Fast Company

What is in a Name? Buzzr.com Unveiled

by Ed Sussman

On Monday we released the first public demo of a product I've been working on for almost a year.  It's great to be able to show people that you're not just imagining the company you started.

The release create a mini-twitter storm because of it could lead to a dramatic improvements to the open source platform Drupal.  It's also the foundation of my business - a hosted platform that makes it easy for ordinary people to create dynamic, cutting edge websites. Good stuff.

Even more fun for me, though, was the unveiling of our name: Buzzr.

Since October, I've been the CEO of a company called Codename Enterprises, Inc. At first, we called it Codename because we kept it hush hush for several months and Codename seemed to be a pretty good codename for the project.  Easy to remember and say. Kind of a meta joke.

The name quickly became second nature for those of us inside the project - not a joke at all. "Did you see the new Codename form builder Nate built!" or "Codename is driving me crazy" or "Will Codename make us very rich or very poor?"

Many, many hours went into brainstorming a suitable "real" name. I am the wistful non-owner of the parked "SiteMama.com" (is every aspect of one's naming imagination already in existence on GoDaddy.com?) and proud owner of the rejected gem "BuzzGod"  (yours for a song!) If memory serves me correctly, several very off-color names were concocted and snapped up promptly by the creator after rejection by the team.  I am afraid to check if any came to fruition as websites.

Nothing we thought of seemed just right, though. And so, Codename remained Codename month after month.

After a while, the name stuck, to the point that it now feels odd to call the company by its new name. Buzzr. Buzz - R. Buzzr.com. It's going to take awhile for me to get used to it.

Here's an initial list of the characteristics we came up with for the ideal name:

All that, in 5 or 6 characters. Plus we wanted a name that would look good on T-shirts. And possibly spawn an adorable icon. And please, not for more than $3,000 bucks.

The naming exercise was led by Evan Orensten of Bond Art + Science, our usability and design partner. Liza Kindred, Jeff Robbins, Karen McGrane and I were probably the most active name brainstormers, but a lot of the Lullabots pitched in: Kent Bye and Jeff Eaton come to mind. We even sent Kent on an undercover mission to suss out background on the owner of a domain.

At first, an orderly process was followed: a formal name and branding strategy workshop was convened. A seven-page brand characteristics survey was completed in several multi-hour meetings. A wall-sized whiteboard was organized around themes and the names springing from these themes. Lots of springtime themes kept popping up. Flowers, bugs, trees, birds, bees and fecund rabbits.

We actually settled on one, then another, only to discover their owners were recalcitrant to part with non-earning domains that had been parked for years. I'm not exactly sure why, although I can speculate: either it's the fantasy that if they hold out a bit longer, that $2,000 offer is going to turn into $1 million. Or, perhaps they harbor a dream of a building a website they just haven't got around to yet. (Buzzr.com will help with that.)

I ended up pre-occupied with possible names for months. I'd post long lists on our team blog (always to tepid responses.) I became a fanatical user of www.makewords.com Throw in a few letters or word, enter a category (e.g. business, medicine or music), a base language (Finnish is a good one), and MakeWords spits out a long list of possible domain names, along with whether the names are taken or available for registration. (The site could use a makeover, but the technology works just fine.)

I think it was MakeWords that led me to BuzzGod. We were doing various takes on "Buzz" and I was immediately drawn to BuzzGod. My narcissism unveiled in the name of branding.

I wasn't the only one making lists. By the end, we had considered several hundred names and were only been pleased with a handful.

Jeff Robbins came up with Buzzr. He and his wife are good namers. As a musician/lyriscist and artist, respectively, they have the proper credentials to create silly icons and names.

The bee, most lately shanghaid for mass-market commercial purposes by Jerry Seinfeld's Bee movie, is our intended symbolic stand-in for our website. Bees get around, they make a lot of love, they fertilize a lot of flowers. And when they get together, there's an audible buzz. Good subliminals, no? Plus anytime you put together two "z"s and roll them off your tongue, it tingles a smidgen in your mouth. Jazz. Fuzz. Buzz.

Ok, if you piss off a bee, it'll sting you and possibly send you into shock. That's a negative. So the Buzzr bee has to be very friendly. We're still playing around with a few different bees. Some seem more fertile, some more frenetic, some more fuzzy. You can see the current contender here.

All in all, I'm pretty pleased.  At the very least, my tongue gets to tingle night and day.

Ed Sussman is the CEO of Buzzr.com. You can follow him on Twiiter @edsussman or at www.edsussman.com

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