What’s in a name? Turns out, a whole lot.


When Blue Engine Message & Media and JDA Frontline came together, we had to answer one question that’s central to everything we do – who are we?  

We did all of the usual things to help our new joint identity take shape: offsite social events so we could all get to know each other beyond bullpens and conference rooms, full team meetings to settle on a central set of core values and direction for our new firm and of course the biggest step of all – moving in together where we’d all have to learn to navigate extremely sensitive situations like fridge rules and who always gets to the best snacks first 

One thing that our newly formed branding committee realized quickly was how similar our two teams already are. While we are comprised of people from different backgrounds, career trajectories and political leanings, we easily landed on a set of shared principles that would form the foundation of our new identity. You can read more about those principles here.  

Sounds great, right? Two teams with similar personalities, goals and values come together under one banner. Picking a name shouldn’t be too hard. Yeah, we thought that too.  

It wasn’t like we were unprepared for the challenges of coming up with a new name for a new firm. We knew the bar was high. It had to be creative, descriptive and not at all derivative. It had to be unique, but not so far out there that people couldn’t get it and it had to create space for us from our previous brands without ignoring our heritage. As the process went on, the list of what it had to be and what it couldn’t be kept growing – as did our lists of potential names and absolute discards 

We ran into some challenges we didn’t foresee, like the “urban dictionary” test. We also learned that just about every word exists as a company name in some capacity – seriously, we were googling translations of obscure words for sailboat components (we went deep into the weeds), and a guy named Howard for some inexplicable reason owned all the urls and social properties associated with one of our top choices. 

There’s no shortage of quotes on the naming / branding experience out there, but I think Dave Tippett, former Senior Advisor to the yet-to-be-named Seattle NHL Expansion team, put it best: 

The interesting things about a name is sometimes you think you like one and once you go through the whole branding of it, you think, “Maybe not so much” with some you liked at first. Some are OK and then there are some that surprise you and you think, “Well, maybe.”

Not only is this description completely accurate, it’s a near perfect illustration of the naming and branding process. In a 50word verbal circle, Tippett essentially says, “Sometimes names are hard.” There’s nothing more indicative of the naming process than a 50-word sentence that lands you right back where you started. It’s brilliant.

So, what’s in a name? Hundreds of choices, dozens of meetings, latenight epiphanies, Star Wars references, a onesided but terribly bitter feud with Howard (who has never met or heard of us) and commitment. Most importantly, you have to have the drive to keep pursuing the right name when “good enough” is staring you in the face as the easiest path forward.   

Of course, now we know how our process ends – in a name we are excited to finally share with the world, with our clients and friends. We all took a vow of secrecy, after all, lest someone copy, steal or define the concept before we could stake out what it means to us. And we close this process really proud that Seven Letter represents the core of our firm and embodies our strengths. 

To all those who are going on a similar journey, we are with you. It is equal parts hard, frustrating and exhilarating. Or if, like us, you prefer seven letter words, the complex process requires you to be mindful and demands that you remain focused, all so you can clarify who you are and what you believe in, hopefully resulting in the right outcome