– Mark Prus, Principal, NameFlash

There is a new drug for overactive bladder with the brand name Myrbetriq. I don’t know about you, but my first thought upon hearing the brand name was “HUH?” What is a Myrbetriq? How do I pronounce it? Surprisingly, the FAQ section on their website does not have a “how to pronounce Myrbetriq” button but the physician website does, and it is pronounced “meer-BEH-trick.”

I’ve named Rx drugs before and I can tell you that the landscape is not a simple one due to numerous FDA regulations about implying benefits in the name, as well as potential trademark issues. However, I have never resorted to choosing random letters out of a hat…which is the only explanation I can come up with for why Astellas Pharma US, Inc. chose this name. Clearly the person who chose this name was not aware of the science behind complex and/or difficult-to-pronounce names.

Science is solidly in the camp of simple brand names. A study at the University of Michigan looked at fluency, familiarity and risk perception in names. Specifically, in one study, the researchers asked participants to rate the potential harm of food additives with easy-to-pronounce or difficult-to-pronounce names. Consumers consistently rated names that were difficult to pronounce as being more risky than those additives with names that were easy to pronounce. In another study, the researchers asked people to assess amusement park rides with easy-to-pronounce or difficult-to-pronounce names as to whether the ride would be adventurous and exciting or too risky and likely to make them sick. Consistent with the food additive study, difficult-to-pronounce names led to more people thinking the ride was too risky and likely to make them sick. The researchers concluded that “people perceive disfluently processed stimuli as riskier than fluently processed stimuli.” In other words, if it is difficult to pronounce then it must be risky.

Given this conclusion, the makers of Myrbetriq should have branded their drug with a friendlier, easy-to-pronounce name since some consumers may be reluctant to try a drug with such a difficult-to-pronounce name!

  • James Mahoney

    I don’t know about you, Mark, but I think a study of this subject that concludes with “people perceive disfluently processed stimuli as riskier than fluently processed stimuli” would be a little too risky to read.

  • Mark Prus

    Thanks for the comment James. Personally I enjoy a bit of “geek talk” but I understand that most people don’t. In any case, I tried to present the concept simply because simple branding is better branding!