Inside the frantic and secretive sprint to name the COVID-19 vaccines

The process of christening a new medicine typically involves about two years of semiotic labor. But in 2020, just as drug companies collapsed their standard development timelines to fight a global pandemic, the naming process has been condensed into a six-month sprint, said Scott Piergrossi​, president of operations and communications at the Miami-based Brand Institute, which has worked on Covid-19 vaccine naming projects. (Citing the confidentiality of client agreements, Piergrossi​ wouldn’t say which ones.)

“We’ve never experienced anything like this in our time in business,” said Piergrossi. “It’s been a privilege to be in some way a part of this effort.”…

“Everyone I know is trying to get it out of me,” Piergrossi​ said. “I haven’t even told my wife what the names are.”

Marketing experts involved in the naming of previous vaccines say a good name might suggest cutting-edge science, but it had best not imply the product is so new as to be risky. It should be assuring, but not overly promotional; approachable, but distinct from any other approved product. It’s a narrow target to hit.