Keysight and Aunt Gilda: How we didn’t name the company

Most of us have named someone or something in our lifetimes - a company project, a favorite car, a child, maybe even an imaginary friend. Whether a name just pops into our minds, demands a ton of iterations, or we look no further than Aunt Gilda, a little imagination - or familial pressure -- goes a long way. Unlike that ancestral inspiration, however, getting to the perfect name for our new design and measurement company proved much more rigorous and headache-inducing than we anticipated.

Besides choosing a name that conveyed the essence of our 70+ year-old startup, our unique strengths, and our goals and aspirations, we had to make sure the name was legally available in the 100+ countries where we do business, that it was linguistically appropriate in at least 16 languages, and that the .com domain was available for us to do business on the web. Much easier said than done.

First, the fun stuff.

A good name is easy to spell and pronounce and ideally conveys something about the company. A great name engages customers and employees emotionally, identifies the unique value we provide, and is memorable. For our naming process we brought together employees from all regions, from a variety of disciplines, and from all age groups, to take on two tasks:

This is where we handed the process over to the professionals. We reached out to Catchword, an agency whose sole reason for being is naming. Recognized as experts in their field, they took us through a finely-tuned 4-week process, starting from exploration to narrowing down of a handful of finalists. They taught us that there are many types of names - descriptive, functional, suggestive, fanciful, and those that are derived from ancient or modern languages. They also taught us that construction of a word, and its tonality, play an equally important role in how a name is received.

As the new brand manager for our yet-to-be formed company, I was fortunate to be part of a small internal team of formal and informal leaders who participated in weekly name reviews and brainstorming sessions with the agency. Thousands of names later (4,241 to be exact), the process of filtering and screening the names would begin in earnest.

That's when disappointment struck.

We all had early favorites we were rooting for. We were told over and over again not to fall in love with a name. Not many of us heeded that advice. First, nearly 700 names were screened for domain availability. Over half of them dropped off in the first round. The names were also screened linguistically in 16 different languages to ensure they didn't carry negative meaning or connotation in those languages. Once our legal team started searching for trademark availability in all the countries where we do business, almost 90% of the remaining names dropped off. The most in-depth and final round whittled us down to only a nail-biting handful of names.

But an early favorite kept hanging on.

From the time Keysight was introduced in an early brainstorming round, it garnered the highest number of votes from the internal team. As more names were introduced, Keysight remained a strong favorite. It became one of CEO Ron Nersesian's favorites as well. We looked at several suffixes, and with Ron's guidance, settled on Technologies because it conveys the innovation and breadth of the portfolio we deliver. When we got final clearance from legal on that name and had acquired all the necessary domains, there was far more than a collective sigh of relief - we were all delighted.

Why Keysight?

The name Keysight is built from two English words: key, meaning indispensable or essential, a means of access; and insight, meaning the power of seeing, having vision and perception. The name connotes seeing what others cannot, having the critical or key insight to understand and unlock the changing technology landscape.

Keysight reflects what's in our DNA, what we strive to provide to our customers - the key measurement insights engineers need to accelerate innovation and ultimately achieve success - whether they see success as being first to market, increasing their differentiation, ramping up production, or achieving lower costs of test within a rapidly changing technology landscape.

According to Ron, the name Keysight "captures the spirit of our new company - innovative, insightful, and forward-looking, with the special kind of vision to sort through the rapid technological revolutions and anticipate customers' needs so they stay one step ahead."

This name was the winner.

But wait. The race was not yet over.

What about a logo? We knew the company signature couldn’t be created in isolation of the final name. They had to work together seamlessly, like pieces of a puzzle, each telling their own piece of the story but making the final impression stronger.

It was Ron's clear vision that a logo should give a nod to the kind of company we are - a pure-play electronic design and measurement company. And nothing works like a waveform to convey that. I suspect our brand agency’s collective heads were spinning with their newly-learned terms such as wave amplitude, eye diagrams, phase, and more.

Did people like it? Did it grow on them?

Some things take getting used to. It's likely many employees, customers, and industry watchers had a vision of what the name would be, and Keysight may or may not have met that initial expectation. Take this test with us though. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, when we first embarked on the naming process, we came up with attributes to help drive the agency’s creative process. We gave them:

  1. Speed, acceleration, first to market
  2. Insight, understanding, seeing what others can't
  3. Leadership, expertise, trusted advisor; solving customers' toughest problems
  4. Leading edge technologies and innovations

Test Keysight Technologies against these attributes. We think it works. And we hope all your engagements with our company do too.