First posted 12th December 2019 in Brand; updated 18th December 2019
Starting a business is very exciting. One of the most difficult things, but also one of the most fun, is thinking up a business name. When I was coming up with my business name, I had some criteria that I wanted it to meet:
- It shouldn’t include my name – if I was ever to grow it to the point where I’d want to sell, it would be weird to see something I no longer had anything to do with trading under my name
- It should be reasonably abstract – some of the things I started out doing might change as time went by (e.g. I no longer do print design, iOS app design, visual identity)
- It should be easy to read and pronounce
- It should be obscure enough that URLs, Twitter usernames, etc. should be easy enough to get
- If it’s multiple words, the end of one word and the start of another shouldn’t form a new word
- It hopefully won’t mean anything rude in another language
Circa 2003, I was the guitarist and singer in a band that had been playing gigs around Newcastle. During that time, I saw a lot of other bands and picked up a lot of their CDs.
Fast forward six years or so and I was putting the gears in motion to start my own business; a fun part of that is thinking up what to call it. I remember rifling through my CD collection (when a CD collection was still a thing!), looking at song names for inspiration. If it worked for Radiohead, why not for me!?
I came across an EP by a band I’d seen all those years ago on the Newcastle circuit, The Burning Dice; the lead track was a solid song called ‘Temper Temper’ and I had my name!
Like Radiohead did with Talking Heads’ ‘Radio Head’, I removed the space, making it one word: ‘tempertemper’. I also used all lowercase as capital
Ts look clunky (‘TemperTemper’), and a capital initial (‘Tempertemper’) looks lopsided and places too much emphasis on the first ‘temper’.
I liked the repetition, alliteration and reinforcement of using the same word twice. Brands like TalkTalk used a similar device to good effect (yep, I’m ashamed to say that I’m referring to the phone company, not the excellent band).
Aside from the sound of it, it’s a familiar phrase that we all heard as young children: a friendly warning from our parents to calm down when our tempers started to flair.
Getting a bit pretentious
A secondary nice-to-have was the meaning of ‘temper’. And this is where it gets a bit brand-y and pretentious…
TEMPER [tĕmpər] v. To adjust finely; attune. To harden, strengthen or toughen.
The idea in my head was of a frustrated client who had lost their temper with either trying the DIY approach to building their website or with their previous web designer. They would be coming to me, the experienced web guy, who would calm and reassure them with my expertise.
Told you it was pretentious! But wait – there’s more…
We’ve all seen films set in medieval times, with that rousing montage scene where the goodies are preparing for battle; the whole village is mobilised in the effort to defend themselves. We see horses being saddled, men donning armour and glowing orange swords being hammered out on anvils and plunged into water with a great hissing and a cloud of steam.
Tempering steel is the process of heating it up then suddenly cooling it, which makes it more resilient, less brittle, ready for battle. Exactly what I would be doing with my clients’ websites.
All that is fine, but the simple truth is that it works because it’s catchy.