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What's in a Name?

What's in a Name?

Posted by Mike Burn on

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You may wonder how Guidewire Live got its name. I’m not a parent and therefore have never been burdened with placing the name on a child who’ll have to live with it for life. Sure, I’ve named hamsters as a kid. I named my dogs Roxy and Mervin, even called a beat up pick-up truck Denise, but none of them (nor anyone else) particularly cared what they were called, so selecting their names didn’t present much pressure. It was quite another thing then to be involved in naming something with the visibility, potential notoriety and longevity of a multi-million dollar software product.

Guidewire has typically followed Kellogg’s descriptive product naming convention with ClaimCenter, PolicyCenter, Rating Management etc. Our product names are intentionally obvious so that people can easily figure out what they are for. I've learned that it's easier to name something that fits into an established functional category; but this was different. Guidewire Live is somewhat more nebulous, and what it is now may not be what it is in five years. We struggled a bit to define ‘it’, so naming ‘it’ also proved somewhat challenging.

At the end of the process we think Live is a great name for us, other than meeting our arbitrary requirements – as a consumer you have to be live on a Guidewire product to use Live; Live itself lives as an online application; Live is living and ever-changing – Live itself is alive. Live implies fun and excitement and we think Live really is that, whereas replacing your core systems is often equated to tunneling through granite (hard but necessary work) – Live represents the pool party on the other side.

But how did we get there?

You, like I, may be expecting something out of Mad Men where a Don Draper-like character arrives presenting us the options for names with a detailed story and reasons for why this would be awesome and why it would resonate with our target audience.

But what actually happened was far less dramatic... If you ever have to do a naming exercise the recipe we used might help, in fact we have since used it when we just wanted to warm up our brains or get ourselves out of a mental funk.

Ingredients:

• 1 very large roll of paper

• Marker pen for each participant

• Post-it notes

• Arbitrary naming requirements

Preparation method:

  1. Cover a large table with paper.

  2. Pick a series of random words from some random books, about 5 words should do. Write the words on the paper, spread evenly.

  3. Allow participants to associate words to words by adding a word and circling table. Continue for 15-20 minutes.

  4. Mix words together on post-it notes to come up with names, attach notes to a fresh wall.

  5. Sort names – discard the ridiculous (e.g. Guidewire Data Riot) and group the remaining notes together.

  6. Filter by arbitrary requirements (e.g. must be short, 5 letters or less. It must be easy to say, spell and remember. It must be an ‘empty vessel’. It must be internationally applicable (so it doesn’t have some horrendous meaning in translation). Must not have already been used in the industry. Can’t be xCenter. etc.

  7. Optional – pick incorrect name, let it rest for a while, then subsequently discard it (incidentally, you were very close to reading the Guidewire Mateo blog...)

  8. Pick correct name - amazingly, it is probably there staring you in the face, just waiting to be picked.

  9. Love it.

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