“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
— Juliet, Act 2 Scene 2
Was Shakespeare right, when he suggested that what someone or something is called is subjective compared to their true intrinsic qualities? In my mind, there is absolutely no doubt that the core of a person (or a company) is always what truly matters. However, in the business world a name can carry a lot of weight in terms of long-term growth or success.
When Stephanie and I solidified our partnership during a late-night Facetime chat I knew right away what my first steps were, and I was equally excited and intimidated. Like naming a child, there are so many factors and variables to consider, and the importance of the end result is tremendous.
A good business name, in my opinion, needs to achieve a few things:
- Differentiate you from our competition
- Reinforce your value proposition (i.e. what you stand for)
- Creative a positive association
- Make you memorable
Who Am I?
Distilling a company down to a single word or phrase is a serious undertaking, and as I am sure you can imagine, involved a number of steps before I arrived at a successful outcome. Before I could begin just throwing names out there, I needed to make sure I knew exactly what our company was (and was not).
Just like the famous marketing funnel we have all seen, my naming process started wide, then got narrower and narrower. Starting at the top, it began with drafting a comprehensive description of our company. This included who we would serve, what we would offer, why we would offer it, and how we would ultimately operate. The description was not just about our business model; it was deeper than that. Why are we doing what we’re doing? Who does it benefit? And at the end of the day, what do we want to truly be known for?
Without revealing this entire dialogue, at its core, our business would be a woman owned consulting firm, which exists to help and support other women business owners and entrepreneurs. Our business was meant to be interactive, collaborative, and goal oriented.
Watch Your Tone!
Sometimes referred to as a brand’s “personality,” with tone I needed to consider who our potential customers were, what would attract them to us, and why they would be excited about our company. If our company were a person, what would they be like?
It was important to nail down our brand tone early on, so I can be consistent from the beginning. Tone factors into almost every aspect of a company’s communications, from the website, emails, social media, even client service. And of course, tone would be embedded in our name choices as well.
For our company, I decided on: smart, determined, collaborative, and straight-forward.
What’s Our Mission (Statement)?
After I had taken the time to define the true essence of our business, a great way to bring it all together is to write a mission statement. Stay tuned for future blog posts in which I will dive even deeper into mission statements, but at the highest level a mission statement “defines what an organization is, why it exists, [and] its reason for being.” (1). An ideal mission statement is typically one concise sentence or statement, with each word chosen very carefully and deliberately. A mission statement differs from a tagline in that it is usually internally focused and serves to drive every action or decision a company makes.
Let the Brainstorming Begin
Once I documented our purpose, personality, and mission, I began to brainstorm keywords. To make it more methodical, I created “paths” or categories that my keywords could fall into. Here is what I decided to frame my exercise around:
- Personal (i.e. my name, Stephanie’s name, our kids, families, etc.)
- Feminine (i.e. words that suggests women or femininity)
- Inspirational (i.e. words that convey success, power, or strength)
- Empowerment (i.e. names of renowned women leaders or visionaries from the past, or notable years or events from women’s history)
For each path, I wrote down every word that came to mind until I ran out of steam. Then I turned to the internet to find more inspiration, from reading journal articles, news stories, even famous quotes, to get more ideas. My excel file runneth over.
Bringing it all Together
Once I felt I had captured every possible keyword that could come in handy, I started to narrow down my list by eliminating anything that was either too familiar, overused, or just plain boring. Then the fun really started! Company names can take so many different forms, whether they are straightforward (Staples), abstract (Xerox), compound (Facebook). There are so many styles to consider, and it truly takes a creative (and patient) mind to come up with viable options.
A Smashe is Born
I spent most of my time playing around with name variations – the possibilities were almost endless, and to be honest, I got a bit overwhelmed at times. But what it ultimately came down to was, I decided the following characteristics needed to come through in our name:
- Our company’s main purpose was to support women. I wanted to be sure that something in our name communicated this, while not being so overt that we could be confused with a feminine hygiene product or an extreme feminist organization.
- Through our consulting services, we wanted to further the cause of breaking the glass ceiling. Much of my brainstorming generated words around breaking, shattering, and smashing.
After many days and nights of contemplation, I arrived at Smashe: a combination of the word “smash” and “she.” Together, they embody our mission to help women smash through the glass ceiling, and achieve their goals.
How Important is a Good Brand Name?
Let’s consider some examples:
- Google takes its name from an augmentation of googol, a term for 10 raised to the 100th power. However, back in 1996 when they first launched, they went by the name “BackRub” (ew).
- Amazon was originally called “Cadabra”, but Jeff Bezos realized that people had a tough time spelling it, and also didn’t really understand it was part of the word “abracadabra.”
- J. Crew came about because, according to Forbes, “Crew was picked to compete with Ralph Lauren’s Polo label, and [founder Arthur] Cinader added the J because he thought it added [cachet].”
- Starbucks is named after a character in “Moby-Dick.” According to cofounder Gordon Bowker, they started with the letters “st” because they thought they were powerful. They found the word “Starbo” on an old mining map of the Cascades and Mount Rainier, which reminded him of Melville’s first mate [named Starbuck] in “Moby-Dick.”
- Did you know the following are actually brand names, and not generic terms? Jet Ski, Bubble Wrap, Onesies, Jacuzzi, Crock Pot, Zamboni, and Popsicle. I’ll bet you use them everyday without even knowing it!
I am so excited about our new venture, and I can’t wait to flex my marketing muscles on behalf of new clients. Shoot me an email if you want to pick my brain!