What’s Behind A Startup’s Name?

Founders can get caught up in finding the perfect name for their business, and spend months going in circles debating which name they’ll permanently brand their business with.

Much like a tattoo, it pays to give it a bit of thought first. It’s essentially permanent, and changing it requires a tonne of effort and backpedalling.

When brainstorming what to name your business, there are a couple of things to keep in mind.

Think About What Imagery The Name Conveys

Your business name should align with your business goals. It should embody your values and ideally portray your company’s distinguishing characteristics.

The imagery painted by the word “Cove” was one of our key reasons in choosing it to represent our insurance brand.

A “Cove” is literally defined as “a small sheltered bay”. It’s a safe place to escape the rough seas – a place where you can refresh, recharge, and repair before continuing on with your journey.

We thought this is how insurance should also make you feel. When you’ve had a rough time, whether that be a car crash, lost your phone, or had a health scare, you need a place to go where you can recharge yourself.

More personally, it reminded me of Cathedral Cove and NZ and after a few years overseas I was happy to be home! As a New Zealand-based company among Australian-owned brands, we thought this fit nicely too.

What imagery and emotions do you want your brand to convey? Is there a way you can capture this in a simple name?

Does The Name Reflect How The Business Operates?

Some brand names are just plain boring, and it often (but not always) carries across into their communications, marketing and company culture.

Compare the mortgage broker “Squirrel” to a hypothetical list of alternative names they could have called themselves: United Mortgages, NZ Mortgage Group, or the shorter acronym of, NZMG.

The former lends itself to creativity and a touch of youthful cheekiness. It gives the impression they are willing to try new things and explore innovative ideas. They are building a brand that stands out in a sea of dull.

The alternates come across as dry and slightly boring. You’d expect to see suits and ties and perhaps filing cabinets holding client records from 1983.

There is nothing wrong with being in the second camp. Some industries rely heavily on such names to build trust and credibility, or they are simply B2B companies where the name is little more than a line on an invoice.

However, it does pay to consider which camp you want your brand to sit in when still in the brainstorming stage. Do you want to fit in, or stand out?

Does It Pass The Basic Checks?

Besides trademarks, domain names, and these days social media profiles, what else should be on your list of checks before picking your brand name?

Purposeful misspellings should be avoided. We’ve all heard radio ads that end with the domain name, followed by the voiceover clarifying the mis-spelling… “don’t forget, that’s clickz with a z”.

Think long term too. In five to ten years, will the name you pick now inhibit future growth? I’m sure a few “$2 Stores” have kicked themselves for choosing such a restrictive name early on.

Choosing a name for your business can be frustrating, but it can also be an incredibly enjoyable experience that requires you to deep dive into how you want to portray what you are creating to the world. Have some fun with it.

University of Auckland graduate Andy Coon began his career in insurance at Sovereign. He also worked for a number of years in investment banking across the UK, US, and NZ before returning to insurance and working on various startups in Europe. Andy has long been a tech enthusiast and is loving applying cutting edge technology to the insurance industry. Andy is Strategy & Actuarial at Cove Insurance.

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