What's In A Name And Why Is It So Important?

waffle way snowboarding.jpg
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet.
— William Shakespeare

When spoken by Juliet about her Romeo, William Shakespeare's words remind us of that familiar feeling when we enter into a new relationship, blinded by love. Who cares what his name is? It doesn't matter. We're destined to be together. Forever. 

Eventually, just as Juliet realizes how meaningful the Montague name truly is, we too realize why a carefully-crafted name is so important. It makes you feel something. Whether positive or negative, it affects you. For example, I immediately felt hungry upon seeing the Waffle Way sign while snowboarding at Vail Mountain. I could almost taste the melting butter and drizzling maple syrup. 

Creating a name, whether it be for a restaurant, an annual fundraising event or your new business, all of these take time, research, a willingness to collaborate and to be open-minded. Remember, the name is only one piece of the puzzle. The logo and brand identity are also important to begin thinking about at these early stages of research and exploration.

Why Top Rope Media?

The most challenging name selection for me has definitely been creating one for our business. Here's a few things we thought about:

  • What name conveys who we are and what we're passionate about?
  • What name would be appealing, not only to us, but to others we want to work with?
  • Is the name easy to pronounce? To read and write? 
  • Does the name require a long explanation or is it self-explanatory? 

The name Top Rope Media came about through our love of rock climbing. 'Top rope' or 'top roping' is a term that describes when a climber is tied into one end of a rope, which goes up and through an anchor system, and then down to a belayer that is taking in or paying out the slack. When my husband Tyler and I met 13 years ago in Athens, Greece, our first conversations were about rock climbing. We spent our first weekend together climbing in Meteora, a remote area in northern Greece, where giant towers of conglomerate rock rise up from the valley floor. Back on this side of the pond, our first few days were spent rock climbing in Joshua Tree National Park.

The monasteries and monoliths of Meteora, Greece.

The monasteries and monoliths of Meteora, Greece.

I will admit, the term 'top rope' conjured up memories from my childhood as well. I fondly remember watching Hulk Hogan and Jake the Snake Roberts standing on the top rope of the WWF wrestling ring, leaping into the air, and crushing their opponents with a mighty pile-driver. BAM! The wrestling-related images soon faded away, and we decided Top Rope Media was the name that fit most closely with our story, our passion and more importantly, with the clients we want to work with in the sports and outdoor recreation industry.

Need Naming Help?

If you are not ready to pull the trigger on your new name, and you're lucky enough to have an angel investor to help you get up and running, there are professional naming firms that can walk you through the process. There's also trademark attorneys to make sure your new name does not come too close for comfort to another trademarked brand. However, if you are like me and starting up a small business without much capital, we have to get creative!

For some nighttime reading, check out the never-ending supply of books, articles and blog posts written about branding and naming. We love the posts:

Muddying the Waters

Two years ago, I joined the Board of Directors for SkyFlash Racing, a local women's cycling team supporting over 40 women on the road, track and trails. We ended up with two title sponsors one year and became the 'Holliday Rock p/b Zoca' Cycling Team. Yup, that was on my racing license. It's quite common in the world of cycling, as well as other sports, that a team is named after their leading sponsor. It is also common to see that team name change year after year. We changed our team name that year to Holliday Rock p/b Zoca, however, we kept SkyFlash Racing for our website domain name, our Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts. We mentioned the new team name whenever possible, however, this definitely created some confusion for our sponsors, riders and fans. We've since returned to using SkyFlash Racing as our team name, and it's now featured prominently on our cycling jerseys, caps and at every event we participate in.

Testing, Testing

In the end, once you have a list of a few names you can live with, make sure to test them. There are quite a few ways to accomplish this: 

  • Research and Exploration: Do your homework here. Does anyone else use the domain name? The Twitter or Facebook name? What shows up when you Google it?
  • Spend time with the key decision-makers of your company to review ideas and be open to suggestions.
  • A/B Testing: If you're creating a new name for your newsletter or a new 'Join Now' button for your website or email campaign, there's A/B testing, and The Ultimate Guide to A/B Testing has some great tips. 
  • Monadic testing or sequential monadic testing: Select a small focus group and present one concept, free from other ideas, and gather feedback. With sequential monadic testing you present multiple concepts, one at a time, gathering feedback after each. 
  • User Surveys:  If you're a non-profit naming a new program, or a new creature that's just arrived at your zoo, you can ask your audience for feedback. Let them be part of the process and keep them engaged during the roll-out campaign.

There's definitely a lot to think about when choosing a name and identifying your brand, so take your time with it. Maybe a rose by any other name would not smell as sweet.