As we celebrate our fourth birthday, Thinking Hat co-founder David Brookes looks back at the early days of the agency and asks himself: what’s in a name?
I know it’s a cliché, but starting a business really is like having a baby.
My wife may have a few things to say about that statement, but here’s my logic: You bring it into the world, give it a name, love and nurture it, worry about it and watch it grow.
You do everything in your power to protect and nourish it. And in return, it keeps you up at night, gives you incredible highs and lows, and creates a whole new perspective on the world. Most importantly, you never regret the decision.
As with offspring, one of the most important steps in the early days is to give your business a name. That’s the fun bit, right? Think again!
A brand fit for Davids and Goliaths
Coming up with the name ‘Thinking Hat’ gave me the same levels of stress and anxiety as naming my kids, to be honest. The main difference was that instead of arguing with my wife, I was arguing with myself.
I vividly remember my ‘day one’ of the business. Sitting in a coffee shop, ever so slightly worried that I had just walked out of a stable job to start my own business. One moment I was bricking it, the next I was inspired, excited and eager to get going.
I already had a thousand ideas for a potential agency name, so I thought I’d just write them down, pick my favourite one and then start making some calls. Easy!
I predicted it might take an hour, maybe two, to find the perfect name. A nice, gentle start to my new life as an entrepreneur.
The first name I wrote down on the top of the pad was “Musketeer PR”. We would be a swashbuckling, buccaneering crew, just as flamboyant and creative as we were bold and brave. I pictured a banqueting hall, staff sipping from goblets of wine, swords crossed above the entrance. Company directors would be immortalised in portraits, wearing ostentatious hats and peering into the middle distance…
Well – it sounds good for a themed restaurant, but probably not a PR agency. Next!
And so the rest of my ‘day one’ was spent cycling between cups of coffee and exciting new ideas, before talking myself out of it. That was my first introduction to what it takes to build your own business from the ground up.
An agency for brands that think big
‘Thinking Hat’ was my eureka moment. I wanted the name to capture everything we stand for: big ideas, open minds and impactful storytelling. As a brand, it felt memorable, catchy and relevant.
It also worked on a deeper level. Although our foundation would always be PR and communications, to become a truly full-service agency we would also need to wear different hats, and bring in people with different skills sets. In recent years that dream has come to fruition as we have integrated new products like content marketing, SEO, video production and brand journalism into our tool kits for clients.
Four years later and I know the team here lives and breathes the brand, engaging creatively and sympathetically with our clients, and continually challenging them to ‘think big’. On top of that, the diverse backgrounds and varied skillset of our team means we always challenge each other to improve.
Finding your name: five questions to ask yourself
For anyone else thinking about starting a business (or even a PR agency), these are the questions you should ask yourself:
1. What kind of business do you want to create? Wil you be bold and stunty, or strategic and subtle? Will your tone of voice be traditional and corporate, or hip and loose?
2. How will the business evolve? If things go well, that name could be with you for decades – so it needs to be futureproof as the world changes and your business grows.
3. Who is your target customer or client, and what does the name mean to them?
4. Which brands resonate with you? Which ones you do you love or not love? Which brands make you feel flat, and which brands make you walk tall?
5. Finally – has anyone else thought of it already? Are all the key domains available?
Remember: back yourself and believe in it
One thing I’ve learned in the last four years is how important it is to back yourself and not get too hung up on what others think. Everybody has an opinion – but not everybody is invested in the same way you are. When you back yourself and believe in it, other people will follow you.
The truth is that your brand name won’t build the business on its own. For every great brand, there’s a long history of hard graft and big thinking.
Your brand name won’t build the business – you will! So crack on and start making some calls.
Great articles to find out more
The Entrepreneur: 7 Tips For Naming Your Business
· The Next Web: Don’t even think of naming your business until you read this