Don’t name your company Carphone Warehouse

And not just because it’s taken! To create a lasting brand name, start with your core values, not your product.

One of the most exciting and daunting decisions in any new company is choosing your name. You’re already emotionally invested into your idea and you want to find the perfect name. One you’ll be proud of and excited to emblazon across tee shirts, cool merch and office walls.

After agonizing over countless ideas, you’re left heartbroken, as all the good names are already taken.

Don’t be discouraged. And don’t settle! You need a memorable, ownable and unique name. Given you’re about to pour your heart and marketing dollars into it, it also needs to stand the test of time.

Understanding your core values can help you find your perfect name.

Descriptive names are trouble makers

When thinking of a name, most people start with describing what they do. Descriptive names, such as NZ Post, can be great because they require little explanation. But what happens if people stop posting letters? Do you stop your mission to help people communicate? You now have a company mission out of sync with the thing you say hundreds of times a day, your name.

Your core values can help you can choose a longer lasting brand name.

Why start with values?
If you haven’t seen Simon Sinek’s brilliant Ted talk “Start with why”, stop reading now and go do so. But once you’re done come back and read why you need to start with “why” even before you have a brand name.

For those needing a refresher, Sinek puts forward a compelling cause that people care more about “why” you do things, than “what” you do. He argues we don’t buy products from brands because of rational reasonings about what they made. We buy from brands because we believe in their purpose and it resonates with our own values.

All organizations start with WHY, but only the great ones keep their WHY clear year after year. Those who forget WHY they were founded show up to the race every day to outdo someone else instead of to outdo themselves. The pursuit, for those who lose sight of WHY they are running the race, is for the medal or to beat someone else. — Simon Sinek

Why a purpose-led brand name is better than a descriptive one

Things change, fast

While markets, competitors, trends and technology shifts quickly, core values are persistent. Even if your product and its features change overtime, your core values don’t shift as dramatically.

A brand name drawing on core values will stand the test of time and survive industry changes.

The founders of Carphone Warehouse didn’t anticipate the changes ahead of their industries and are now left with an awkwardly, dated brand name. They face a world filled with consumers who have never seen or used a car phone. One day we may cease using phones altogether, as ubiquitous computing and wearables replace them.

On the other extreme is Uber. Originally called UberCabs, the name came from a mission to provide exceptional cab service. The mission was more important that the solution, and cabs was dropped.

Uber has disrupted the taxi industry. Technology is moving towards autonomous cars. The idea of a cab may cease to exist some day soon. Regardless, Uber will always mean exceptional.

Uber can continue their mission of exceptional service and convenience, regardless of how the world changes around them. Their brand name will evolve with them.

No mention of cabs, but plenty of the Uber “why”

All marketing starts with your name

Your name will be on nearly every marketing effort you undertake. It can help create a story or stand in the way. Choosing a name that aligns or draws upon your core values, you embed your values into your marketing. It creates a conversation starter that allows you talk about what matters and engages consumers on the values they hold dear too.

Wellington company, HR Shop, previously had a descriptive name but recently re-branded to a purpose led name: Humankind. This gives them the perfect vehicle to explain why they can deliver a unique HR offering:

How you talk inside your company

In an age of social media and expected transparency, our own teams are our brand’s strongest advocates. Having everyone in the company understand the core values, and how they impact day-to-day choices, creates an authentic culture. A brand name that supports your core values helps draw together like-minded people and unite them with a common purpose.

Take for example, NZ recruitment software Weirdly. They proudly display how their name, culture and personalities combine on their website.

It’s never too early to talk about your values

Choosing a name is a process you go through in the early days of founding a company or creating a product. This is the perfect time to consider your values and your mission. Including core values in your naming process will protect your name from industry changes, strengthen your marketing stories and start creating the culture you desire from day one.

As Simon Sinek notes, all companies start with a “why”, but not all hold onto it. What better way to ensure this doesn’t happen to you than by using your core values to guide your brand name!

This article relates to one of the 7 ways to name-storm your new name. To find out other six ideas please visit

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Header image credit: © Copyright Christine Matthews and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence