by Mark Hayes
September 23, 2015

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyll-llantysiliogogogoch.

Now, let me clarify, I did not fall asleep on my keyboard while typing. That is the actual name of a town in Wales.

And to answer your next question…no I don’t have the first clue on how to pronounce it. But if you’re really keen to hear it, this weatherman nails it!

I’m referencing this town because our agency recently changed its name too. And while we were nowhere close to picking a name as difficult as that Welsh town (just wouldn’t fit on a business card), the process of choosing felt almost as arduous.

But it was a journey that taught us a few lessons along the way, which I’d like to share.

It wasn’t broken but we still had to fix it

When we chose the name Tiger Tiger back in March 2014, it was a pretty simple decision. A short story by Rudyard Kipling and a science fiction novel by Alfred Bester, both of which had the same name, inspired us. The novel by Bester was alternatively titled ‘The Stars My Destination’, which also felt like a good aspiration to have as a company.

So there we were, Tiger Tiger – Digital Agency. It sounded a bit mysterious and had a sense of intrigue. But more than anything else, it had a nice ring to it.

And for the next 18 months, we ran with it. It sat neatly engraved on the entrance wall of our office, it came off with a solid tactile feel on our letter-pressed business cards and most importantly, it was taken seriously as an agency name by clients.

There were a few hiccups with our particular choice of name. In today’s digital landscape, a company’s name is not just a business card. It’s a website. It’s a Facebook page. It’s a Twitter account. It’s an Instagram handle. Which means unless you own every avatar of your company name, you’re forced to make compromises.

For instance, we couldn’t get the Facebook page to our name. That belonged to a restaurant. On Twitter, someone else had beaten us to the chase for the handle. The same was true of Instagram. But the real blow was our website. The ever-crucial URL (TigerTiger.com) was already in use as an e-commerce store. So we had to settle for the .co instead.

Yet, despite these setbacks, we weren’t fazed. After all, we were named after a cat with respected and feared killer instincts. So, armed with those very instincts, we pressed forward. What followed was 18 months of clear, sustained growth.

But just like our feline moniker, we were also growing hungry to expand. While our work for local clients had given us great results, we were determined not to set ourselves up as a just another dyed-in-the-wool kiwi agency. Our sights were firmly set on the world. First stop, the U.S.

Given our plans to expand, we knew we could no longer presented a fragmented front on the Internet. We didn’t want people looking us up only to find sites or pages other than ours show up first.

Also, now that we had established credentials and case studies to back up what we did and how we did it, having an air of ambiguity around our name wasn’t the best idea. We had outgrown our old name.

We now needed a new name representing our approach to business, defined our methodologies and yet, came with a sense of excitement. So, having essentially written our own brief for the task…we set out to pick a new name.

Picking a name: The debate phase

It seems for the first week, each of us had a new pet project. We were all churning away at it between briefs. The urge to name something as big as the company itself was exciting, to say the least.

Yet, rather than just stare at blank word documents all day (though a lot of staring did take place) we chose to use a methodology we constantly refer to our clients – A/B testing.

We gave our copywriter free reign to come up with a creative name for the firm. Of course, it can be mildly dangerous to let a copywriter run free, armed only with his word processor and his ample imagination. So, we created a few guidelines just to keep the project on one track.

For starters, we wanted the name to resonate with the ethos of the company. It had to give potential clients a sense of what we did and how we did it.

We also wanted the name to be one word and preferably under 10 letters long. This just meant our website URL would be easier to search for and our Twitter handle wouldn’t hog up too many characters.

However, before we could go off coming up with names, we tried to arrive at a consensus on what our elevator pitch could be. What was our one-line (or tweet-sized) company story?

