The Name Game in Cosmetic Surgery

Catchy and clever names are an integral part of branding in the essential game of marketing for most products. A great working product without a memorable name may never catch any attention with the public, while a mediocre product could grab a market share with just the right name. While this use of ‘naming’ is part of everyday marketing in retail sales, it is fairly uncommon in health care.

Hospitals certainly do advertise, as evidenced by the many billboards around the city but they rarely play the name game. While promoting new facilities, equipment and services, five star ratings and open houses are common marketing approaches in health care, ear grabbing phrases and slick-sounding names are not needed. When you are providing a service with proven benefit – such as a new hospital wing or MRI center, it is more about creating awareness, trustworthiness, and availability.  In plastic surgery, however, marketing often veers from the path of traditional medicine. In the world of cosmetic surgery, thanks to the reach of the internet, we are seeing the emergence and widespread use of clever names (and sometimes deliberately confusing ones) to entice patients to have procedures and surgery.

The  most well-known example is that of the ‘Lifestyle Lift’. Through their national magazine and television ads, this is a franchise approach to getting a facelift…or some version of it. Promising to turn the clock back at least ten years and look recovered in just a few days, its snazzy name seeks to assure patients that it will fit into their ‘lifestyle’. Interestingly, nowhere in their advertising does the company suggest it is actual surgery. I have seen numerous patients who have visited their facilities and were surprised to learn that it was actually an operation. These same people are certainly surprised to learn that the ‘Lifestyle Lift’ is an operation that is over twenty years old and is practiced by most plastic surgeons. This ‘mini-facelift’ operation has now cloned many spinoffs including Swiftlift and Weekend Lift to name just a few. Often touted as being innovative and original by the advertising surgeon, the names suggest that getting a fresh, younger look is really easy.

The fear of what transpires during a ‘Tummy Tuck’ keeps many women from actually having one. While there are different versions of tummy tucks, they all involve some degree of invasion of your mid-section, and some period of recovery. The ‘Smooth Tuck’ procedure puts a different twist on it. Promising less than a week of recovery and six-pack abs, who would not want to have one?  After all it is smooooth. The reality is the closest most tummy tuck patients can get to a six-pack is at their local convenience store. Flat, fairly taught tummies can be realistically achieved,  and that is more than enough for most patients. But getting back to work in less than a week looks better in an advertisement than it will feel in real life.

My current favorite is the Vampire Lift. Yes, that is an actual name that I hate to admit even exists in the industry. Using modern platelet and stem cell biology, the concept of extracting and purifying your blood for its healing components is used in many surgical specialities. While it can be a useful adjunct to certain surgeries, the fact that it is natural does not give it ‘pixie dust’ properties. The Vampire Lift  takes that concept and uses it as a substitute for injectable fillers to plump up your face. Promising to grow your own tissues to make lips bigger,  and injecting blood to make facial parentheses less noticeable certainly seems better than any synthetic product off-of-shelf. While this is an organic way to dispose of your money, it is a far fantasy from actual medical science.

What’s in a name? In cosmetic surgery, clever names often disguise an established procedure and might be just another way to catch the attention of a prospective patient.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana