Put another way, who is it that now cares about the Caremark mark?
CVS is no longer selling tobacco products. And in line with that momentous decision, they have dispensed with Caremark in the corporate name and are now to be known as CVS Health.
I have no inside information about why they’re making this move, but I love to speculate about trademarks. So far, CVS has said it reflects their broader health care commitment. Also, I’m still intrigued by the pharmacy business, having owned retail pharmacies myself.
CVS Caremark was the corporate name. On the retail consumer side, they are CVS Pharmacy, and that is presumably how most people know them, not as CVS Caremark. Investors have been accustomed, on the other hand, to seeing the CVS Caremark name ever since the companies CVS and Caremark merged in 2006. Since it was CVS’s decision to eliminate the sale of tobacco products in their retail division, someone prescribed changing the name to include “Health.” But since this change does not affect stores, what more likely happened is that CVS seized upon this as an opportunity to jettison the post-merger compounded name. Merger names are more about ego than branding. Neither company usually wants to give up its identity; at the least, it doesn’t want to have its name entirely disappear from the map. Eight years is a respectable amount of time for the name CVS Caremark to run its course. Health is, of course, the most generic description of the CVS business model, and CVS Health is probably a name which is much less cumbersome, and much more attractive to company executives.
CVS/pharmacy on Garrett Road in Durham, North Carolina. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
CVS is not the first company to “take the pledge,” nor is this prohibition a novel idea, by the way. We toyed with the idea in the early 80s, as did many other pharmacies, long after tobacco had been demonized, but before the era of mega-taxing cigarettes made them expensive. Our margins were always extremely thin for cigarettes, but they brought a lot of customers into the store. We did not want to surrender that foot traffic to the supermarket to our left, nor to the convenience store a few steps away. Drugstores have always sold lots of products that might have run counter to someone’s morals one way or another (contraceptives were quite taboo for decades, and some more reactionary customers weren’t too thrilled with our selling the New York Times, to be honest). CVS, like all pharmacies, sells lots of other products on the retail level which have nothing to do with health. Staple drugstore items include candy and ice cream, hair dye and cards – all everyday items for over a century. Snacks and chips don’t face the same health objections as cigarettes, but some in circles are getting there. Is health still “OK” for a company selling these? If the company name is expressly tied to healthy lifestyle decisions, it may be a slippery slope and one unnecessary to scale.
Why not just change the name without making a splashy “we can’t sell unhealthy products” claim that will just invite criticism? Or just go with CVS. Do you really need to explain you are in the pharmacy/health business?
It’s not clear what becomes of Caremark. The company owns a number of relatively recent trademark applications which include the entire CVS Caremark name, but these may have been filed well before this new branding decision had been made. Presumably Caremark will remain in play, and CVS will now seek to register CVS Health. Whether “CVS Caremark” is now taking maintenance drugs to insure its longevity doesn’t seem to be clear.
This article originally appeared on Forbes