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What's in a name?

Updated: Nov 18, 2021

There have been times in the past when working with clients that a name will just hit me out of the blue... like lighting out of nowhere. The truth is that naming a company, brand or product lines takes time and planning. That lightning strike really wasn't out of nowhere. Actually I had been immersed, having conversations with founders, learning about culture, products, goals etc.

When my client John was questioning the branding of his "party supply" liquor store we had already had dozens of conversations in the preceding weeks when the new name just hit. I already knew the struggles, issues with vision and culture, as well as location, overhead, personnel and distribution. We had had countless "what-ifs" and John wished he had known me before he had started this venture as it would have saved him a few headaches and a lot of money. We would sit in his taproom after closing time, with his dog Baxter, laying below the tap handles ready to "clean up" whatever spilled, discussing what the store should be like and the personality his brand needed to be in order to attract the type of customers we knew were out there. So no, it wasn't out of nowhere in a split-second lightning strike that Lucky Baxter Taproom was born. It was after many long conversations and questions that were at first about brand, but truly were about trajectory. When the name hit, it was weeks into these conversations. We (re)built the framework of his store, from culture, to positioning, as a neighborhood destination with a top-to-bottom rebrand around the new name and the ideas it wholly embodied.

Getting the name as part of product/service development

Naming an organization and creating the identity system (logo, tagline, colors, look and feel etc.) at the same time while developing your business model, including product and service development, is the wholistic way to approach building a business. Too many founders understandably, dig in to the product and offerings and then, tackle name and brand identity system. After all, founders are driven by their idea and want to fully realize that vision. It's only natural...

However branding isn't marketing. In fact, selling strategically can't take place until the brand is intact. If you start selling before, then unforeseen and unplanned things can.. no, will, define your brand for you. Naming your organization, and especially naming your product lines should be part of the business strategy before launch.

Thankfully, when I started working with a mobile document-shredding and data-management company they were still in planning stages. It wasn't because of some incredible foresight, but because they knew they needed highly specialized trucks as part of their business model. Similarly to the taproom example earlier, many conversations and immersion in the ins-and-outs of the idea had to take place. DocuBit was born in a moment but that moment didn't come in a vacuum of awesome name ideas.

There has to be a deep understanding from all parties involved, to the most important and revealing question in business: why are we here? Why does our business exist and why should it exist? If these questions aren't answered clearly and you launch a brand, assumptions will fill in the blanks... not just by its founders but more critically, by the new captive audience. Many things like tone, sound, spelling, available URLs to differentiation and positioning in the market will need to be factored in... and will take another post at a later date to discuss. But in order to get through these factors, coming up with a name takes careful planning, conversations, give and take, mistakes and revisions and time... then yes, the name can hit you "out of nowhere"!


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