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Creating Memorable Names in Healthcare: Your Guide to Making the Best Selection

By Ray Baird
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If you’ve ever had the opportunity to create a healthcare corporation’s name or re-name a healthcare company, you know how difficult a task it can be.

For us in the branding world—it’s one of the most challenging yet rewarding assignments. But for executives in the healthcare field it can be intimidating and frustrating. Many healthcare executives are physicians with bigger responsibilities needing their focus: Patient care and safety, strategic planning, policies and procedures, recruitment, etc.

Here are 5 important points to remember when engaging in a naming project.

1. Trust the naming process.

2. Try to bring rational thinking into what is largely a subjective process.

3. Educate your decision makers.

4. Connect the name to your corporate narrative.

5. Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone.

These five tips will make your healthcare naming task much more straightforward.

1. Trust the process.

First of all, if you don’t have a process in place–stop.

It’s critical your executives and decision makers understand each step, and the criteria for evaluation. Outlining and communicating the entire process ahead of time will limit inevitable frustrations.

While each naming project is unique, this is the process we generally follow:

Name development process info

Once the exercise is complete and final candidates are selected, we recommend submitting 3-5 for legal review to eliminate candidates that may violate any trademark laws.

2. Bring rational thinking into subjectivity.

Let’s face it, naming is subjective. Almost every name sounds like something you’ve heard before. So how can you use rational thinking to help guide the selection process?

First, understand that it all starts with creating names that reflect your brand positioning. Your name should reflect your brand strategy (your brand promise or point of differentiation).

Let me give you an example: Recently we worked with a company called SVHsupport. They are a non-profit that was at a point of transformation–they moved from being a support organization to an anchor model. Anchor institutions are those large, ’embedded,’ typically non-profit entities that are central to the economic and social life of the communities in which they’re situated. They tend to be large landholders, dominant employers, and vital economic players–who’ve been around and stick around.

It was precisely to draw attention to its historic, economic and social roles, that this healthcare company coined and adopted the ‘Anchorum’ name.

Anchorum logo

One doesn’t have to ‘plumb the depths’ to discern the derivation of SVHsupport’s new name, ‘Anchorum.’ It’s a pretty obvious riff on the term ‘anchor’–anchor modified by a Latinate suffix that gives it an almost Catholic tonality. When asked where the name comes from or what it means, each employee can tell a cohesive, historical story that ties back to their brand promise.

3. Educate your decision makers.

It’s critical to make sure whoever has a say-so in the selection process understands the rules and selection criteria. You can’t afford to wing it. This leads to people on your team saying “it sounds like something I’ve heard before” or “I just don’t like it.” In developing names, whether it is done internally or in partnership with a brand strategy firm, each naming candidate needs to tie back to the brand promise, and each candidate should include a brief story on how it’s connected to your strategy.

And always, always, set expectations. We’ve created hundreds of names over the last 30 years and to this day, we’ve never seen a name that causes people to fall off their seat when they first hear it. Take a few days to reflect before creating your final candidate list. Don’t make a rushed decision. Doing so may set you up for disappointment if the name turns out not to be available for legal reasons. These initial candidates are typically developed during multiple brainstorming sessions. Once short-listed, they will need to be further vetted with trademark law and URL availability.

Because a name appeals to one’s aesthetic preferences doesn’t mean it’s the best name from the standpoint of brand, marketing or business strategy. Temper immediate, visceral judgment. A name you may hate at first may grow on you later.

4. Connect the name to your corporate narrative.

Like we mentioned earlier, it’s important to not only connect the name to your brand positioning, but in some cases you can connect to the broader story–your corporate narrative. Our work with CEP California Emergency Physicians is a great example of this. The company had grown outside California and beyond its original stated purpose. A new name was needed along with a new brand story. They adopted the name Vituity.

Vituity

The name “Vituity” is a coined word, created by combining the real words, “vitality” or “vital” and “acuity.” This name incorporates several powerful concepts into a single story. Vituity is an integral, or “vital” partner, to its clients. “Vitality” references the energetic and passionate culture of the organization. “Acuity” implies the sharp focus and expert nature of the organization.

5. Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone.

Let’s face it-most names are taken. In this day and age you need to get creative. Descriptive names are hard to come by.

So you may need to venture into a hybrid model where you mix two words together or riff off of Latin or Greek or other languages to create a name, like we did with Anchorum and Vituity.

Nevertheless, to ensure a desirable outcome, begin your naming project with a clear understanding of the process and the selection criteria – a name that supports your positioning and corporate narrative. And don’t be afraid to step outside the box. Can you imagine the first response to the name Google?