Technology firms find themselves swimming in a sea of generic names which all too often contain such words as soft, net, micro, technologies and solutions. So how can companies differentiate themselves when they're part of this environment, and how can they build a brand and a culture around their name? Reseller News spoke to a range of industry players about overcoming blandness and adding an X Factor to their moniker.
Chillisoft managing director Geoff Cossey says he chose has company's name to brand it as fun and to build marketing around it.
“We wanted something slightly different. There are so many names that are meaningless to most people, like Greek names or acronyms, and we wanted something memorable that would give us opportunity for marketing tools around the name.”
Chillisoft uses bottles of chocolate chillisauce as giveaways and awards partners with plaques confirming their Red Hot Partner status.
Cossey says he initially chose a bland company name through his solicitor, but then wanted one that would stand out.
“It was almost as stressful as naming my children!” he says. “But now it’s moved forward in our thinking and we can have some fun with it. We wanted the company to have personality and not be a bland corporate.”
Head of networking and security distributors Packet Engines, Frank Ollie, says he is often asked how the company got its name.
He explains it’s a helpful way of describing the type of technology it deals in, as well as expressing a hobby interest.
As he says, digital communications and the internet transmit and receive information packets, so the trains with their carriages in the company's logo are a useful way to teach this concept. As well, Ollie’s wife’s grandparents were engineers for Canada’s railways and the couple are very interested in trains.
Packet Engines’ website still has links to New Zealand train sites and explains train terms.
The distributor also runs events for resellers and their families at venues which have trains.
Another distributor, Cellnet, had the challenge of raising awareness of its name after re-branding this year from three companies, IT Wholesale, Cellect and Contract Distribution Warehouse.
Marketing manager Dave Clark says it first had to make an impact among staff. To do this, each vendor sponsored parts of the launch day, workers were given packs along with new stationery, and the building was filled with green and white balloons and banners.
He says it now wants to promote the name more externally, and provides weekly reseller communications.
Clark says the company hasn’t been confused with other companies in the cellphone market or otherwise.
“Our official name used to be Cellular Cellnet New Zealand and that was always on the customer invoices. Also the Australian company had re-branded a year earlier so they’d seen the name before.”
The story of how SnapperNet came to be named after a fish was a case of timing.
Director Mark Forbes recalls that he was sitting in a car with former Ultra Computers co-owner John Gould on Auckland’s North Shore.
“We had been thinking about a name for some time. We had to make a decision that day by 5pm because the name had to be registered with the Companies Office. I looked out the car window and driving past was a truck from Bream Bay Fish Company which had a huge snapper on it. John and I are both keen fishermen so I said 'let’s call it SnapperNet’”.
The fishing theme has continued to this day. “We have taken customers out fishing in the past,” says Forbes.
Another company with a fishy but catchy name is US-based Barracuda Networks which has a local presence through MPA.
Barracuda vice-president of Asia Pacific sales Niall King says the founders wanted to pick a name that was easy to remember.
“They didn’t want to pick a name that was a made up word. They also wanted something that was powerful. Picking a name like Bambi or Barbie wasn’t appropriate, they wanted to be fast, quick and mean because that's what you need to do to catch spam,” explains King.
“The barracuda fish is very fast, mean and pretty much eats anything in its path. Also, the domain name was available. It is certainly a very catchy name because people remember the name and then they realise that Barracuda do spam filtering and email security. They begin to associate the name with certain types of products.”
And yes, the company has used the 1977 hit song 'Barracuda' by American rock band Heart in an online promotion.
Having what some might say is a generic IT name is not an issue for Soft Solutions, according to business development manager Paul Leslie.
“Because we have targeted our services to the IT reseller channel we have become known for the service we deliver and it is that service which brings people to us. That is to say, our customers know us and contact us for the products we can provide. We have always promoted our service and brands we represent rather than our company name.”
He adds that whenever the company is involved in a reseller’s customer facing event it chooses to represent a selected brand or product rather than Soft Solutions.
“Our belief is that end-users don’t need to know who Soft Solutions is, just the products we represent. When Chris Fitzgerald set up the business is was the express intent to be a resource for the IT reseller channel in finding software-based solutions that were not readily available through mainstream distributors – and so Soft Solutions seemed like a good and descriptive fit.”
Leslie says the company was confused with another in the past.
“In the early days we did get the occasional international call by someone looking for Novell’s document management product by the same name.”
Service is what makes Soft Solutions stand out, according to Leslie.
“We could just as easily be called XYZ Company, with no reference to IT at all, and be just as successful. A significant factor of our success has been due to people moving within the industry. Once they have come to appreciate our service with one company, they invariably make contact with us again when they join a new company.”
When Wellington-based ActionThis was looking for a name, chief marketing officer Tim Howell says the team searched for verb-like terms that were positive and could convey to people what they would expect when using its product.
“ActionThis works well in this regard. It implies urgency and that something needs to be done, and that’s what ActionThis, the product, is designed to do: ensure people execute on their plans. We considered this along with a large list of others, but this one stood out. Plus, it starts with the letter `A’ ensuring we remain at the top of the list of products in this space.”
He adds that ActionThis did a lot of research to make sure there were no companies with similar names.
“Not only did the team look for other software companies with similar or related names, we also sought to find opportunities for creating our own unique identity that would stand out from the myriad of other software products available. We also undertook trademark searches in several countries to confirm there would be no legal issues, and to secure ActionThis as a trademark for ourselves. As a small, new company we couldn’t afford to be confused with others.”
As a start-up company targeting the US market, raising awareness of the name is critical, believes Howell.
“We’re going about this in a number of ways, taking advantage of the blogs, analysts and, other influencers that cover this type of product, as well as more traditional PR methods. We see this as a two-way opportunity. In addition to telling people about what we’re trying to do, we’re also seeking their feedback and input into what features we add to ActionThis in the future. By being responsive to our customers’ needs we believe they will not only continue to use ActionThis, but will recommend it to others. This, in turn, will grow our brand and customer base.”