Doing a Backrub search for the latest pair of Blue Ribbon sneakers may sound strange, but once upon a time, Google was once called BackRub and Nike started life as Blue Ribbon Sports. Some of the world's most successful brands have gone through name iterations-sometimes more than one-to finally settle on a name that works from the inside out.
Google changed their name and based it on 'googol', which means a large number-reflective of the large amount of information sorted and arranged by the ubiquitous search engine. Nike was named for the goddess of victory. Even newer companies like Paypal and Yahoo weren't always known by their famous monikers.
Timelio's not a household name just yet, but naming a company is like naming a child: it has an impact. And like so many others, I didn't realize that until we went through a process that taught me your business name is probably your most important branding decision.
Here are my four most important lessons:
1. Choose a name that excites you
When we were establishing our business, we were eager to get things moving and I was impatient to cross off 'business name' from the to-do list. So we went with the no-brainer option: InvoiceBid. It was simple and it reflected our service at the time, so we didn't analyze any further.
But when we went to market, we realized our brand-and mainly our name - wasn't reflecting the excitement we felt for our service. It lacked personality. It had no color. And worst of all, it didn't communicate our belief or purpose. That's what I now know about branding. It helps you connect, and it all starts with a name.
2. Tell a story
Timelio is a marketplace with two very different target customers: investors and businesses. InvoiceBid was too literal and focused too much on the investor and not our business customers. Our primary aim is to make finance simple and timely for a business, and we wanted a name that reflected this. But we also wanted a name that resonated with who we are and what we want to be: easy, simple, supportive, empowering, transparent and friendly.
If you think one word can't possibly tell a story, think of an evocative brand and it's almost certain that there is more to their name than face value. Even if that meaning has to be dug up, it's there!
With that premise in mind, we used a good ol' brainstorm to think of the word, real or made-up, that would communicate our business and the people within it.We argued. We consulted. We rolled names off our tongue to see if we liked the sound. We even engaged the services of a comedian to help us think outside of the "finance box". In the end, we came up with Timelio. After all, time is money and money is time, and getting timely payments makes running a business so much easier.
3. Be original
One of the reasons we liked Timelio is that it's not a real word. Of course it's linked to a real word, but the irreverent aspect says something about who we are, and helps us connect with customers. We're not officious or authoritative like a bank - we're fast, flexible and on the same level as the people we are dealing with.
We had other 'safe' options, but with so many businesses out there in the world, differentiation (and being able to buy the domain name!) is key.
4. Think about the future
As your business grows, it becomes harder and harder to change your name. Not just from a marketing perspective, but it's a legal and logistic headache too. Choosing a name that locks you into one process, product, or service is something so many business owners do. The problem with that is the lack of flexibility. You only know your business as it stands right now, but you can rely on change to make itself known.
Just look at the way Google has changed or how Nike has expanded. A growing business means new or different products or services that you may never even have thought about. As part of our naming journey, we realized that InvoiceBid locked us into one model, but Timelio allows us to grow.
What are your thoughts on changing company names?!
Charlotte Petris is co-founder and CEO of Timelio, a peer-to-peer finance platform based in Melbourne, Australia. A qualified accountant with 20 years of experience in finance and advisory, Charlotte has a deep understanding of business owner's needs, problems and challenges. She sees Timelio as an opportunity to offer a unique alternative to traditional finance which enables businesses to achieve their growth ambitions. Twitter: @charpetris