Erica P. Johnson

Genentech, Generex, GenVec, GenVac, Genzyme. Each of these companies may have its own corporate identity, but with more than 50 licensed biotechs whose names begin with "gen," they quickly start to sound the same. While imitation may be the highest form of flattery, it's not always a business savvy move. A company's name is arguably its most important marketing tool, often responsible for creating a positive first impression and increasing a company's visibility. With so much at stake, biotech executives can spend a lot of time pondering what's in a name.

"A name should be a promise to the customer," says Henri Charmasson, director of research at ALIAS, a name-consulting firm in San Diego. "It's going to be your goodwill ambassador, the first thing your customer is going to hear about your company."1 To cultivate those customers, companies spend big bucks on market research to build...

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