A cautionary tale about names and branding
Do a search for “how to name your company”, seriously do it. Now try to follow the advice out there. No, try to follow just half the advice out there. From Namebots to hiring a pricey branding agency to engaging a psychic, is there one right way? I’d have to say “no.”
I can’t give you a guaranteed formula for naming success, but I will share an experience that resulted in a great company name by following an unconventional path.
My first brush with company naming came when, as a skilled developer with a keen interest in business, I became intrigued with the idea of starting a business. This business would provide developers for hire. They would build product from scratch or fill in tech gaps on customer teams. They would solve problems, they would provide clarity, help focus your thinking. They would be…ClearSpace!
All was well until I started receiving the calls that asked “How much to clear out my attic?” and “Do you do garages?”
The straw that broke the naming camel’s back came when our biggest customer admitted she really could never say our name because her largest competitor had a name very similar to ours. She was being faced with confusion and questions whenever she said ClearSpace and so she just stopped. So much for word-of-mouth promotion, key to any fledgling company!
ClearSpace had to go.
Being high-tech but with a great appreciation for the low-tech ways of days gone by, I decided to try something different this time. I wouldn’t use Namebots or seek out a branding specialist. Instead, I grabbed my dog-eared Thesaurus. Perhaps this time the name should speak more to who we are than what we do. Words reached out to me; collective, community…band. I liked the sound of that. Band of Developers, a bit of a mouthful and didn’t flow. Then the light bulb went on. Band of Coders…Band. Of. Coders. BandofCoders.com. I had a contender!
But as any smart developer knows, the testing is the thing. For the next couple of months my business partner and I talked Band of Coders. We didn’t run it by an agency or through any sophisticated analysis tools. We didn’t hold focus groups. We simply had conversations and asked a lot of questions. We asked anyone and everyone “What does Band of Coders mean to you?” and “What do you think of when you hear Band of Coders?” We didn’t discriminate and we didn’t preface the question with any details of what we do. We didn’t choose our market segment or industry business peers exclusively. We asked everyone we could.
Each answer we got was better than the last. Band of Coders was a WWII secret group that cracked secret code. Band of Coders were guns for hire, a Robin Hood-esque group that solves problems by banding together.
We were pleasantly surprised by the results of our low-tech and cost-free testing. Band of Coders captured who we were and what we did as well as the culture we were trying to create within the company.
We bid ClearSpace good-bye and have been Band of Coders ever since. We build product from scratch and fill in tech gaps on customer teams. We solve problems, provide clarity and help focus your thinking. We don’t clear out garages and attics and no one asks if we do!
If you are tasked with naming a company, consider the valuable lessons we learned by taking a road less travelled:
Your company name is worth gold but does not have to cost gold to develop.
Consider low-tech options for selection and testing; such as a thesaurus and having real conversations with ANYONE who will listen and provide feedback. Some of the best feedback comes from those with no preconceived notions or knowledge about what you do.
Steer away from prefacing your questions and asking leading questions about your proposed name. Keep your questions short and simple.
Value who you are and what you do over current naming trends… or you may end up cleaning out attics!
Be patient…the lightbulb moment will come.
By Brydon Gilliss