Every Sunday I go through the circulars in the paper looking for new products. I usually spend a lot of time with the ads from the national drug store chains (Walgreens, CVS, and Rite Aid). Recently, I observed that each chain seems to have a radically different philosophy on store brand naming. And while this observation isn’t earth shattering, it exposes the marketing strategies (or lack thereof) of each chain.

For example, check out the allergy section. The big brand names like Benadryl®, Claritin® and Zyrtec® all have store brand/private label competition. Walgreens naming protocol for its store brand is pretty straightforward and seems to be designed to help a consumer find the Walgreens knockoff of the branded product. You can buy Wal-dryl, Wal-itin, and Wal-zyr, and the packaging is color coded to make it easier.  This is a very consistent strategy that is designed to make life easier for the consumer and also designed to build the “Wal-“ prefix as a brand.

          Non-Drowsy 24 Hour Allergy,Tablets          


At CVS, you have to be a well-informed consumer or a doctor to get it right because CVS attempts to align symptoms with branding. For example, the CVS version of Benadryl is called Allergy, while the CVS version of Claritin is called Non-Drowsy Allergy Relief (non-drowsy being a key benefit of the active ingredient in Claritin), and the Zyrtec knockoff product is called Indoor/Outdoor Allergy Relief (Zyrtec is the only brand with indoor/outdoor allergy claims).


At Rite Aid, you almost have to be a pharmacist to get the right brand. The first branded product to go generic was Benadryl and Rite Aid called the knockoff Rite Aid Allergy Medication. When the next generation allergy drugs went generic, Rite Aid had to improvise and so now you need to know the active ingredient to get the right brand (Rite Aid Loratidine and Rite Aid Cetirizine for Claritin and Zyrtec respectively). 

How about gastrointestinal products? Looking at four big brands, Zantac®, Metamucil®, Pepto-Bismol®, and MiraLAX®, and their knockoff brands at the drug chains show inconsistency at all three chains:

Branded: Zantac; Metamucil; Pepto-Bismol; MiraLAX

Walgreens: Wal-Zan; Wal-Mucil; Soothe; SmoothLAX

CVS: Acid Reducer; Natural Fiber Laxative; Stomach Relief; PureLAX

Rite Aid: Acid Reducer; Natural Fiber; Pink Bismuth; Laxative

So what is going on here? Walgreens, which appeared to be building the “Wal-“ prefix as its store brand champion, seems to have abandoned that philosophy in some parts of the store. CVS, which had been focusing on product benefits, gets dragged down into generic category descriptors in gastrointestinals. And Rite Aid is all over the place.

Doesn’t anyone worry about having a consistent branding strategy for the store brand? It sure would make life easier for us confused consumers! Hey Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid…do you need some naming help?

Mark Prus, NameFlashSM

  • From a pure branding architecture perspective, my overwhelming preference is CVS.
    CVS relies on its own strong corporate brand and brand mark and consistently applies to the upper left of private-label product packaging. The power position for brand marks is typically in the upper right or lower right but at least CVS is consistent.
    CVS also takes a generic-descriptive approach to naming its private-label products. This is perfectly adequate for consumers who are looking for a specific remedy, at a lower price than a product brand name, from a company they can trust. CVS takes a very clean approach that requires investment in one brand only — and that’s the corporate brand. Plus, CVS’s private-label product naming approach would pass muster with patent and trademark offices.
    Walgreens also relies on its own corporate brand and brand mark. Like CVS, Walgreens consistently applies its brand mark to the upper left of packaging. But that’s where everything starts to fall apart! It appears that Walgreens uses variations of its brand mark, which is a sub-par brand practice.
    Walgreens unnecessarily complicates its naming/branding architecture by applying “coined” names to its various private-label products. These coined names hijack already trademarked product names such as Benadryl (i.e., Wal-dryl is way too close), which could negatively impact the product brand in commerce — a big no-no! If I were the manufacturer of Benadryl, Claritin or Zyrtec, I would most definitely be issuing a cease and desist notice to Walgreens for trademark infringement.
    If creating potential for trademark infringement isn’t enough, Walgreens is diluting its corporate brand with too many coined private-label product names in its portfolio. This puts Walgreens in a situation where investment in private-label product brands might be a necessity in order to provide customers with clarity. That is, without ample product-level brand-building efforts, Walgreens is forcing its customers to cut through the cuteness of coined private-label product names to determine which remedy might make sense.

  • I agree with the above… CVS is consistent across it’s products and tells you what the product is. Wal-itin? Cute, maybe, but I’m not likely to purchase it and it will take me too long to figure out what it does.

  • Why not use a tool to generate and analyze names! This one works fine…