What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
Romeo and Juliet (Act II, Scene ii)
There’s swathes of literature, and significant sections of the marketing industry, devoted to coming up with brand names, registering them, communicating them, and protecting them.
Why does it matter? Essentially it is the first point of contact for your customers. Interbrand and the like would advise you to consider carefully your name, to look at the qualities and meanings it conveys to your customers, employees, partners, media and even competitors.
Get it right, so the theory goes, and you have a valuable asset. Get it wrong, and it could harm your business. This is a story of how we came up with our name, and how it has changed over time.
How we named our service
When we launched the world’s first premium text question and answer service, we considered a number of approaches.
We looked at mnemonics related to our number, but ODEDO didn’t really appeal to us. Furthermore our experience showed us that whilst companies like 1800FLOWERS were effective in the US, almost no one in the UK would know that it meant you should call 18003569377.
Secondly, we didn’t initially want to name the service just 63336. It was our belief that unless you’re a notable savant, most people have difficulty remembering any number. Try it for yourself – how many of your friends’ phone numbers can you remember?
Eventually, we took the ‘ronseal’ approach – a brand famous for putting out adverts based on the tagline “does exactly what it said on the tin”. Thus, we named the service AQA – short for ‘Any Question Answered’.
Developing our name
Over time some problems with AQA become more obvious.
In the process of registering the trademark we had to negotiate with the well-known examination board. Despite us and the board being happy to coexist, our customers get confused – we still get called up by parents arguing about their beloved son/daughters poor marks. Many students continue to text us questions amazed that their examination board would recommend continuing to party through the night.
More significantly, whilst the service name accurately described what we did, it doesn’t include a ‘call to action’ – that is, how do you use it? The answer, of course, is ‘to text 63336′. This is something that we thought we could control in advertising, but it became apparent over time that it wasn’t something we could always control in either conversations people were having about us, or press articles written about us.
As an example, in one of the first significant press coverage of AQA the then editor of the Sunday Times refused point blank to include the service number. It was very frustrating to us on the day of publication – how would people know what number to use to text us? Our frustration was relieved somewhat the day after when the Mirror, Daily Express, Metro, Radio 1, LBC and umpteen other newspapers, radio stations and blogs all published 63336, causing a ten fold increase in question volume.
Although we’ve managed most of the time to get press to put the all important number in, we’ve always recognised that it is what customers do that matters. Interestingly, despite putting AQA: at the beginning of every single answer, and we’ve now sent out over 20 million of these, the public have their own names for us: the Oracle, the Answer Man, Ask any question, or even just God! Many don’t have any name for us, we’re just ‘that text a question service’.
But really we don’t care that much what people call us, what matters is whether they could remember the number to text us a question. Looking at our data, and commissioned research, it became clear. The number one reason for those people not using our service after trying it out was they couldn’t remember the number.
In 2006 we tried to address this problem by calling the service AQA 63336 (or AQA 57275 in Ireland). We wanted to retain the name so that people knew what it did, but include the ‘call to action’. It has been pretty effective in the media, who have been for us one of the most important channels to communicate with our customers. But each time a story is written we have to fight tooth and nail to get them to write AQA 63336 and not just AQA.
The plot thickens
Two good examples of this are earlier this year, the BBC commissioned a TV show based on a comedy show that we developed with some leading comedians for sell out tours in Edinburgh. At the time of commissioning, the BBC argued that whilst it could credit us, it should really include our company name (IssueBits Ltd) rather than the service name. We eventually managed to get them to credit AQA, but again, many who watched the program thought it was the examination board working with the BBC.
And despite years of practice at working with the media, last month we launched the ‘ask a stupid question day’ and managed to get press coverage worth ‘over £40,000 of equivalent advertising spend’ in British newspapers, but all just referencing merely AQA. One paper seemed to get further confused in the association with the exam board. How many texts did this coverage drive to our business? Maybe 20-30.
Enough, is enough
Finally, you might argue, we’ve come to our senses and the new name will just be 63336.
Answers will now have 63336: in them, it will be ‘63336 thinks’ when you need an opinion, and of course ‘63336 apologises’ for all those customers that proposition us. It is our belief that this will make it easier to remember the number, and all other things being equal people will continue to use us if not more.
But nothing much has really changed. The most important thing for anyone to know is the number on which you text to get an answer. Remembering one thing is easier than two things. In retrospect, this should have been our Ronseal approach. The service should be called 63336 because that’s the number you text to get an answer.
Even if we’re not all savants and this name, by being a five digit number, is difficult to remember, it’s still the only thing that you need to remember. Everything should be focused on that.
And just to eliminate any possible further confusion about who we are, or what we do, from today, our company name has changed. The 63336 text service you use to answer all of your questions is now provided by 63336 Limited.
And finally, somewhat loosely related to our name change, if you can name the character in this picture as well as the well loved TV series it is from, then we’ll give you a free copy of our latest book More Brilliant Answers. Email your answers (with your postal address) with ‘competition’ in the subject reference to firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Often misquoted is a story about a General Motors fiasco of mistakenly naming a car ‘Nova’ for the Spanish market, when ‘no va’ means ‘doesn’t go’. However, I would urge you to seek the truth at snopes, the doyenne of myth busting sites.
3. An interesting development, five years after launching the service, is that increasingly less phones have characters next to the digits making this argument for not substituting numbers for letters more compelling.
4. Despite not including our number, the Sunday Times on July 18th, 2004, generated around 150 questions from customers and we recorded a ‘record’ of most questions answered in one day of 460. This was a very short lived record as the very next day, thanks to subsequent media coverage including the all important 63336 number, we had to answer 4,266.
5. One way in which PR companies try to convince you of their worth is that they charge you £X per month retainer to get coverage which, had you placed an advert in the same space, would have cost you £X*5, making it the best ‘bargain’ you’ve ever had. Of course the fact that you would have never even considered spending £X*5 in the first place doesn’t come into it.
6. We get 2 marriage propositions a week. We also get a regular number of other slightly more risqué propositions, some of which will now get the answer “63336 apologises but as we are a mixture of human researchers and machines we simply could not do that. Besides, 63336 is washing its hair and has a headache.”