Good vs. Bad: An Empirical Analysis of the Brand Names of Coronavirus Vaccines


  • László Kovács Eötvös Loránd University



brand names, coronavirus, covid, vaccine brand names, pharmaceutical brand names


Brand names are assets in marketing: a good name can help to sell products. Although research has made several recommendations on how “good” brand names should be created, the complex process is not easily adapted to every product category. Little research is done on a particular product category: the brand names of vaccines. This paper contributes to vaccine brand names in light of the coronavirus pandemic. The theoretical part of the paper first describes the characteristics of “good” and “bad” brand names, and then the focus is narrowed down to the characteristics of drug brand names and to the processes that influenced the naming of coronavirus vaccines. In the empirical part of the paper, Hungarian students perform brand recognition, recall, and association tasks connected to vaccine brand names. It will be shown that the vaccines are known by their public brand names (e.g., Pfizer) and not by their actual brand names (e.g., Comirnaty). The rating of the brand names shows that public brand names are considered to be better than the actual brand names, while brand associations collected for the actual brand names show mixed results. In the last part of the paper, theoretical implications are discussed, and recommendations for pharmaceutical companies are formulated to show what steps these companies could take to overcome the impasse between public and actual brand names.


Aaker, D. A. (1991). Managing Brand Equity. New York: Free Press.

Alimen, N., & Guldem Cerit, A. (2010). Dimensions of brand knowledge. Journal of Enterprise Information Management, 23(4), 538-558.

Aronson, J. K. (2004). Medication errors resulting from the confusion of drug names. Expert Opinion on Drug Safety, 3(3), 167-172.

Baumgarth, C. (2008). Markenpolitik. 3. Aufl. Wiesbaden: Gabler.

Bently, L. et al. (2008) Trade Marks and Brands: An Interdisciplinary Critique. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Blackett, T. (2001). Branding and its potential within the pharmaceutical industry. In T. Blackett & R. Robins (eds.) Brand Medicine. The Role of Branding in the Pharmaceutical Industry (pp. 9-26). Houndmills: Palgrave.

Blackett, T. & Robins, R. (eds.) (2001). Brand Medicine. The Role of Branding in the Pharmaceutical Industry. Houndmills: Palgrave.

Bosshard, S. S. et al. (2016). Established liked versus disliked brands: Brain activity, implicit associations and explicit responses. Cogent Psychology, 3(1), 1176691.

Brdar-Szabó, R. & Brdar, M. (2023). Figuratively used product names: From ergonyms to eponyms and paragons. Lingua, 290, 103552.

Breneiser, J. E. & Allen, S. N. 2010. Taste Preference for Brand Name versus Store Brand Sodas. North American Journal of Psychology, 13(2), 281-290.

Bugdahl, V. (2005). Erfolgsfaktor Markenname. Wiesbaden: Gabler.

Bulik, B. S. (2020). The inside story behind Pfizer and BioNTech's new vaccine brand name, Comirnaty [online]. (accessed 14 November 2022).

Bulik, B. S. (2022). Name that vaccine: From Comirnaty to Spikevax to Nuvaxovid, Covid-19 shots' brand names remain little-known [online]. (accessed 24 June 2022).

Burmann, C. et al. (2022). Marke [online]. (accessed 11 April 2022).

Camiciottoli, B. C. (2018). The Nuances of Brand Personality: A Corpus-assisted Linguistic Analysis of Web-based Communications of Fashion Brands. HERMES – Journal of Language and Communication in Business, 57, 141-159.

Campbell, C. (2021). The Pfizer vaccine will be officially called Comirnaty, for some reason [online]. (accessed 24 June 2022).

Catlett, D. (2001). Public relations and its role in pharmaceutical brand building In T. Blackett & R. Robins (eds.) Brand Medicine. The Role of Branding in the Pharmaceutical Industry (pp. 130-140). Houndmills: Palgrave.

Collier, R. (2014) The art and science of naming drugs. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 186(14), 1053. DOI:

Cooper, S. (2001). Clinical development and branding. In T. Blackett & R. Robins (eds.) Brand Medicine. The Role of Branding in the Pharmaceutical Industry (pp. 143-150). Houndmills: Palgrave.

D’Arrigo, T. (2017). Vaccine abbreviations and acronyms can lead to errors. Pharmacy Today, 23(5), 18.

Davidovic, D. (2021). Branding COVID vaccines: A nightmarish journey for branding practitioners? Journal of Brand Strategy, 10(2), 102-108.

de la Cova, E. (2021). Language and Brand: Problems for Localization. HERMES - Journal of Language and Communication in Business, 61, 63–75.

Dohle, S. & Siegrist, M. (2014). Fluency of pharmaceutical drug names predicts perceived hazardousness, assumed side effects and willingness to buy. Journal of Health Psychology, 19(10), 1241-1249.

Erman, M. and Mishra, M. (2021). Pfizer expects 2021, 2022 COVID-19 vaccine sales to total at least $65 bln [online]. (accessed 11 July 2022).

European Medicines Agencies (2014). Guideline on the acceptability of names for human medicinal products processed through the centralised procedure [online]. (accessed 11 December 2022).

Evans, W. D., & French, J. (2021). Demand Creation for COVID-19 Vaccination: Overcoming Vaccine Hesitancy through Social Marketing. Vaccines, 9(4), 319.

Faure, P. (2018). Natesto®. What Else? New Trends in Drug Naming. Names, 66(2), 65-74.

Fazio, R. H. et al. (2000). Measuring Associative Strength: Category Item Associations and Their Activation from Memory. Political Psychology, 21(1), 7-25.

Fortner, A. & Schumacher, D. (2021). First COVID-19 Vaccines Receiving the US FDA and EMA Emergency Use Authorization. Discoveries, 9(1), e122.

Franzen, G. & Bouwman, M. (2001). The Mental World of Brands. Henley-on-Thames: World Advertising Research Center.

Geissler, L. R. (1917). Association - reactions applied to ideas of commercial brands of familiar articles. Journal of Applied Psychology, 1(3), 275–290.

Gordon, B. S. et al. (2016). The Development of Brand Association Measures in Multiple Product Categories: New Findings and Implications for Goods and Service Brands. International Journal of Business Administration, 7(3), 140-152.

Greene, J. A. (2011). What's in a Name? Generics and the Persistence of the Pharmaceutical Brand in American Medicine. Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, 66(4), 468-506.

Grimes, W. (2011). With Rude Names, Wine Stops Minding Its Manners [online]. (accessed 07 May 2018).

Hamer, H. H. (2008). Brandnamechange. Göttingen: BusinessVillage.

ICOS List of Key Onomastic Terms (2021). (accessed 11 November 2021).

Keller, K. L. (2003). Brand Synthesis: The Multidimensionality of Brand Knowledge. Journal of Consumer Research, 29(4), 595-600

Keller, K. L. (2013). Strategic Brand Management. Harlow: Pearson.

Keller, K. L. (2019). Strategic Brand Management. Harlow: Pearson.

Kircher, S. (2019). Die Entwicklung von Markennamen. In F.-R. Esch (Hrsg.) Handbuch Markenführung (pp. 605-622). Wiesbaden: Springer Gabler.

Klink, R. R. (2000). Creating Brand Names with Meaning: The Use of Sound Symbolism. Marketing Letters, 11(1), 5-20.

Klink, R. R. (2003). Creating Meaningful Brands: The Relationship Between Brand Name and Brand Mark. Marketing Letters, 14(3), 143-157.

Kohli, C. et al. (2001). Prozeß der Namensgebung. In F.-R. Esch, (Hrsg.) Moderne Markenführung (pp. 451-474). Wiesbaden: Gabler.

Kondorosy Cs. et al. (2023). Oltásnarratívák. A Covid-vakcinákkal kapcsolatos lakossági attitűdök elemzése a közösségimédia-figyelés módszerével. Médiakutató, 24(4), 49-62. 2021a. Megkezdődött az oltás az orosz vakcinával is 2021. [online]. (accessed 11 December 2022). 2021b. A kínai vakcinával is elkezdődik az oltás – Mit kell tudni a Sinopharm-vakcináról? [online]. (accessed 11 December 2022) 2022a. Magyarországra érkezett vakcinák típusa és mennyisége 2022. [online]. (accessed 11 December 2022) 2022b. 6 millió 402 ezer a beoltott, 2654 az új fertőzött és elhunyt 40 beteg [online]. (accessed 11 December 2022)

Kotler, P. et al. (2013). Principles of Marketing: 4th European Edition. Harlow: Prentice Hall.

Kovács L. (2013). Fogalmi rendszerek és lexikai hálózatok a mentális lexikonban. Budapest: Tinta.

Kovács L. (2019). Márka és márkanév. Budapest: Tinta.

Kovács L. (2022). Márkanevek: a márkakukatás és a nyelvtudomány metszéspontjában Magyar Nyelvőr, 146(1), 60-70.

Kovács L. et al. (2022). Brands, networks, communities: How brand names are wired in the mind. PLoS ONE, 17(8), e0273192.

Lambertet et al. (2005). Designing Safe Drug Names. Drug-Safety 28, 495-512.

Landa, R. (2006). Designing Brand Experiences. New York: Thomson Delmar Learning.

Langner, T. & Esch, F.-R. (2019). Branding als Grundlage zum Markenaufbau. In F.-R. Esch (Hrsg.) Handbuch Markenführung (pp. 587-604). Wiesbaden: Springer Gabler.

Ledan, S. (2020). Discussing Brand Versus Generic Medications. US Pharmacist, 45(6), 30-32.

Lerman, D. B. (2007). Phonology, Morphology, and Semantics: Towards a Fuller Conceptualization of Brand Name Meaning. In T. M. Lowrey (ed.) Psycholinguistic Phenomena in Marketing Communications (pp. 79-99). Mahwah–London: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Maurer, W. (2000). Vaccine nomenclature: the three-letter code. Vaccine, 18(15), 1539-1542.

