Thomas Vinciguerra wrote a fascinating column (subscription required) in yesterday’s NY Times "Week in Review" section that analyzes the importance of names in everything from books to movies to songs.
For example, F.Scott Fitzgerald originally wanted to name his book, "Trimalchio in West Egg." His publishers pushed back and asked for a different title. So, Fitzgerald suggested "The Great Gatsby." Margaret Mitchell played around with "Not in Our Stars," "Bugles Sang True" and "Tote the weary load" before settling on "Gone with the Wind." Mel Brooks was forced to change "Springtime for Hitler" to "The Producers." And, the Beatles classic "Yesterday" was originally titled "Scrambled Eggs."
This "What if" stuff really interests me and makes me think about the role a name plays in the ultimate success of a book, movie, song, person or, in my case, a firm.
Way back in September of 1995 when my partner and I started our firm in his one-bedroom apartment, we had quite an argument about what our company should be called. We were in total agreement that, in order to break out from the pack and differentiate ourselves from day one, we needed a different-sounding name. There would be no "Edelman," "Hill & Knowlton," or "Burson-Marsteller" for us.
In scanning the O’Dwyer’s Directory of the day, we saw that fully 90 percent of PR firms were named for the founders. So, we prepared lists of cool and different-sounding names, and eliminated them one by one.
Our two finalists were Pepper Communications (named after my dog, Pepper) and the Andover Group (the name of Ed’s apartment building). I was pushing for the former, while Ed and his wife, Pam, pushed very hard for the latter. I’m not sure exactly how we resolved things, but I won. We shortened the name to Peppercom and the rest, as they say, is history.
Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if we’d gone with the Andover Group instead. Would we have grown so quickly and attracted all those dotcom clients in the late 1990? Would we have been able to re-position ourselves post dotcom crash and attracted blue-chip clients? Would we have been as innovative as we’ve been? I honestly don’t know.
What I do know though, is that we picked the right name. And it’s served us beautifully from an image and reputation standpoint for a decade. And I’m also pretty sure that neither Cody-Moed PR nor the Andover Group would have rivaled what Peppercom has become.