“MONDEWHAAT?” asked a shocked New York Post headline in 2012 after Kraft Foods branded its snack foods division spin off “Mondelez.” However, that reaction was probably preferable to the derision that greeted Hewlett-Packard’s decision to name its research division Agilent, a moniker deemed uninspiring by some critics. These responses contrast sharply with the almost universal acclaim Google received for naming its reorganized corporate structure ‘Alphabet.’
These reactions underline the need for tech entrepreneurs to carefully consider the type of monikers they select for their enterprises. Ideally, a company name should be catchy while evoking key business and brand attributes. The right name functions in a similar way to the opening line of a gripping novel; it whets a desire to delve into the story of a brand.
One example of a firm with a fitting title is Uber, according to Nikolas Contis, global director of naming and branding firm Siegel+Gate. The moniker, typically a prefix denoting a supreme or outstanding example, reflects the firm’s ambition to reinvent and improve the taxi business. Similarly, Amazon’s name conveys the company’s relentless push to become an e-commerce powerhouse by evoking the power and breadth of the eponymous South American river.
The simplicity of Alphabet is intended to be reminiscent of Google’s uncluttered, user friendly search page. And by referencing a collection of letters that serve as the basis for a virtually limitless number of words, the moniker conveys an attribute closely associated with the Google brand; creativity. In addition, the ‘alpha’ in ‘Alphabet’ is intended to reflect the company’s drive to consistently achieve above average returns, according to Larry Page, one of the company’s founders. In the investment world, ‘alpha’ stands for investment returns surpassing a specified benchmark.
Other examples of companies with names appropriate to their target audiences include Parse and Curious, according to Rob Meyerson, writing for Venturebeat. Parse, which refers to the process of analyzing text strings and programming code in order to identify constituent parts, is an ideal name for the Facebook-owned company as its primary target audience is app developers. Curious, which received $7.5 million in Series A financing in 2013, hosts a platform for streaming video lessons.
Despite the memorability and evocative value of easy-to-remember names such as Alphabet, Amazon and Curious , two caveats apply. First, companies should select names that evoke images consistent with their business focus and brand ethos. This is the reason why Alphabet, a moniker that embodies fun and simplicity, would be unsuitable for banks and other institutions that should ideally project an aura of solemnity. The second caveat is that simple names tend to trademarked. As a consequence, it may be necessary to purchase rights to some monikers before they can be used.
Despite that, the right names may be worth their weight in gold. While the success, or otherwise, of a tech company is directly attributable to other factors – the nature of its offerings, the composition of the firm’s management team, the state of the economy and the company’s ability to attract capital, among others – a moniker that effortlessly springs to mind while conveying key brand attributes may provide a valuable edge in an increasingly competitive world.