A few years after we started Bold Metrics I was at an event with a bunch of other startup founders. Word got out that I knew something about domain names and a founder said to me, “hey – we’re rebranding, let me know what you think of our new name!”
The brand name he followed with is one that I cannot remember to this day, and I couldn’t remember five minutes later…and I knew this the moment I heard it.
Rebranding can be a very powerful move for a startup, and yes, you can makeup a word that becomes a household name – just think of Twitter, Sonos, Scion etc. these all became powerful brands. Also fun fact, the person who named Sonos was the same person who named Scion for Toyota and Pentium for Intel 🕺
Okay, now let’s get back to my simple branding test and the example I was giving. So I’m at a startup event, the CEO of a startup just approached me, pitched his new name, and I thought – yikes, that’s going to be a hard one for anyone to remember. Thinking back I believe it was something like “nakaiyko” or something along those lines. Either way, it was a word that was hard to pronounce and equally challenging to know how it might be spelled.
I told the CEO, go around the room and tell your new brand name to 20 people, then an hour later, go back around and see how many people remember it. He did, and an hour later zero out of twenty had remembered the name. Not a good sign.
While you shouldn’t expect twenty out of twenty people to remember your brand name, if less than half do, that’s a problem. Of course you probably won’t be going to any cocktail parties anytime soon so the best way to run this test would be to just hop on a simple phone call or Zoom with people you know, tell them the name and then ask them if you can check back with them in an hour or two to see if they remember it. Heck – give it a day. There’s no hard and fast rule here but there is a general concept – if you’re building a solid memorable product, why not have the company name be memorable as well?
There are of course plenty of other tests to make sure you’ve picked a good name, the radio test and the billboard test which I’ve talked about quite a bit before. So no, you don’t have to pick a big juicy six or seven figure one-word .COM to have a memorable brand, but when you’re going down the made up word path, there are ways you can de-risk the brand you pick a name you’ll regret, because rebranding twice sure isn’t twice as fun.
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