What's in a name?

Yesterday's post on why I named my blog Lucky7 in honor of my mom and my resulting Twitter batter on our company's name with Sam Decker reminded me of a few stories about how I came up with the name Bazaarvoice.

I remember the day I came up with the name Bazaarvoice like it was yesterday. Rachel was just six months old and we were in Cabo San Lucas in April 2005 using our last few weeks of vacation at Coremetrics before I left to take the plunge to start Bazaarvoice with Brant Barton. I was reading Chapter 4 of The Cluetrain Manifestoand it hit me - big time. That chapter moved me more than almost anything I had ever read. The "voice of the marketplace" - it was perfect. Like the name Coremetrics, it described exactly what the company did. It was a bit of an irreverant name, likely to be confused with Bizarrevoice but that was actually a good thing in this case. There was meaning in that - the voice of customers would indeed sound "bizarre" to all of the corporate types that had been locked away in their towers instead of walking their store aisles like Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart, used to do to "keep it real" and then taught his children in his book Made In America.

Also, Bazaarvoice, like Coremetrics, was near the top of the alphabet, which matters if your primary marketing expense will be tradeshows. Why? Because everyone alphabetizes the list. Yep, just like the days with the Yellow Pages where plumbers would name themselves ABC123 Plumbing to be at the top of the Yellow Pages. I picked up this little tidbit out of Guy Kawasaki's brilliant book, The Art of the Start.

Most importantly, though, there would be a great story behind the name. That story was perfectly told in Chapter 4 of that irreverant book - that manifesto. We were going to change the face of commerce forever, and we needed a radical calling card to do so. The fear of negative reviews had held the industry back from embracing the voices of their most important stakeholders - their customers. "You mean that customers can write negative things about the products we've curated?!Yes, just like they can talk to each other over dinner. It seems so obvious now (everything is in hindsight) but back then it wasn't - only around three retailers had customer reviews on their websites.

I phoned Brant and told him the name and the backstory. He was in. We were locked.

Then we hired our founding CMO, Sam Decker, a few months before our launch. He hated the name. Austin Ventures hated the name. John Hime (who never invested in Bazaarvoice)hated the name. "Just call it Bvoice", John said, "long names are horrible". Sam asked Guy Kawasaki what he thought. He hated it. Guy suggested "Pheedbax" as his top pick. He also passed on investing (although he did invest in Coremetrics). Whatever happened to top of the alphabet, Guy?! As CEO, I stuck to my guns and, as co-founder, Brant did too. And now I just smile when everyone says they love the name. It is easy to say that when you have a global brandname, are publicly traded, and have over 2,000 clients in 27 international languages. It is much harder to say that when you are two guys, a dog, and a PowerPoint.

Sam and I have good laughs about this every now and then, as we did yesterday over Twitter. And I've joined Austin Ventures, where we laugh about it too. But I haven't yet had that laugh with John or Guy. Perhaps this post stokes that fire.

In all seriousness, though, think hard about your company name. It took me weeks to come up with the name Bazaarvoice, as it did Coremetrics. As compared to PowerReviews (a competitor that we recently acquired at Bazaarvoice), the name Bazaarvoice was superior for several reasons. First, it was not just limited to reviews. Second, it had a better story behind the name. Third, it was descriptive of what we did. Fourth, it had global appeal - bazaar was an ancient word in human history. Fifth, it was at the top of the alphabet (at least the English alphabet). Later on, it led to the b: monikor in our rebranding prior to IPO, so it was also playful. b: bold. b: authentic. b: changing the world.

I find it interesting that both Bazaarvoice and Coremetrics are 11-character names. To be descriptive, your company name usually needs to be a little longer. But Google found a great name, with a great story, that actually describes what they do and also captures the geek ethos of the company. But it isn't at the top of the alphabet (nor does it need to be). So did YouTube.