Opening Cross: ‘Perceived’ Value and Playing to Win in the Name Game

What's in a name? It's not just your brand; It's also your calling card.


Just over 16 months ago, my twin daughters entered this world in a fairly swift and smooth delivery that was also completely painless (for me—my wife recalls it differently). However, the process of deciding on their names took significantly longer. After all, we couldn’t just pick whatever we liked that came to mind: we had sensible criteria, such as how would this name look at the top of a resume in 20 years’ time? How would we feel yelling this name in a public place? Is the name easy to pronounce correctly? Can we think of any way that other kids could make fun of the name? And hardest of all, will the name reflect their personalities (no easy task, considering this was months before their birth, let alone them developing any distinct personalities).

The fact is, first impressions count. And often the first contact someone will have with you personally or with your company is with your/its name. And while you may not be able to escape your parent’s penchant for naming their children after leafy vegetables popular in the ’70s, you can do something to make sure your company makes the right first impression by choosing a name that makes someone who hasn’t met you yet want to meet you.

For example, low-latency feed handler and market data platform vendor SR Labs will this week unveil a new corporate identity, Vela Trading Technologies. Named after a constellation of stars, the new brand is intended to invoke connectivity—not just between low-latency data components, but to reflect that Vela is now the fully-interconnected result of SR Labs’ acquisition of the Wombat business from NYSE Technologies two years ago.

SR Labs’ full name was actually Street Response Laboratories, though the “SR” was also intrinsically linked to the initials of founder and former chief executive Srinivasan Ramiah, who remains on its board. So part of the reasoning behind changing the name at all is no doubt that the Vela of today is very different from the SR Labs of just a couple of years ago.

The new name also conjures up associations with “velo” (French for bicycle) and “velocity,” associating the brand with speed without needing to explain its legacy or capabilities. Even more explicitly linked to velocity is Velocimetrics, which “does exactly what it says on the tin” by providing metrics around speed and velocity, among other functions, such as a suite of web-based tools for monitoring and analyzing latency and data flows, which the vendor announced last week. Another company with a story behind its name is MDX Technology, which last week unveiled a version of its platform aimed at trading venues in addition to its base of trading firms. MDX began life as Gissing Technology in June 2010, but within two months decided that this was too close for comfort to Gissing Software, which co-founder Richard Gissing had sold to Thomson Reuters in 2008. That name-change—while ostensibly unprompted by Thomson Reuters—may have helped ward off any unwanted attention from the data giant.

And a good branding effort may help data industry association FISD ward off any doubts about the next level of its Financial Information Associate certification program, which intends to provide more in-depth qualifications in specific topics over and above the basic FIA exam. One FIA holder who found it hard to get sign-off for the first exam warns that people may feel that they have to sit any new modules to keep up. But the point is that once the FIA is commonplace, individuals can then find opportunities to differentiate themselves in specific areas by focusing on different topics.  A good naming convention for the advanced qualifications will help focus on these opportunities and combat any perception that FISD is twisting peoples’ arms to sit more exams.

After all, while it may seem shallow, a name can govern how people perceive you or a product, so always make sure you pick the best. And overall, I think we did a pretty good job with naming little HoneyMonster MileyCyrus Bowie and Milkoholic Grumpycat Bowie. Don’t you? 

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