Your Name is an Ad Creative that is Everywhere, All at Once
Learn how to leverage cognitive science to create an instant brand advantage.
In just three-and-a-half years, Doorstead went from a mere concept on a napkin to one of the leading players in a highly competitive industry, despite having less financial backing and a shorter timespan than our competitors. I believe one of the key factors that enabled this success was the instant advantage gained from our brand name.
One of the unique insights I bring to entrepreneurship is my cognitive science and psychology background. This has helped me in more ways than one and has fundamentally changed how I think about company names.
In my undergraduate at Berkeley, I helped run experiments at the Computational Cognitive Science Lab to understand how people interpret and react to certain words. I learned that the powerful implicit associations that people have with the name of a company can help shape how customers interact with and spread awareness of a product.
This is so powerful that it can influence (a) ad click through rates, (b) cognitive consonance, and (c) consequently, purchase behavior from customers. This is obvious to some degree, however, it’s an extra layer of complexity so most people ignore it outright or they focus so much time on it that it becomes impractical.
Early Days of a Startup
Startups are hard. There are tens of thousands of small decisions that have to be made and the right decisions with the right choice will ultimately lead to success. One of the highest leverage decisions is the startups name, and if you get this wrong, it could make everything an uphill battle.
This is particularly hard when picking a name since you’re typically not connected with customers and it’s not something that you can easily A/B test. Also, what makes a good name anyways?
Giving Your Company The Best Shot
In the previous decade, I conducted research on brand names and developed a generative AI algorithm to assist me in identifying the most suitable domain names from a list of expiring domains. This algorithm proved to be incredibly effective, as it enabled me to find excellent domain names for only $69.
After creating a short-list of names using this approach, my co-founder and I wanted to be sure that the brand would resonate with customers. We ran into an issue where we were unable to get consensus and we didn’t have a strong inclination to go in one direction versus another.
Given my cognitive science background, I had an intuition that a survey could work and would show statistically different results for various brand names. So, we decided to run a cognitive science experiment similar to my college days using Mechanical Turk.
We constructed a framework combining quantitative and qualitative data to measure sentiment towards our brand, and chose to target a broad audience given that anyone can own a rental property.
Quantitatively, we identified and aligned on the top five brand attributes from quick research on Google:
Durable: On a scale of 1-5, how durable is "Company”?
Playful: On a scale of 1-5, how playful is "Company”?
Professional: On a scale of 1-5, how professional is "Company”?
Reliable: On a scale of 1-5, how reliable is "Company”?
Trustworthy: On a scale of 1-5, how trustworthy is "Company”?
Qualitatively, we came up with three qualitative factors that could be assessed via improvisation:
Product: What type of product does company “Company” provide to customers?
Pronunciation: How might you pronounce “Company”?
Definition: What is the meaning behind “Company”?
In total, the experiment cost us less than $100 and it was one of the foundational decisions that we’ve made. It helped set us up on the right trajectory, and also helped us establish a framework for decision making at our company.
Don't miss out on the latest and greatest content - subscribe now and get the edge you need!
Implicit Association Results
To our surprise, the results were statistically significant, consistent across multiple trials, and in line with our intuition.
We discovered that category leader in the space was perceived as being less reliable and more playful. As much as we’d love to have a playful brand, we felt that being “playful” wasn’t in the responsibility list of a property manager.
We found that Doorstead had the highest resonance on the survey amongst our shortlist and all of the brands tested.
In addition to quantitative data, it turned out that customers do have very strong intuition for what service a company might provide. And in some cases, the association is probably not what you want.
We learned that the audience perceived the category leader to be providing a service related to the "brain" and "mind". We did not expect these associations to be effective for a property management service, thus validating our opportunity as they would have difficulty expanding through word of mouth due to the cognitive dissonance.
We discovered that our code name, "Landstake," which we had used to organize our ideas around the company, was not the correct choice. It reminded people of a service that aided individuals in finding land and investing in fractions. As it would be difficult to redefine this term, we decided to move away from it and choose a new name.
Finally, Doorstead had a strong consensus with the terms "doors" and "security." Real-estate investors often consider the number of properties they own as the "number of doors," and Doorstead provides protection to property owners by guaranteeing a portion of their rental income. We felt that these associations could be beneficial in the long run.
Looking back, our brand name has been instrumental in amplifying all our efforts and enabling our exponential growth. Of the thousands of decisions entrepreneurs have to make, choosing an effective name is one of the most critical.
Your company name is an ad creative that is everywhere, all at once, and just like a good ad creative, it can lead to a significant conversion boost on every action your customer takes.