For starters, we used Google’s mission statement as a simple yet articulate benchmark:

“Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful

Here’s another sample statement we liked:

“We connect / human behavior / with innovative design to create / gorgeous apps that people love”

From these examples, we were able to arrive at a framework to help us arrive at our own one-tweet story:

We (verb) (objective) with (objective) to (verb) (outcome) that (outcome)

After trying out several permutations of sentences with this framework, we were able to simplify the framework even further:

We’re a (adjective) consultancy that (verb) for (noun)

This new framework seemed to be just the right size. And from it, two contenders emerged:

  1. a) We’re a data-driven consultancy that creates growth for digital companies.
  1. b) We’re a scientific marketing consultancy that accelerates growth for digital companies.

We now studied the merits of each statement to see which version encompassed the most aspects of our brand story and settled on option (b). With this sentence as a guide rule, we began working out potential brand names. Here are some of the options, which floated in:

We’re a scientific marketing consultancy that accelerates growth for digital businesses. We are…

Made From Curious: The idea here is to leverage off the scientific angle. Since all science is driven by curiosity and so is good marketing, we are a team of curious professionals who strive to find new ways to make businesses grow.

GrowthZeal: The idea is to leverage off our passion to bring about growth. Also, the use of the word ‘zeal’ is a subtle hint to us being a kiwi company.

Just Add Us: The idea is to use our team as a representation of a physical element that acts as the catalyst towards spurring growth.

Growthstormers: A blend of brainstorming and growth, it implies our clear focus on growth and our analytical approach to achieving it.

MAD Scientists: Where MAD stands for the accepted acronym of Marketing Advertising Design.

Thought Neutral: The thought here is that unlike agencies, we don’t stick to just traditional media suggestions but instead test out what would work best for achieving growth

Brand Litmus: The focus here is growth and litmus is a commonly understood term for testing.

Paper Plane Labs: Just like there’s no such thing as the perfect paper plane (you have to keep testing to find one that works), similarly we keep testing strategies which help our clients’ brands fly.

Tangram Labs: The tangram is the ultimate example of trying out different combinations to arrive at new results. Much like what we do for brands.

NoBots: Too much of advertising and marketing strategy has become formulaic or bot-like. At NoBots, we break the mold with every brief, every brand, every campaign till we arrive at growth.

On the other side of the testing arena, we used technology to help guide our decision-making. We poured over name generators using keywords we would have liked to incorporate into our name – growth, scientific, analytical. 

Picking a name: The money phase

Part of our search involved using a website called Brand Bucket. This is a really handy tool for those starting out a new company.

Through this site you can not only browse through names, but also get a logo for it. Best of all, they also park the domain for each name on their site, so you don’t have to juggle with a workaround for your company’s URL either. Yet, there is one caveat. None of this comes cheap. And being based in Auckland, we were looking at 4-figure costs in USD! But if it meant we could land the perfect name, we were willing to do it.

To be honest though, part of us was hoping we’d strike gold with the name ourselves because buying just the domain for a name we came up with was literally 1/10 of the cost of buying the whole shebang from Brand Bucket.

One of the names from Brand Bucket, which grabbed our collective attention, was ‘Fluence Labs’. We loved the idea of ‘fluence’ (derived from influence) as it captured the sense of what we tried to achieve for each client – greater social and market influence and a visible influence on their growth parameters.

We were also enamoured by the word ‘labs’. We felt it really amalgamated all that we did as an agency – the testing of techniques, the basis on quantifiable results, and the focus on growth. And thus began a cascade of names with ‘labs’ as a suffix.

But, again we deferred to testing rather than lead with just a name that sounded great. And since we were setting our sights on the U.S. market, we needed to know if ‘Fluence Labs’ or any other similar name was going to have an impact there.

So we consulted with business partners in Canada and found out ‘labs’ as a suffix had now been overused, especially by companies in the San Francisco bay area. So, despite our love for it, we had to defer to the truth in the data (a principle we apply to all our campaigns too).

Picking a name: The domain phase

As we kept plugging away at the naming challenge, we had to keep an eye on another key aspect – domain and trademark registration. Our ambition to go global meant we had to rifle through trademark registration sites in New Zealand, Australia and the U.S. And this is where we came up with a startling discovery – while our names were unique, none of them were fully original. Even names put together by the algorithm of a name generator had somehow been thought of before in one of these three countries and promptly had been trademarked.

