We had two black-and-white winners in our rename-Valeant Pharmaceuticals survey, but with Valeant, shades of gray always come along for the ride.
Readers started weighing in on a new name for Valeant earlier this month, after CEO Joseph Papa said the company was seriously considering a rebrand, for obvious reasons. Valeant’s image has gone off a cliff the past couple of years, along with its share price.
Almost one-quarter of the 624 survey respondents picked Papa Joe’s as their favorite, clearly in the mood for funny over functional. Exactly one-fifth chose Janus Pharmaceuticals, a more plausible solution (though with a couple of caveats, as readers pointed out).
Why Papa Joe’s? It refers, of course, to Valeant CEO Joseph Papa, who took the helm after J. Michael Pearson bowed out. “Clever,” one reader commented. “How can you not pick this one?” several others said. And this voter had a rationale: “Because I think they are a joke—so their name should reflect that."
As for Janus, more than one reader pointed out that it’s taken, or that it sounds too similar to “Janssen,” the Johnson & Johnson pharma unit. But one reader thought that mental association could be a plus. “People might might mistake it for Janssen, and that could be a good thing,” the comment said.
And here’s where shades of gray come in. Janus is the god of rebirth—a fact cheered by many of those who voted for it, given Valeant’s need to be reborn—but as a few readers pointed out, he comes with some baggage. “Two-faced!” one reader said. "I find it double-faced to slap a new (wine) label onto the same old bottle of vinegar,” another said.
Vinegar may be a mild name for it. You'll recall that Valeant's reputation took a long slide as it faced criticism for aggressive price hikes, investigations into its relationship with the shady specialty pharmacy Philidor, hearings on Capitol Hill, and mounting concern about the massive amount of debt it piled up as it snapped up smaller companies, cut jobs, raised prices and went on to the next deal.
Still, voters who backed Janus emphasized the positive face, and as one noted, it doesn’t necessarily mean Valeant’s actually reborn already. “Aspirational,” the voter said, adding that the company needs to promise a metamorphosis “to help boost morale for their employees more than anything else.”
The most impassioned responses, however, came from backers of Icarus—precisely for the uncertainty built in. “Icarus can serve as a warning for further hubris,” a voter said. And another contended that Valeant “has flown too high on many points. A signal that the sky may NOT be the limit.”
To another reader, Icarus captured the company’s daunting task. Rehabbing its reputation will take more than a new logo, and Valeant is likely to be hampered by its past until it proves it’s really changing its ways. “They can't just change their name. They have to change their behaviors. They have no values,” the reader said. “Thus, cruising too close to the sun … got to live with those wings for now.”
Another concurred, critiquing the company’s growth-by-M&A approach, which yielded big stock gains and many congratulatory slaps on the back for then-CEO Michael Pearson.
“It’s the perfect, fitting name for a fraudulent company that always pretended to be better and more advanced than the industry it operated in,” the comment stated. “Their model was a consultant’s dream, but the reality was they were always going to get scorched.”
Meanwhile, more than a few readers saw the vote as a referendum on our taste. “Clearly, you eliminated all the fun ones, but of the six lame ones you're offering up here, this is the least awful one,” one voter wrote. (For the record, the least awful one was Phoenix Pharmaceuticals.)
Another voter, who picked Salubrix, called it “the least pretentious name,” and added “I would have preferred Valeant McValeantface instead.” Others lamented the lack of a few other nominations, among them Shkreliant, referring to price-hiking Martin Shkreli.