How we named our new product, Throttle

We had only 6 hours to come up with a name.

Originally, we were going to call it Periscope. The idea was that you could see them (marketers) but they couldn’t see you. But when Twitter bought this little thing called Periscope, that put the kibosh on our name.

We struggled for weeks to come up with something that was memorable, sounded good, had a decent .com available, and that made sense.

A month before unveiling, a writer at the Virginia Business Magazine, Veronica, was working on a piece about Throttle, and she needed the new name by the end of the week, as her story had to be submitted for the magazine to go to print. I promised her I would have it to her by the end of the day on Friday.

Friday morning rolled around, and we still had nothing that felt right. But I realized we were doing it all wrong:

We were trying to come up with a name that metaphorically described how the system technically works, but the user doesn’t care about that — they care about the benefit to them. The users, or at least those that we interviewed about the product to that point, all cared about “control”. The word kept coming up. People loved that they had newfound control over their inboxes that they didn’t before.

I wanted something that evoked a sense of control. That’s what people loved about it, so that’s what they should be reminded of when they hear the name. Ford’s SUVs are called the “Explorer” and “Expedition”. They have this emotional connotation associated with what the user is looking for — in life — not the technical underpinnings of the product. My Subaru isn’t called “The Boxer” because of its boxer-style engine, it’s called “Legacy”.

I went to our whiteboard and wrote the word “control” in the middle. I explored a word map around it, asking “what words are associated with ‘control’?” then “what words are associated with those words?” When I got stuck, I pulled out our office thesaurus.

Working a word map around the word that early previewers of our idea kept saying to us: Control.

There were a handful of interesting words on the board, but I kept coming back to Throttle. When Jeb & Josh looked at the word map, they zeroed in on it, too.

We had a beer to celebrate, and I sent Veronica our new name at 5:15 PM.

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