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Taxonomy of Biotech and Pharmaceutical Names

The Biotech / Pharmaceutical industries are ripe for a great, high-level evocative name to surge to the head of the pack. As you can see by the taxonomy below, most companies in this space are clustered together with either functional (Amgen, Biogen, Curagen) or Experiential (Incyte, Xcyte, Paradigm, Aradigm) names that offer very little in the way of audience engagement.

The names that rise to the top of this chart do so because they are different, but most importantly because they are different for a good reason. These companies are using their names to distance themselves from the negative baggage that exists in their industry in the same way that Merck and ADM are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to assure the public that they are not cold and uncaring, that they and other big pharma companies are working with nature rather than against it.

In our view, the standout so far in this sector is Radius, an Experiential name created by Igor to replace the company's original and all-too-forgettable name, Nuvios.

For more, see our article Better Naming Through Chemistry.

  FUNCTIONAL INVENTED EXPERIENTIAL EVOCATIVE  
5         5
4       4
3         3
2    
  • Life Technologies
  • Blue Heron
  • Cypress
  • Guava
  • Nektar
  • Orchid
  • Torrent
2
1
  • The Great American Gene Company
  • Daji Biosciences
  • Cubist
  • Discovery Laboratories
  • Evolutionary Genomics
  • Icon
  • Lexicon
  • Pilot
  • Quantum Biotechnologies
  • Argonaut
  • Copernicus
  • Isis
  • Lynx
  • Onyx
  • Titan
  • Trinity
1
0
  • Bayer
  • Berlex
  • Bristol-Myers Squibb
  • GlaxoSmithKline
  • Lilly
  • Merck
  • Pfizer
  • Chiron
  • Idexx
  • Irazu
  • Affinity BioReagents
  • Arena
  • Caliper
  • Cor
  • LifeSpan
  • BioSciences
  • Memory
  • Pain
  • Panacea
  • Keystone Laboratories
0
-1
  • Applied Molecular Evolution
  • Bio Science
  • Contract Production
  • Human Genome Sciences
  • Large Scale Biology
  • Molecular Devices
  • Pharmacia
  • Protein Design Labs
  • Protein Pathways
  • Protein Sciences
  • Abgenix
  • Adolor
  • Affymetrix
  • AGY
  • Alios
  • Arcaris
  • Arqule
  • AstraZeneca
  • Aventis
  • CHIMERx
  • Corixa
  • Cygnus
  • Cytrx
  • Dyax
  • Elitra
  • Exiqon
  • Embrex
  • Enzon
  • Hyseq
  • Icos
  • Idun
  • Nabi
  • Nobex
  • Novex
  • Novartis
  • Nuvios
  • Oxis
  • PanVera
  • Promega
  • Telik
  • Tanox
  • Tripos
  • Tularik
  • Valentis
  • Vistra
  • Vysis
  • Xoma
  • 3-D Pharmaceuticals
  • Albany Molecular Research
  • Aradigm
  • Array
  • Avant
  • Boston Life Sciences
  • British Biotech
  • Collateral
  • Connectics
  • Diversa
  • Ergo Science
  • Essential
  • Hawaii Biotechnology
  • Illumina
  • Incyte
  • Inspire
  • Integrated Biomolecule
  • Integrated DNA Technologies
  • Kinetix
  • La Jolla Pharmaceutical
  • Matrix
  • Millenium
  • Myriad Genetics
  • New Century
  • Northwest Biotechnology
  • Paradigm Genetics
  • Prototek
  • Texas Biotechnology
  • Triangle
  • Visible Genetics
  • Xcyte
  -1
-2
  • Alpha DNA
  • Amgen
  • Avigen
  • Bio Technology General
  • Biocryst
  • Biogen
  • Biogenex
  • Biomarin
  • BioMedicines
  • Biomira
  • BioNumerik
  • Biopure
  • Bioreliance
  • BioStratum
  • Bio-Synthesis
  • Biotime
  • Biotransplant
  • Biotrin
  • Celera Genomics
  • Celgene
  • Cell Genesys
  • Cell Pathways
  • Cell Therapeutics
  • Cellegy
  • Cholestech
  • Ciphergen
  • Clontech
  • Collagenex
  • Curagen
  • Cyanotech
  • Cytogen
  • Deltagen
  • Depomed
  • Digene
  • Ecogen
  • Entremed
  • Envirogen
  • Exegenics
  • Galagen
  • Genaera
  • Gene Logic
  • Gene Tools
  • Genecor
  • Genelabs
  • Genentech
  • Genetics Institute
  • GeneTrol
  • Genetronics
  • Genome
  • Genomic Solutions
  • Genosys
  • Genox
  • Genset
  • Genteric
  • GenVec
  • Genzyme
  • Geron
  • Igen
  • Imclone Systems
  • Immtech
  • Immucell
  • Immucor
  • Immunex
  • Immunogen
  • Immunomedics
  • Imune Response
  • Insmed
  • Intracel
  • Introgen
  • Invitrogen
  • Lifecell
  • LigoChem
  • Maxygen
  • Medarex
  • Medimmune
  • Meiogen
  • Metabasis
  • Metabolex
  • MetaMorphix
  • Microbia
  • Millipore
  • MitoKor
  • Myogen
  • Nanogen
  • Neopharm
  • NeuralStem
  • Neurocrine
  • Neurogen
  • Neuron
  • Nexell
  • Nitromed
  • Novagen
  • Orapharma
  • Origen
  • Otogene
  • Oxigene
  • Pepceuticals LTD
  • Pharmacopeia
  • Pharmacyclics
  • Pharmadyne
  • Pharmasset
  • Pharmos
  • ProdiGene
  • Progenics
  • Repligen
  • Research Genetics
  • Supergen
  • Synthegen
  • Transgene
  • Transgenomic
  • Transkaryotic
  • TransMolecular
  • TransTech
  • UroGenesys
  • Vaxgen
  • Virologic
  • Viropharma
  • VistaGen
  • Zonagen
      -2
  FUNCTIONAL INVENTED EXPERIENTIAL EVOCATIVE  

Levels of Engagement: These eight levels (y-axis levels from minus 2 to plus 5) represent the amount of material (meaning, stories, associations, imagery, multiple layers) in a name the audience has to play with and personalize – and how "engaged" they are by a name. Names in the minus 2 level are the least engaging, and likely to be quickly forgotten; the higher the number the better, with level 5 being the best.

Functional Names: The lowest common denominator of names, usually either named after a person, purely descriptive of what the company or product does, or a pre- or suffixed reference to functionality. (Infoseek, LookSmart)

Invented Names: "Invented" as in a made-up name (Acquient, Agilent, Alliant, Google) or a non-English name that is not widely known.

Experiential Names: A direct connection to something real, a part of direct human experience. Usually literal in nature, but presented with a touch of imagination. (Netscape, Palm Pilot)

Evocative Names: These names are designed to evoke the positioning of a company or product rather than the goods and services or the experience of those goods and services. Removed from direct experience, but relevant – evoking memories, stories, and many levels of association. (Virgin, Apple, Cracker Jack)

We encourage you to print this out and move names around, and see if you think they should be classified differently. It's an exercise that will get you thinking about the names in your own industry. (Here is a blank taxonomy chart you can print out.)

The first thing we do at the beginning of any naming or branding project is to thoroughly analyze the names and messaging of the competition in your business sector, and plot those names on a taxonomy chart like this one. This document is very helpful for everyone involved in the naming project to see the competitive reality and understand what types of names are overused and where we have to go to separate from the pack.


Further reading:

The Company Names of Naming companies