Many entrepreneurs don’t believe the company name is critical to their success. “Any name will work if we have the best product,” is their attitude. But that attitude is naive. As Tyler Cowen wrote, “One of the most fundamental truths about the social world is that objective reality does not determine what people believe.”
Different words, and different names, evoke different emotions. And our emotions shape our beliefs. Do we feel more valued as an ‘employee’ or ‘team member’? Would we rather pay an ‘estate tax’ or ‘death tax’? Which is more appetizing, chicken soup or Grandma’s chicken soup?
We can see the emotional effects of names in the FinTech industry. Which is more inspiring, ‘Kabbage’ or ‘Robinhood’? Is ‘Digital Reasoning’ or ‘Acorns’ more memorable? Does ‘IEX Group’ or ‘Ripple’ feel more innovative? Names can invoke trust, respect, inspiration, innovation, and appeal to different demographics. This is the essence of naming—evoking the right emotion for the company.
Let’s quickly explore the difference between ‘IEX Group’ and ‘Ripple’. IEX Group is a new stock exchange that was built to protect traders from front-runners. The most important emotion for any stock exchange is trust. Using the word ‘Group’ makes us feel they are a large consortium who are stable and trustworthy. But Ripple needs to evoke a different emotion. They are a global distributed-ledger based payment settlement solution that are aiming to replace SWIFT. Along with trust, they need to highlight their innovation that will ‘ripple’ throughout the industry. These two fintech companies are targeting different markets and their choice of name demonstrates they recognize the need to evoke the right emotion.
Evoking the right emotion is critical to the success of startups. As George Horace Lorimer summed it up, “It isn’t enough to be all right in this world; you’ve got to look all right as well, because two-thirds of success is making people think you are all right.”
The 5 Types Of Names
Before we dive into the process of naming your FinTech startup, let’s review the types of names you will come up with. You can review examples from both non-FinTech and FinTech companies.
1. Invented Names: Names that are created from scratch.
2. Combined Names: Names that are created by joining two existing words.
3. Existing Names: Names that are taken from existing words.
4. Cultural Names: Names taken from words with a deep cultural meaning.
5. Tweaked Names: Names that take an existing word and change it slightly.
As you move through the naming process, these names can serve as both inspiration and as a benchmark for your own names.
3 Steps To Name Your FinTech StartUp
Many people think that you have to be a wordsmith to be able to find a great name. That’s a myth. As the brand namer Marc Hershon said, “A love of words for someone who names might be like a love of paint for a painter—the love of the raw resource does not necessarily indicate any ability to create with that resource.” Being able to solve complex problems is far more important. So if you’re a talented problem solver and follow this process, you are sure to find a great name for your FinTech startup.
Step 1: Creative Brief
A name can be great for one company yet terrible for another. The creative brief ensures that you find a name that fits your brand. Many ‘brand strategists’ will tell you it is a long and difficult process. Maybe it is difficult for them, but if you understand your company, your competitors, and your customers—writing a creative brief will be simple for you.
You can create your creative brief simply by answering these seven prompts:
1. Describe your company in a Tweet—140 characters or less.
This encourages you to get to the core purpose of your startup. If you’re struggling to describe your company, just ask yourself, ‘Why does this company need to exist?’
2. List 5-10 adjectives that describe the personality of your brand.
This exercise becomes much easier if you think of your brand as a person.
3. What do you want your name to say about your company?
What is the most important aspect of your brand personality? How are you different from your competitors? This is your positioning. Remember, no one name can evoke every brand attribute—pick the one most important thing you want your name to say.
4. What do you know about your target customers?
What insights do you know about your customer’s behaviour or demographics? What’s their age, income and location?
5. List the names of your competitors.
You want to steer clear of any similar names so you standout and avoid trademark conflicts.
6. What are the themes, emotions and words to avoid?
Themes to avoid are often those that have been overdone by your competitors, acronyms, or names that sound to young or old.
7. List five non-FinTech brand names that you like.
This will elicit the name styles that you like the most and provide a benchmark to measure your own names against.
If you answer those seven prompts, you’ll have a creative brief that’s ready to go. Then you can start brainstorming.
