Whats in a Name…The Story of a New Company (Part 3)
So we’re creating a start-up, and we are looking for a name…
Before discussing the process we went through to select Freeform Europe Limited, let’s look at the importance of branding.
A Brand Strategy
A brand is something that represents an organisation and its products or services; it provides differentiation from competitors and sets an expectation for customers. It is your company promise.
Your brand is what you are and what you want to be.
A strong brand can mean increased revenues and profitability. Your brand should be representative and consistent both internally and externally in an organisation. Your website, documents, emails, packaging, business cards etc. every touch point should demonstrate the same image, design, strap line etc. without exception.
Strong ‘Brand Equity’ allows you to charge a premium for similar products and services to that of the competition as there is an actual, or perceived, benefit to the customer by purchasing them from you.
The brand of an organisation should be a good fit with what and who you are as a business. It should set an expectation which you then deliver upon.
When forming a company it is understandable that coming up with a name is seen as a high priority. However, it should be equally understood that everyone has a different opinion and ideas on what name would be most appropriate; and everyone has a reason why their thoughts align best to the overall business name. So, working your way through a process and arriving at a name you can all agree on is important.
Importance of Selecting the Right Name
I recall an episode of ‘The Apprentice’ where a group of young entrepreneurs were tasked with coming up with their team name. One young buck whole heartedly proposed ‘The ‘A’ Team’ without hesitation, the room went quiet, sniggers from fellow comrades and then total silence. (link to the video below)
In that one moment his reputation was damaged, not because his idea was catastrophically bad, but it didn’t fit with the now; the image it raises is something that just doesn’t fit with today’s thinking. This was then followed by ‘Jigsaw’ by another chap and then the guy behind ‘The A Team’ suggestion’ proposed ‘Winners’, again not a bad suggestion, but by this time his reputation was sullied and his fellow team members were not going to support it.
Picking the right name is important, it is something which is incredibly difficult to change in the future, as customers become used to working with companies and their branding; changing it can have long term implications on trading.
Take the famous Cadbury ‘Wispa’ name U-Turn, where Cadbury relaunched the Wispa bar as ‘Dairy Milk Bubbly’; the public didn’t approve creating a campaign to show their displeasure; the Wipsa name was reintroduced. This wasn’t a simple thing to do, but it made financial sense – keep the new name and sell less or revert back and sell more? (link to BBC news below)
So we knew we needed to get this right, but where to start?
Firstly, it isn’t as simple as just selecting a name…Sorry!
In choosing a trading name it is important to select something which is reflective of what you want to be or are.
Bringing in Some Context
To get our minds moving we talked about elements we liked of other organisations such as Virgins customer focused approach, Apples Innovative and simply designed products and 3M Innovative approach and superb employee engagement.
After much discussion we decided that the name needed to create a sense of ‘who’ we are, reflect what we wanted to be and be indicative of the service we will provide , so we set about defining what the branding should look to represent.
These are the terms and statements we want to reflect in our brand…
- ‘Professional’ and ‘Robust’
- ‘Ever Evolving’ a ‘Work in Progress’
- ‘Not Conforming to Traditional Routes’
These terms and statements are underlying. They are not an advertising campaign or a values statement, but what we would like the name (and logo) to transmit to a customer.
Now I appreciate that not all companies have an indicative name, but we thought it was important. This was mainly based on the premise that being a start-up we needed customers to be able to find us, and in so doing identify what we do; so, we should include software or soft in it.
The Name Should Not Look Out of Place
Another consideration was selecting a name that did not look out of place in the software market place. This was quite tricky, as software development companies have all sorts of names including the big boys like Microsoft, itunes (or ianything for that matter) to far out there names like Nerdware, Alien 51 Apps and Mortar software; all of which conjure up certain images. Obviously a software company called Nerdware creating shoot-em up games is not a problem, but would a business entrust its office systems to a company of that name?
By now, we had a sense, or feeling, for what the brand might represent. So we investigated names. Many fell to the wayside during conversations, but two survived, namely Freeform and Softcomp.
Softcomp – a blending of Software and Company had the advantage that it says what we do. This was a favourite for some time, as it was simple and has the added advantage of making us sound bigger than we are.
Freeform represented the fluidity that we wanted included in the branding, but it felt a little to mainstream? In that, we were concerned that it looked like a consumer supermarket brand and not a software one.
Now, it is easy to assume that you understand the meaning of the word you are intending to use, but a bit of research puts this into context.
Obviously Softcomp is a blended word and so has no real meaning, but Freeform does; this is what online research discovered:
- Google states ‘not conforming to a regular or formal structure or shape’;
- Noun – ‘A shape having an irregular contour, chiefly used in nonrepresentational art and industry design’;
- and ‘a linguistic form that can occur by itself, as fire, book or run’.
Additional word research presented ‘not organised or planned in a traditional way’, ‘encouraged to function or evolve without advance planning; spontaneous’ and without restrictions and preconceptions’.
To take the process of selecting a name the step further we wanted to identify a geographical target market indicative of where we would trade.
After further discussion we considered the use of UK, but felt that this was limiting as one of our immediate customers would be in Germany; so, Europe would make sense. The company would be either, Softcomp Europe Limited (or Ltd) or Freeform Europe Software Limited (or Ltd) or Soft?
But can you actually use this name?
Ok, now we had something solid in mind, well options at least! The next thing was to see if they are available to trade with. In this day and age selecting a name is not a simple process, you also need to consider other company’s trading with that name (or similar), avoiding passing off (where one company tries to look like another), ensure website and domain names are available, trademarks and copyright; to mention a few.
After research we found that Softcomp.com or .co.uk domain names were not available. This meant that something would need to give, either the domain name be slightly different or the trading company name.
In contrast Freeform Europe Limited was available in pretty much any domain name.
The Name Selection…
We reviewed the names. Softcomp was nice, simple and succinct. It states what we do and we could live with it, but it did not enthuse the brain and didn’t truly represent our thoughts. It also sounded a lot like Microsoft which is something we wanted to avoid, for obvious reasons.
After much deliberation we opted for Freeform Europe Limited, as we felt that this most reflected ‘what’ and ‘who’ we wanted to be; however, we also wanted Software in the name.
We decided to select Freeform Europe Limited as the registered company name and use Freeform Software as the trading name. This is not a bad move, as moving forward we can add other trading entities if we so wish.
Working Together and Timescales
I would add that this process lasted several weeks, if not months.
The process of selecting a name can be quite emotive; this is understandable as you are going to have to live with the name for the foreseeable future. I would recommend that you take your time and work collaboratively to identify what works and what doesn’t, but whatever you do ‘make a decision’; the decision doesn’t get any easier the longer you leave it. Honestly, I speak the truth…
In ‘Starting a New Company Part 4’ I will update you on the logo design, colours and web pantone.
*All comments are based on my personal experiences and given freely. That said, you need to make your own choices. I can’t and won’t accept liability for you employing any recommendations. Business is all about risk. It’s your choice.
Nigel stone has, over the last fifteen years, started, led, consulted and nurtured both UK and European businesses to achieve quite outstanding results. please feel free to drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Links to Part 1 and 2 are below:
Links to websites mentioned above: