Page 16 - Evolve Magazine Spring 2021
P. 16

  I will start by telling you that we found ‘him’ in a filing cabinet! How that came about is now part of this story.
There’s lots of discussion and opinion on what a business name should
try to portray. Many people think it should identify the type of business it is or the products it supplies, etc. e.g. Plumbing & Heating, Marketing, Coaching, etc.
However, there is another school of thought that suggests we should leave the client wondering what it is we do. e.g. Purple Bricks, Amazon, Virgin, etc.
I have been in both camps and this story explains why and where I am today.
Way back in the early 1980s when
I started, I was aiming my products at the independent retail sector and therefore I wanted to convey that message in my company name. After some deliberation the name
I chose was ‘Retail Manager’. I was happy with that and felt that it needed no explanation. To quote a well-known phrase, “It does what it says on the tin”.
I had been using the name for a couple of years when one day I was having lunch with David Goldman, one of the founders of Sage. The conversation eventually moved on to who we were and what our companies were. He asked for the name of mine and I said ‘Retail Manager’. Looking a bit quizzical he asked “is it any good for Wholesalers”? I had some
wholesalers on board so I said it was. “So why is it not called Retail & Wholesale Manager” he asked. Good question, so what was my answer? “Because I hadn’t planned on supporting wholesalers when I first started, and all my initial marketing was aimed at retailers” was my reply. “So you’re already regretting the choice of name then” he suggested.
I didn’t answer the implied question but responded with one of my own, “what’s your company called then I asked”? “Sage” was his reply. Now it was my turn to look quizzical, “Why Sage” I asked? “Because it can be anything I choose to make it” was his reply. He then went on to say “I guarantee that you will regret your company name more and more as the years go by and will change it”.
I didn’t respond to that and the conversation drifted on to just general stuff as the food was served.
Now move forward to 1995 and the launch of Windows ’95, allegedly the answer to all our operating system requirements. At the time ‘Retail Manager’ wasn’t compatible with Windows so we had to make some changes if we wanted to utilise this new operating system. It was decided that we would produce a new version that was compatible with Windows. As part of that it was suggested that we needed a new name, commensurate with the new platform and features.
Thinking about this, I remembered David Goldman’s words all those years earlier about company names and also realised just how successful his operation had become in the intervening years. It was also interesting to remember his comment that we would be changing our brand at some
point in the future.
“We need a generic name” I said “something that means nothing but can mean anything”. People quickly picked up on that and various names were suggested and we pasted them up around the building, asking staff and visitors to make their choices by putting a tick on the page.
At the same time as this was happening, we were also clearing out some filing cabinets and came across some old marketing material. Back in 1992 we had been asked by a cash register company in London to provide them with a version of our software that would operate on a range of EPOS terminals they were importing from Japan. The manufac- turer was a company called Towa, which wasn’t a name known in the UK, so the agent decided it needed a new name and chose Merlin. We wrote the software that the Merlin terminal used.
Back to the story. Some of the marketing material we were clearing out related to this Merlin terminal and one of the staff suggested that Merlin could be a good name for our new Windows software, especially
What’s in a name?
The story behind Merlin
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