Promo Distributors Weigh In on the Secret to Naming Your Company
If immortality were possible and William Shakespeare could fraternize with the folks from Red Antler, the Brooklyn-based branding agency, the Bard might find himself bored with their recent assertion that a company’s name is hugely important. After all, the lauded playwright is responsible for Juliet's famous “What’s in a name?" speech.
Appreciation for Shakespeare’s take on titles aside, analyzing how businesses name themselves has become a far-reaching practice, as entities, along with talented worker pools, must possess a name that exudes confidence yet avoids certain inclinations that could cloud their messages or minimize the understanding of their commercial identities.
Too many sessions to attend in too little time? Good thing @99U recapped the "Best and Brightest Ideas" from the 10th Annual #99Uconference for you! Check out Emily Heyward's advice on the questions to ask yourself when starting a business. https://t.co/Z8VFtsaN85
— RED ANTLER (@redantler) May 15, 2018
Emily Heyward and Jonah Fay-Hurvitz represented Red Antler May 10 at the 99U Conference, engaging the New York City crowd in a discussion about effective brand creation and implementation. Having earned Fast Company distinction as a Top-10 innovator in the advertising and marketing realm, Red Antler has been a dear companion to various businesses whose names, not to mention their platforms, resound among the masses, earning acclaim for its work for Allbirds, Birchbox, Brandless, Casper and Rent the Runway.
Quartz devoted an article to what the two told the attendees, with the experts advising against tag lines and testing names with focus groups. They also preach avoidance of too-literal or too-descriptive designations, instead urging brands to select names that will make an emotional impression on end-users. Good advice all around.
In the promo industry, there are plenty of businesses whose names are in line with Red Antler's guidelines. So we thought it'd be fun to ask a couple of them how they got their names. Promo Marketing picked the brains of Jim Childers, president of BrandVia, San Jose; and Natalie Rende, business developer for Zorch, Chicago, to see how the promo distributors determined their names and what they think of Red Antler's tips.
“BrandVia was born in 2003 at a time early in the life of the internet and before SEM/SEO were the force they are today,” Childers said in contrast to the Red Antler position on the contemporary naming of start-ups. “Then, versus now, new business traffic relied on the brand name being tied to, if not representative of, the industry you were in.”
Founding team members set themselves to selecting a name that encapsulated what they could accomplish as promo distributors and that that which addressed the “why” behind their approach.
“While the word ‘brand’ was a natural starting point, we saw ourselves as a company that connected people,” Childers said. “The word ‘via,’ for us, represented the avenue we use to create that connection, allowing us to connect our clients to the people who matter to them—their teams, their clients and their stakeholders—and so BrandVia was born.”
Though Zorch might sound as if it had some science fiction inspiration in entering the industry, the name is an actual part of speech (that was news to us), a verb meaning “to travel with velocity approaching light speed” and “to propel something very quickly.”
“That is the perfect way to describe both our company culture and our business model,” Rende said of the 16-year-old Windy City-headquartered distributor. “From the start, Zorch has been on the cutting edge of the promotional products industry because our model is completely different, which led to unprecedented growth on our end.”
She and Childers enjoyed explaining how their business names have helped acquire clients, with the former noting that Zorch, since it sounds succinct and “clean,” uses its name to show action through Zorch It, Get Zorched and Got Zorched.
“However, the biggest advantage to our company name is its monosyllabic simplicity,” Rende said. “At Zorch, we’ve simplified the purchasing process in the promotional products industry, so why not have a simple name to go with it?”
Childers credits a “straightforward and honest approach,” as reflected in his company's name, to resonate with clients, explaining that his hires aspire to be “100 percent referenceable” among said beneficiaries. Their referrals, he said, support his claim that a simple name, backed up by employees’ commitment, can truly cause more than a few ripples.
As for Red Antler's naming advice, Rende and Childers mostly agreed.
“We would definitely recommend other companies follow the tips listed in the Red Antler article,” Rende said. “In today’s climate of instant gratification, you don’t want a potential customer to lose interest by having a long/complex name followed by an equally long tagline. We particularly have followed the first rule of ‘resist the literal’ without any existing knowledge or context. I doubt anybody would see the name Zorch, and think, ‘Ahhh, branded merchandise,” which is a good thing! Having people ask about our name works as an icebreaker at nearly every event we attend.”
“I believe that taglines can be hard to get right and that it’s OK if you don’t have one,” Childers offered. “Let the name and the logo set the tone, and bring the tagline along in time! Have fun with your company name and logo, and don’t be afraid to color outside the lines. Life is too short to get caught up in creating the perfect ‘brand name’. If I had to name a new company today, I agree that the rules have changed and we could get away with much less conventional name. Today your name can hold less meaning, as long as the company is full of purpose, talent, vision, drive and passion.”