Tradenames confuse, bewilder, and amuse

Rinckside 2000; 11,1: 1-3.

 orking in radiology exposes you to numerous companies and products. Many of them become household names, such as the major firms and their machines, films, and contrast agents. Some are family names, such as Siemens, Guerbet, and Bracco. Others are plain, meaningless inventions. Kodak, for example, was coined by George Eastman in 1888. He was under the erroneous impression that a trademark should not have a dictionary meaning. Other names were created as a company evolved. When Norwegian Nyegaard & Co. expanded throughout Scandinavia and the globally, its name was altered to Nycomed.

Not only radiological customers rely upon these well-known names, and use them to make a judgment about whether to buy – or at least recommend – trust, or distrust the company or product. However, as in other areas of business, vendors are often just merchants. Customers buy products with a recognized company logo on the outside, but the product may be made by somebody else. You can have the same radiological equipment made by company A, but sold as a brand of companies B, C, or D.

Careful contemplation is needed when naming a product or company.

The more consumer mentality spreads into radiological circles, the more new products are introduced and the more new names have to be invented. To protect these new names, the company has to apply for a tradename or trademark. Sometimes, these may not be approved in some countries, because a similar sounding name already exists. Problems arise when there are two products with the same or comparable names.

In this age of global players, companies want tradenames that can be used across the world and that are easily distinguishable. They should have favorable connotations and be easily remembered. This can be difficult: What might be an attractive name in one country or language might sound awful or even offensive in another.

Generic names in pharmacology are usually linked to a molecule or compound; very often they sound rather peculiar. To me, mangafodipir, the generic name of Teslascan, sounds rather Icelandic. On the other hand, Teslascan is easily recognizable as a product connected to MR imaging. Cook’s contrast agent Oxilan is readily linked to its generic name ioxilan.

The same holds for machine names. Magnetom, for example, is the term coined by Siemens for their MR machines. It is simple and straightforward compared with Otsuka Electronics’ 1.5 Tesla MR machine called OE 1.5 SI. This sounded like a car model or a serial number and was finally renamed Oracle.

There is usually one name for one product, but in some instances the same item is sold under different names. In Spain, for instance, the MR contrast agent gadopentetate dimeglumine was sold as Magnevist by Schering and as Magnegraf by Juste. This can also happen the other way around: Ferriseltz, an enteral MR contrast agent, is sold by Bracco in Europe and by Nycomed in the United States. The patent owner is Otsuka, a Japanese company.

The metamorphoses of company names that occurred in the last decade caused a great deal of bother for radiologists and marketing people.

In the United States, in particular, company names are adjusted to economic considerations. Turning upcoming privately held firms into joint ownership when going public often involves a change of name. In this way, nuclear medicine developer Diatech became Diatide, contrast agent developer Metasyn mutated to Epix, and Access Radiology was suddenly eMed Technologies.

But most upsetting was the change of traditional names: One day you buy contrast agents from the diagnostic imaging division of Sterling Winthrop, the next day it has become Nycomed; the same holds for Squibb Diagnostics which was taken over by Bracco. While customers could still follow some of these takeovers, others were absolutely confusing.

Du Pont Diagnostic Imaging in 1996 changed into Sterling Diagnostic Imaging which in 1999 was turned into an Agfa-Gevaert subsidiary. Also in 1996, the medical imaging division of 3M mutated into an independent company called Imation Corp. which sounded like many other names in the business: Imatron, Inovision, Imagyn, Imageon, Imagraph, Impax, you name them. By the way, Imation was taken over by Eastman Kodak in 1998.

This kind of re-christening is too much for average customers who need continuity in names and products, particularly if they do not make regular purchases. When a name disappears and local company offices closed, the occasional customer will not be able to locate the company – causing frustration and, for the company, loss of potential sales.

Changing names can also mean saying farewell to a trusted well-introduced partner.

There are very few new company names which inspire confidence.

There are very few new company names which inspire confidence. Hoechst or Rhône-Poulenc were well established, whereas Aventis, their new common post-merger name, sounds like a Korean car model. Marketing departments of the radiological industry should know that names are part of the “hidden persuaders”; they are subconsciously tagged with certain qualities of the company or the product which, improperly applied, might have a negative impact upon sales. Names are part of the company image. They should not be played with by management officials trying to be innovative and improve their egos – and failing miserably.

People swear by Siemens, Philips or GE as they do by Mercedes-Benz, BMW, or Rolls-Royce. This is despite the studies that show Toyotas to be more reliable and of better quality, and Volvos and Saabs to be safer, better built, and providing the same comfort and equipment at a lower price.

spaceholder red600   Marketing specialists know that customers like families of names: Ultravist, Isovist, Levovist, Echovist, Magnevist, Gadovist is one approach. In the case of Schering most contrast agents of the company have the same ending, independent of modality. Nycomed and Guerbet have a different approach: Omnipaque, Visipaque, Imagopaque, Omniscan, Abdoscan, Clariscan, or Hexabrix, Telebrix, Xenetix, Dotarem, Endorem, Lumirem. Agents of one category have the same suffix.

Many people involved in the field of radiology prefer that a product name has some connection to its use. Good examples are the many gastrointestinal contrast agents, such as Gastrografin, Gastromark, Lumirem, LumenHance, and Abdoscan. Others have no association, such as Gadolite or Ferriseltz.

Many hardware products can be similarly related to their purpose. Neuromag is a magnetic source imager; Signa and Gyroscan are MR imagers; other MR apparatuses have more flowery names such as Harmony and Symphony, or Eclipse and Polaris, that are not associated with magnetic resonance but, again, create a family of product names. This is in contrast to something more neutral, like Picker PQ 6000 CT scanner.

Trex was a newcomer among radiological equipment vendors some years ago. The company chose a simple but attractive name.

Sometimes, however, it seems that the bosses in charge follow the old joke about the couple contemplating the name of their soon-to-be-born baby: “And if it is a boy we will give him a biblical name: Cain or Judas”.

In the best case, the name is also simple and attractive, but makes no sense whatsoever: Sahara, for instance, is an ultrasound-based bone-densitometer – but who would have guessed?

Then there are names nobody can pronounce: KinetDx, Mµsic KinetDx, ImaRx, NeoRx, GE Advantx Legacy D, or Indigo² KinetDx Impact workstation.

Finally, there are names with strange or even negative associations. This seems to be the case with a recent addition to the market: Sonazoid. It reminded me of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince. His origin is the asteroid B612, not the sonazoid; but it sounds similar. In a poll of radiologists and cardiologists nobody of those asked could deal with this name. The ending “-oid” was identified as “similar to” or “looking like”, but what is a “sonaz”? People cited numerous alliterations too cruel to print here, but nobody got the idea that it is a new sonographic contrast agent. Although the “son” part could be a hint, the word in its entirety does not have any mental connection.

spaceholder red600   On the other hand, radiologists are used to handle difficult names. “Iopamidol” is not a word you can pronounce easily, with or without a hangover.

Difficult names are not necessarily bad names. When you have learned to pronounce “Cactohexacoxl”, the new Mexican low-osmolality x-ray contrast agent, you will not forget it – because you associate Mexico, cacti, and Hexabrix.

Citation: Rinck PA. Tradenames confuse, bewilder, and amuse. Rinckside 2000; 11,1: 1-3.

A digest version of this column was published as:
Tradenames confuse, bewilder, and amuse.
Diagnostic Imaging Europe. 2000; 16,3: 27-28.

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