Everyone has an identity problem. For a business, this fundamental struggle is evident when trying to name or rename the company.
Thankfully, there’s Phillip Davis.
Phil’s the President and Founder of Tungsten Branding, where his company helps clients land on a name that catapults their brand forward. He joined me on this episode of the 1 to 10 podcast and drilled down his creative process.
Whether you’re a mature company trying to reach that next $10M-benchmark, or a startup struggling to get off the ground, this episode’s for you.
Your Name Is About Who You Are. Not What You Do
Companies come to Phil all the time with brand name issues:
“Our name is tied to products or services we no longer provide.”
“Our name is tied to a geography, and we’re expanding.”
Phil always dives into the core problem. In each of these, he sees an identity crisis. Your brand is not ultimately about what service or product you provide — it’s ultimately about what your overarching mission is.
“They weren’t any longer what they originally were. Their identity was outdated and not relevant anymore, and they were pushing blindly forward.”
Consider Your Underlying Mission
Mark Zuckerberg was never truly interested in creating an online college yearbook. His mission was to connect the world. His social media platform is simply a step in that direction.
Often, owners are unclear on what they are trying to accomplish. They work harder, accelerating toward some evasive goal, trying to claw their way into as many clients pocketbooks as possible.
Phil relies on an old quote here: “The politician, having lost his objectives, redoubles his efforts.”
So, first, as painful as it may be, Phil always directs owners to pause, consider who they are and what their true mission is. That’s the starting point.
From Identity to Brand Name (A Peek Inside a Naming Genius)
Our company had to go through a renaming and repositioning overhaul. I’ll let you know right now: This is a painful process.
It’s a true commitment, but I now enjoy the incredible results.
If you’re stuck somewhere between startup phase and your next benchmark, and your brand name is what’s holding you back, you may have to ride those waves. (That’s actually how we know Phil.)
Here’s a peek inside Phil’s brain:
Urethane Supply Company called Phil and said they needed to rebrand their company.
Phil asked what their specific concerns were. They said their brand name was generic. Agreed. Any other issues?
“We don’t supply urethane anymore.”
That’s a problem for Urethane Supply Co.
“Everybody has an identity issue, whether they admit it or not. It’s hard to name something you’re not clear about.” — Phillip Davis
Phil dug a little deeper, and discovered their main product was now polymers. Also, he found the company was planning on being in that space for the long haul. So, after iteration, they settled on Polyvance. This has a few unique benefits. One, it has their current product in the name. However, poly also means “multiple,” so their brand is in no way tied to a product. Lastly, “vance” comes from “advance,” ringing the bell of forward-thinking technology.
Told you he was a genius.
If Phil has inspired you, and you’re considering renaming your brand, here are a few considerations:
Renaming Isn’t a Mistake
Maybe you tied your brand name to a product or geography, and you feel stuck. Phil says you shouldn’t view it as a mistake.
When your company was first founded, you were likely facing competition, so you may have doubled down on a niche. That wasn’t necessarily wrong. At the time, it was strategic. As you grow, strategy can evolve.
Putting a plant in a one-gallon container isn’t a mistake; it’s just a mistake to not replant that growing company in a 10-gallon pot.
What About Brands Like ‘Blackberry’?
OK, great question Phil says. Companies with names like “Blackberry” seem to break all the rules — Phil is the first to admit that there are a variety of names that simply work because the product is phenomenal. Also, a brand like “Blackberry” is usually first to market (or one of the major “firsts”). Lastly, these names almost always sound unassuming (plus they’re just fun to say).
Your Name Carries All the Weight
Your brand name carries the weight of your entire company, so it has to be light but sturdy.
Consider Blu-Ray. Sounds fun and non-threatening. We know it now as the only real contender in the HD digital disc space, but that wasn’t always the case.
“When we create, we’ve gotta create from more of an emotive place because that’s how people buy.”
There was actually fierce competition between Blu-Ray and another format. On one side stood Microsoft, Toshiba, and 8 of the industry’s largest players. On the other end, sat Sony, all alone. Do you remember the other format name?
Probably not. I know I certainly didn’t. It was incredibly generic — “HD-DVD.” People would literally walk into a store with an HD-DVD player and purchase a Blu-Ray because they were confused. Blu-Ray is just so much easier to say.
Your brand name is a language handle. If you’ve ever broken the handle on your luggage while at the airport, you know just how much a person can desperately miss a 5-inch piece of plastic.
One Action Step Listeners Can Implement ASAP
This is my favorite part of this podcast.
I surround myself with some of the the world’s greatest thought leaders, and then I ask each of them for their single greatest piece of advice for B2B companies.
Here’s what Phil said:
Take the top 20% of your clients out to lunch. Not just the biggest spenders, but the ones who always want you back, always bringing in new work, more customers, and just can’t seem to get enough of your products or services. At lunch, ask these customers why they love doing business with you.
Their answers may surprise you.
Resources & Links Related to Episode
- Article: How To Come Up With A Brand Name by Tungsten Branding
- Article: Format Wars: Blu-ray vs. HD DVD by Engadget
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