Case Studies - Brand & Marketing

How Landor & Fitch Named Zepto

The brand transformation consultancy shares their process for coming up with a winning name

Pink zepto logo on purple background

Lego. Amazon. Apraava. Delta SkyMiles. 

Very different kinds of names but with one thing in common. Each of these names signal what the brand stands for and evoke intrigue. 

Lego: A compound word fused from ‘Leg’ and ‘Godt’ which means ‘play well’ in Danish, an apt name for a brand that advocates letting your imagination run abound with blocks!

Amazon: A real English word meaning a vast rainforest. A great signal for a vast variety of products and services. Jeff Bezos had the foresight to not name his business Books.com. Imagine how limiting that would have been. (Although we know that he toyed with the Relentless as an option. Go to Relentless.com and see what happens).

Apraava: A coined word from Agni, Prithvi, Ambu and Vayu, the four elements in Sanskrit to signal the four energy forms the company produces, suggesting its transition to a cleaner energy mix.

Delta SkyMiles: A compound word that evokes the ultimate benefit of thousands of hours of flying with Delta and the world of privileges unlocked with the miles. 

The most important step in naming, in fact, is not related to naming at all. The first step is gaining deep clarity about just one thing: your value proposition or what sets you apart to your core target audience. 

We see many start-ups skipping this first step and rushing to register a domain name and searching the trademark database, often arriving at contrived words with clunky spellings. We call this linguistic voodoo, hardly understood and truly scary in the long term!

Don’t progress on a naming exercise until you’ve nailed your proposition. 

Use this Template

We take our own advice seriously. Even on time-crunched exercises, we wouldn’t lift a pen until we have this written on the board in front of us. 

naming template
Source: First Round Review

How We Named Zepto in 7 Easy Steps

Two 19-year-old Stanford dropouts, Aadit Palicha and Kaivalya Vohra, had their proposition nailed – grocery delivery in 10 minutes in select urban pin codes. (We didn’t know it then, but they would soon be a unicorn.)

1. Set criteria

Aadit and Kaivalya wanted a name that was short, no more than 7 letters, easy to remember and signalled their core proposition – speedy grocery delivery in 10 minutes or less.

2. Develop naming routes

Place the value proposition in your customers’ lives. What we mean by this is: Think deeply about how your product changes, impacts, delivers or delights your customer. And yes, every product or service in the world does one of the above.

  • What does this proposition do?
    • Makes me think like I have a butler at my beck and call
    • Makes a chore feel like magic
    • Unlocks time in my day by getting me things I need at speed

The underlined words become potential routes to name the brand. Some fictional examples would look like the ones below.

Butler: Robin ; Magic: Zappy ; Speed: Falcon

3. Create a longlist

Every route is a river of ideas, and you must, like a river, go deep and wide with ideas. Don’t get excited by a name and start finding its domain and definitely don’t fall in love too quickly.

Our clients like the idea of time and speed and so we used the vector of time to drill deeper, inspired by its flexibility as a metaphor. We use these phrases on a daily basis: Time is running out, Time is the ultimate teacher, Time waits for none, etc.

Name candidate #406 yielded the winning name, Zepto!

Zepto emerged from a physics dictionary; short for zeptosecond, the shortest amount of time measurable on Earth. It was perfect; it met the criteria and signalled speed and time in a novel way.

4. Check and pray to the linguistic and trademark gods

70%-80% of all name candidates generated will fall out! Don’t be alarmed, this is like separating the sugar from the sugarcane.

Some resources to check your names at:

5. Shortlist and sleep on it

This step is so important. No name in the world will emerge from a screen and woo you. So take your shortlist and try these 3 simple exercises:

  1. Introduce yourself with the name in a sentence
  2. Put it in a newspaper headline
  3. Imagine yourself answering the question: why THIS name? If you can’t tell the story, the name doesn’t have the breadth of associations it needs to become meaningful as a brand. 

6. Presell

It’s time to introduce your name to a few key decision makers/ close associates. The objective is not to seek applause or be mournful about the brickbats. Instead, this is a test to see if the intended value proposition and meaning are clear to those who encounter the name for the first time. If most do, great! If most don’t – it may mean your name needs additional context (story, creatives, sound, etc.) to fully establish its meaning. 

7. Out in the world to make its mark

Strategise the best way to introduce your brand beyond the customary press release.  Zepto launched its service to select pin codes in Mumbai over a weekend. First reactions were wildly positive and drove home the intended meaning of the name.

And that is how we named Zepto, something we’re super proud of!

If you liked our approach to naming, join us for a live naming session where we will name a start-up on the call, unveiling our process as seen here, step-by-step! For more details, mail Landor & Fitch here.

8 Comments

  1. We were considering calling our company Augury and when we did a dipstick with some clients they all said ‘Did you say Ogre?’

  2. I’d like to point out one thing your story hasnt covered – do a phonetic culture check. particularly important for SaaS companies. We were considering calling our company Augury and when we did a dipstick with some clients they all said ‘Did you say Ogre?’

    1. Hi Priyanka,
      Yes, we hint at that in point 4 but didn’t get into the details of it. Linguistic checks are needed for every brand, especially in India where regional languages play such a huge role. Great point!

  3. Hey, the email id for being a part of the live session seems to be wrong. The email is not going through. Is there any alternate email id?

  4. I would like more detail on the legal part. How long does it take? I know there’s something about specific industries. Any startup friendly law firms?

    1. Hi Krish,
      Thank you for your question. Legal screening needs to be done in two stages. A preliminary screen where you get a simple go/no-go from your law firm, if the name falls off here, it isn’t a viable candidate. The second is a deep screen: the law firm needs to check alternate spellings, close matches and other parameters to genuinely eliminate risk of objections. Preliminary screens take only about 24 hours and deep screens can take up to 3 weeks depending on the geographies (India v/s global) and yes, classes. I’ve seen pharma (class 5) and tech (class 9 & 42) take really long owing to the complexity and sheer volume of trademarks. For startup friendly law firms, please send me an email and I’ll connect you with a few.

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