We were saddened to learn of the death of Earl Bakken, the founder of Medtronic and inventor of the first wearable external pacemaker. His legacy impacted many inside both the medical and patient communities.
The Company started with humble beginnings. Medtronic was founded in 1949 as a medical equipment repair shop. Along with his brother-in-law Palmer Hermundslie, they grew from a struggling garage-based business to a multinational medical technology corporation. It wasn’t until the late 1950s that Bakken developed the first external, wearable, battery-powered, transistorized heart pacemaker. This led to Medtronic becoming the world’s largest medical device company.
So, what’s in the name Medtronic? In 1949 the name was appropriate as the Company was focused on “medical electronics”. By continuing to use the name for 69 years, even as the focus of the company changed from medical electronics to overall medical technology, a strong Brand was created, and the name still persists to this day as one of the most recognizable in the industry.
As professional naming consultants, we follow trends in healthcare branding and we wonder if the name Medtronic would today be the best naming choice to reflect patient attitudes towards the word “electronics.” Though it clearly retains an iconic standing due to its history, more recent medical device Company names such as Baxter, Stryker, and Cardinal Health are more more generic and designed to give the patient confidence in a new technology without stressing the electronic component. What worked in 1949 is much different than what works now.
With the loss of Earl Bakken, the world has lost a great pioneer and philanthropist and our deepest sympathy goes out to his family and colleagues.