Step 2: Brainstorming
Entrepreneurs often follow the worst brainstorming techniques to find a new name. They go for a beer with their co founders, fit six people in a room and stare at a whiteboard, or wait weeks for a brilliant name to hit them in the shower. Finding a great name isn’t that easy. Most names that you can think of off the top of your head have already been taken and are trademarked. Nowadays, to find a great name you’re going to need to do some brainstorming research. That’s why six of the following nine tactics are research focused:
1. Have your creative brief handy.
This will be the map that guides you in the right direction to discover your great startup name. You can use the list of 5-10 adjectives to get started.
2. There are no bad names (for now).
You want to put yourself in an open and creative state. That won’t happen if you’re being critical. So follow the one rule of improvisational comedy while you’re searching for names—always say yes. You can delete the terrible ideas later.
3. Write every idea down in a spreadsheet—even the ones that suck.
Names may suck now, but they can lead to great ideas later. So record everything. It’s all inspiration. The easiest way to record your names is in a spreadsheet.
4. Multiply every idea using a thesaurus.
The best online thesaurus is Power Thesaurus because it gives you hundreds of synonyms for each word.
5. Think visually using Google Images.
Pictures are a great prompt for coming up with abstract name ideas. So search related themes and words for inspiration.
6. Search for jargon.
Every company lives within a niche that has its own jargon. Use google to search for ‘jargon’, ‘lingo’, ‘glossaries’, ‘slang’ and ‘vernacular’ for any niche related to your company.
7. Check the dictionary.
The best online dictionary for FinTech companies is The Free Dictionary because it also has a thesaurus, financial dictionary, encyclopedia and idiom list you can use to find more ideas.
8. Cliches don’t suck.
Cliches often lead to fun company names. Use The Free Dictionary’s idiom tool to search for idioms related to a specific word.
9. Abstract ideas.
Searching Google for abstract ideas can lead to great name ideas. For FinTech companies, you can try Google searches such as ‘list of the greatest financiers ever’, ‘historical financial inventions’ or ‘ancient forms of money’.
Following these tactics, you’re sure to find some great company name ideas. Next you need to choose the right name.
Step 3: Selecting The Best Name
Now that you’ve done your brainstorm and have hundreds of name ideas to choose from, it’s time to select the best name. But which is the best name? To sift the wheat from the chaff, there are four tests it must pass. Our first two tests, the SMILE and SCRATCH tests come from Alexandra Watkins, a professional namer who runs her firm, Eat My Words. The final two tests are more practical—making sure you can find a domain and get your name trademarked.
1. The SMILE Test
If your name has the five key qualities that will make you smile, your name is looking good:
> Suggestive: The name evokes something about your brand’s personality.
> Meaningful: Your name resonates with your targets.
> Imagery: It brings something to your mind’s eye when you say the name.
> Legs: The name lets you expand into other markets or product lines.
> Emotional: It connects with people on a deeper level.
2. The SCRATCH Test
If your name has any of the following qualities, you should ditch it immediately:
> Spelling challenged: The spelling isn’t intuitive or looks like a spelling mistake.
> Copycat: It is similar to a competitor.
> Restrictive: It will make it difficult to expand into other markets and products.
> Annoying: It sounds ‘cheesy’ or forced.
> Tame: It is boring and forgettable.
> Curse of Knowledge: Only insiders will understand the name’s meaning.
> Hard to pronounce: People might say it incorrectly.
3. Can You Find A Domain?
Finding the exact domain isn’t important. And it is exceedingly difficult if you want a great name because so many domains are already taken. But that won’t stop a great name. You can usually find a domain by adding an extension onto the start or the end of your name such as services, tech, group, financial, pay, team, platform, fintech, go, or technology.
4. Can You Get The Name Trademarked?
This is the most important and most difficult step in finding a name for your startup. It’s best to work with your lawyers on this step to make sure you won’t run into any legal issues with your new name. However, you can do a preliminary search at Trademarkia or the USPTO.
You can always just pick your favorite name and go with it, but it’s much more likely to be a successful name that makes your investors, customers and team SMILE if you follow the above four steps.
You have the process to find the name that evokes the right emotion for your FinTech startup. So what will your name say about you?