Mast is a new kind of mobile-telecommunications platform for businesses and their employees: a carrier, software platform, and device manager all in one. It gives business owners the power to manage productivity, costs, and security, and it allows employees to carry a single device with two numbers, one for personal use and one for business use.
When the co-founders of Mast Mobile—all of whom had extensive experience at large multinational companies—contacted me in January, their company was less than 18 months old and was operating in private beta under the name Grid Mobile. That name had evolved from an early plan to provide mesh networks as overlay on existing mobile networks. Now that the original strategy was no longer central, the founders wanted to replace a name they correctly perceived as having unwelcome connotations of infrastructure and “electrical grid,” and a static rather than dynamic and innovative sound.
My first step was to develop a detailed naming brief that would guide the naming process. I interviewed the founders about their market, their competitors, their previous attempts at naming, and the qualities that make their product distinctive. I also asked about them: I wanted to know what drives them, what inspires them, what they do when they’re not working. One seemingly offhand comment stuck in my mind: a couple of the founders are avid recreational sailors.
From the interviews I created a set of naming objectives (what the name should or must convey) and naming criteria (linguistic, trademark, and domain considerations). We agreed that “mobile” would be the descriptive element of the name; this would aid in positioning the company and would make it easier (we hoped) to obtain a .com domain, which was essential. (It isn’t always; see this recent post.) The objectives included flexibility, smooth sailing, originality, empowerment, and improvisation. The criteria included a preference for names that end in consonants rather than vowels, a preference for “real” (dictionary) English words, and a dislike of names that sound “too corporate.” The name needed to be available in two international trademark classes: 9 (software) and 38 (telecommunications).
Finally, we established a brand personality profile, which the ideal name would reflect (or at least not contradict): assertive but not brash, fresh and energetic, a bit provocative, exhibiting a dry sense of humor.
I did two rounds of name development, exploring the vocabularies of jazz (the “improvisation” and “originality” objectives), materials science (“flexibility”), strength (“empowerment”), and navigation (“smooth sailing”). To my delight, the founders were open to a wide range of names, and they quickly grasped the power of metaphor. In the end, though, one name stood out, literally and symbolically: Mast.
A mast is, of course, a tall pole that supports a sail and allows navigation through changing conditions. The word has deep roots in the language, going back to Old English. The double-M alliteration of “Mast Mobile” also appealed (and it enhances the name’s memorability). And nobody else owned MastMobile.com.
Not incidentally, the founders are able to relate to the name on a personal level. They understand sailing, and can speak with authority about the multiple meanings of Mast.
Five months after Mast Mobile was chosen, CEO David Messenger reports: “We’re getting great feedback on the name—it’s really strong and distinctive.”
Thanks to the Mast Mobile founders for being thoughtful and decisive clients. And thanks to trademark lawyer Jessica Stone Levy for skillfully steering us through the screening and registration process.
UPDATE: Mast Mobile’s technology and intellectual property were acquired by Hearsay in October 2017.