What’s in a Name?

The Question

Alaris is the name of:

A. Pluto’s moon.

B. A nuclear submarine.


C. An infusion systems maker.

D. Men’s cologne.

The Answer

If you chose C, you’re right. Alaris is the name corporate-identity firm Interbrand Schechter of San Francisco developed this spring for IMED Corp. and IVAC Medical Systems after they merged to form a new company. Here’s how it came up with the name:


The Process

Interbrand dreamed up dozens of names for the combined company, a San Diego-based maker of medical infusion devices such as intravenous controllers and pumps and patient-monitoring systems such as tympanic and electronic thermometers. It decided an obvious name like Infusion Systems of America wouldn’t do--it could be a handicap if the company wants to diversify. At the same time, the new name had to reflect quality--as Interbrand put it, “the best of the breed"--and needed to sound soothing to people who would see it while hooked up to IVs in a hospital. The firm passed along 12 names to focus groups.

The Finalists

These groups helped whittle the choices down to three finalists:

* Placing third was Versant, coined from “versatile.” Focus groups said it suggests a firm that is flexible and can provide a range of innovative, trustworthy solutions.

* The runner-up was Sagence. Derived from “sage,” which means wise, group members said this name implies an innovative company with intelligent solutions.

* Alaris emerged as the focus groups’ clear favorite. Group members said it sounded elegant and the “Al” implied an alliance. The Latin word for “wings,” Alaris also implies a futuristic company and conveys “things ascending,” Interbrand adds. Group members said Alaris reminded them of Polaris, the North Star, emphasizing the relevance of the firm’s new logo, a red star.