Institute, an industry leader with countless biologic drug names under their belts, released a statement about the “successful partnership with Allergan” in the Vuity label. A week later, a press release from rival company Catchword Branding directly claimed that he had created the drug’s moniker and credited him with naming the technology used to deliver it, dubbed “pHast.”

So who’s her name anyway? To some extent, the list of those responsible for conceiving a drug name is as long as the number of companies involved in the process, which can be extensive.

Scott Piergrossi, president of the Brand Institute, explained that it’s not unusual for multiple agencies to work on developing a brand name for a drug. It is also not uncommon for more than one person to make congratulatory statements.

When asked about his company’s involvement, Bergrossi replied, “We use the word ‘partnership’ because all too often, the name will be generated from the creative process, and that includes the Brand Institute’s creative development as well as input from the client. The Vuity name was the result of our standard design process. “.

As for the company’s December 9 press release, which stopped short of saying it was responsible for naming Vuity, Piergrossi said, “We don’t claim ownership of the name. It’s our standard way of saying the name comes from a process.”

The company appears to be committed to this style of communication, even when its creative intentions are undisputed. Take another company statement, the December 2020 announcement that it played a “role” in naming the COVID-19 vaccine to Pfizer/BioNTech.

While the language in this ad is similarly normative, this case may differ in one important aspect: The Brand Institute is unanimously credited with having come up with the name Comirnaty, as well as the name Spikevax, the Moderna COVID-19 cat.

This is not the case with Vuity. Did the search word give birth to Voighty’s name? “We’ve done it 100%,” said Laurel Sutton, co-founder of Catchword.

“We just want to get credit as a label,” she added. “People only hire us if they can see the names we’ve created as a guide to what we’re doing.”

If the name of the drug appears in two different portfolios of the agency, it will create confusion in the minds of potential clients. The lack of clarity is starting to come to light: Media coverage in the wake of the Brand Institute’s Vuity press release indicated that it was already claiming a creative credit.

Which is why Sutton, the co-founder of Catchword and the person who led Vuity’s work for the agency, wants to clean the air.

She said Allergan approached her for brand work on the eye drop in September 2020. The agency suggested two rounds of names before choosing “Vuity,” which is subject to legal scrutiny and rigorous FDA testing.

At the time, the Brand Institute, which had been involved from the start, went back and conducted regulatory tests and made recommendations on names that would best serve the client, Sutton claimed.

When asked about his company’s specific contribution, Bergrossi said it was a “complete project of the Brand Institute,” from name generation to screening and testing. “Unfortunately, you can’t just come up with a perfect noun and say, ‘That’s the name,'” he explained. “A variety of nouns and noun types remain.”

The fact that so many label companies have been brought in reflects the difficulty of conjuring up new titles for prescription drugs, a process that has become increasingly complex. For a drug name to be successful, it must pass the challenge of regulatory and branding hurdles, not to mention clear the bar in terms of meaning and memorability. Among other strict FDA qualifications, the drug’s name may not exaggerate its benefits.

But with the Food and Drug Administration approving more small molecules and biologics — 48 so far in 2021 — the amount of available names continues to shrink, meaning language professionals have had to roam further afield in search of the perfect nomenclature.

Companies working on Vuity have faced a similar set of hurdles, with some caveats. Although it is a prescription product, Vuity treats a lifestyle condition. Presbyopia is a degenerative condition that affects approximately 128 million Americans. Allergan hopes many of them will reach for Vuity drops in place of reading glasses to see the photo up close.

The brand name must appear friendly enough to be advertised directly to consumers. This means an “over-the-counter feel,” unlike the congruent groups and preponderance of X and Z that often characterize drugs marketed to physicians.

Sutton noted that “‘Vuity’ is not a real word but looks like one because it has both a prefix and a suffix.”

The prefix “vu” relates to vision and the suffix “ity” is intended to call visual acuity – sharp vision, things that one can see clearly. “It’s not whimsical or multi-syllable but it flows like a real word and looks elegant and cool,” she added.

The last aspect was important, with a 30-day supply of the drug costing about $80. And although the drug’s target audience is adults between the ages of 40 and 55, the drug cannot restore them to a 25-year-old’s vision. One drop on each eye provides clearer vision for six to 10 hours, according to the company.

So the name cannot also suggest a cure for farsightedness. “A lot of the names were rejected because they implied a cure,” Sutton recalls. She noted that the process took about three months and required 200 to 300 names to be scanned to arrive at five to 10 names that appeared safe from an availability standpoint.

This was “the hardest part of this,” Sutton continued. “A lot of beautiful and elegant names fell by the wayside because someone had already used them.”

And by its own account, the company appears to have stitched the needle.

“As a nice coin, it’s both familiar and interesting,” Catchword wrote in a blog post about his creative process for naming Vuity. Besides being easy to spell and pronounce (not easy to name drugs), it works equally well for English-speaking and international audiences.

Sutton said she has been involved in cases where multiple agencies have independently placed the same name for a brand or product, even though the clients in those cases were not in the healthcare sector. “It could happen, but that was not the case this time,” she stressed.

The Brand Institute’s carefully crafted press language did not misrepresent its naming business. However, the use of the same external language to convey this work, whether it was the sole creative force or merely a collaborator, may have led to confusion in this case. Seeking clarity about who did what, whether communicating in an individual’s press releases or with the media (and within prevailing limitations), will ultimately benefit all agencies and help clients choose future marketing partners.

Allergan, who may be able to answer the question one way or another, did not respond to a request for comment.

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