Meffert, H. et al. (2002). Stellenwert und Gegenstand des Markenmanagement. In H. Meffert, C. Burmann & M. Koers (Hrsg.) Markenmanagement (pp. 3-15). Wiesbaden: Gabler.

Mishra, M. (2022). Moderna sees higher COVID vaccine sales later this year [online]. (accessed 11 July 2022).

Moss, G. (2001). Pharmaceutical Brands: Do they Really Exist? Journal of Medical Marketing: Device, Diagnostic and Pharmaceutical Marketing, 2(1), 23-32.

Moss, G. & Schuiling, I. (2004). A Brand Logic for Pharma?: A Possible Strategy Based on FMCG Experience. Journal of Medical Marketing: Device, Diagnostic and Pharmaceutical Marketing, 4(1), 55-62.

Mushi, A. K. et al. (2008). Development of behaviour change communication strategy for a vaccination-linked malaria control tool in southern Tanzania. Malaria Journal, 7(1), 191.

Noor, R. (2021). Developmental Status of the Potential Vaccines for the Mitigation of the COVID-19 Pandemic and a Focus on the Effectiveness of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna mRNA Vaccines. Current Clinical Microbiology Reports, 8, 178-185.

Nübling, D. et al. (2012). Namen. Eine Einführung in die Onomastik. Tübingen: Narr.

Park, J. et al. (2021). A sound brand name: The role of voiced consonants in pharmaceutical branding. Food Quality and Preference, 90: 104104.

Pedroso, P. et al. (2022). COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy among Students. ISSRA Journal of Arts, Humanities and Social Studies, 1(3), 18-27.

Pires, C. et al. (2016). Evaluation of brand names of medicines: linguistic and format issues. International Journal of Pharmacy Practice, 25(3), 231-237.

Platen, C. (1997). „Ökonymie“: zur Produktnamen-Linguistik im Europäischen Binnenmarkt. Tübingen: Niemeyer.

Plotkin, S. (2014). History of vaccination. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(34), 12283-12287.

Praninskas, J. (1968). Trade name creation: processes and patterns. The Hague–Paris: Mouton.

Rangaswamy, A., Burke, R. R., & Oliva, T. A. (1993). Brand equity and the extendibility of brand names. International Journal of Research in Marketing, 10(1), 61-75.

Rivkin, S. & Sutherland, F. (2004). The Making of a Name. Oxford–New York: Oxford University Press.

Robertson, K. (1989). Strategically desirable brand name characteristics. The Journal of Consumer Marketing, 6(4), 61-71.

Robins, R. (2001). Pharmaceutical brand name development. In T. Blackett & R. Robins (eds.) Brand Medicine. The Role of Branding in the Pharmaceutical Industry (pp. 151-162). Houndmills: Palgrave.

Ronneberger-Sibold, E. (2004). Warennamen. In A. Brendler & S. Brendler (Hrsg.) Namenarten und ihre Erforschung: ein Lehrbuch für das Studium der Onomastik (pp. 557-603). Hamburg: Baar.

Rubiks 2022. [online] (accessed 06 November 2022).

Schmitt, B. H. et al. (1993). Memory for print ads: Understanding relations among brand name, copy, and picture. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 2(1), 55-81.

Schwartz, F. (2022) What Covid-19 Vaccine Did You Get? You Probably Don’t Know Its Name. The Wall Street Journal [online]. (accessed 09 July 2022).

Shrum, L. J. & Lowrey, T. M. (2007). Sounds Convey Meaning: The Implications of Phonetic Symbolism for Brand Name Construction. In T. M. Lowrey (ed.) Psycholinguistic Phenomena in Marketing Communications (pp. 39-58). Mahwah–London: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Shuy, R. (2002). Linguistic Battles in Trademark Disputes. Houndmills: Palgrave.

Sjöblom, P. (2014). Commercial names and the unestablished terminology. In J. Tort i Donada & M. Montagut i Montagut (eds.) Els noms en la vida quotidiana. Actes del XXIV Congrés Internacional d’ICOS sobre Ciències Onomàstiques. Names in Daily Life. Proceedings of the XXIV ICOS International Congress of Onomastic Sciences (pp. 92-98). Barcelon: Generalitat de Catalunya, Departament de Cultura.

Sjöblom, P. (2016). Commercial names. In Hough, C. (ed.) The Oxford Handbook of Names and Naming (453-465). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Tavassoli, N. T. (2001). Color memory and evaluations for alphabetical and logographic brand names. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 7(2), 104-111.

Usunier, J.-C. & Shaner, J. (2002). Using linguistics for creating better international brand names. Journal of Marketing Communications, 8(4), 211-228.

Wänke, M. et al. (2007). Brand name influence on brand perception. Psychology and Marketing, 24(1), 1-24.




How to Cite

Kovács, L. (2024). Good vs. Bad: An Empirical Analysis of the Brand Names of Coronavirus Vaccines. HERMES - Journal of Language and Communication in Business, (64), 1–21.