And the stray name that wasn’t registered as a shell company somewhere, had a URL being impishly squatted on. As a digitally savvy organization, we were not about to fall for this level of cyber-extortion, just to get a name we wanted.

So now, every name had to go through three filters – brand ethos, web usability and web availability. At this stage, the names really slowed down, with just a few dripping through every day.

Having given ourselves a deadline to get this done, we were determined not to push it back. And in a worst-case scenario, we could always pick one from Brand Bucket. But just then, we had a flash of brilliance.

 

Suddenly, in the middle of a regular workday, we stumbled across this article on The Next Web. It spoke about how domain prospecting has reached such heights that it’s next to impossible to find a domain for the word you’re looking for which isn’t being squatted on.

But more importantly, it told us the uplifting story of ‘Flickr’ and ‘Tumblr’ – two brands that chose to go with the current spelling of their name, simply to get a domain.

This got us thinking. Could we still use one of our shortlisted names simply by dropping a letter from it? So now, we began to compare the names we had shortlisted and seeing if any of them were still up for grabs if we dropped a letter or two from them.

Easier said than done actually since it’s hard to retain the essence of every name with a few letters missing.  (Flickr and Tumblr were just really lucky)

Plus, we didn’t want to be the company full of pretentious creative-types who began every conversation about ourselves by correcting people’s spelling!

But as we looked through the list, one name jumped out at us – Rocketship. We had liked the name because it represented our ambitions and showed clients where we’d like to take their brands – up!

Sure, the domain and trademark had long since been trademarked. But if we dropped just one letter from the name and spelt it as ROCKETSHP, we were sweet as. And as we liked to joke later, “There’s no ‘I’ in Rocketshp. We’re a team”

So after a quick show of hands around the office, it was settled. We had found our new name.

Choosing a name was only half the battle

After quickly grabbing all the relevant domains, we were now tasked with coming up with a logo design. One would imagine with a name as self-explanatory as ‘Rocketshp’ the logo would have pretty much drawn itself.

But if you run an image search for the term, you’ll find a wide range of designs out there. We had to strike a delicate balance – a hand drawn one wouldn’t give us the seriousness we wanted but too much detail would make us come across as very stiff and not much fun.

Then came the placement of the logo in relation to the name. Again, sounds easy but it really isn’t. It’s not just a matter of slapping it alongside our name.

We had to examine placement from multiple angles – how it looked on a business card, how it sat in our website layout, what it would look like on social and even on our stationery (We’d love to see it embossed on a Moleskine journal someday)

We also had to consider if we wanted to rework the copy on our website. Part of us wanted to just ‘leave well enough alone’ since we had gotten this far on the strength of the current copy. But, we’re always curious to test out new ideas.

Which is why we also considered using the name change as a catalyst to revamp all the copy on the site, just to see if a new approach could beat the current ‘control’ copy. In the end, we decided to test. So as we speak, a second version of website copy is underway and will be tested soon.

In the meantime…

Now, in the current state of the Internet, changing one’s name is so much more than a new, spruced up website. We had been publishing our own content for over a year, which we can tell you from experience is heaps.

We were now tasked with the painstaking mission of finding each piece and rebranding it. And given the hundreds of corners of the web we had spread out to, we literally had to rake through our own archives just to remember which articles we had posted over the last 18 months.

 Added to this, we also grew from a team of four to a robust group of ten. We’ve brought a full-time copywriter on board, added three marketing co-ordinators on board (we’re getting really busy) and we’re even training two interns.

But even with the change of name, we aren’t changing our ways of thinking or how we execute our ideas. We still have a strong ‘growth hacking’ spirit.

We’re still all about ‘no nonsense online marketing’ and our aim is to keep things simple. But above all else, out aim is to keep business growing – both for our clients and ourselves.

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