September 11, 2017  •  5 Minutes reading

Who Calls a Bank… Pepper?

Who Calls a Bank… Pepper?

At family dinners, in focus groups, during meetings with customers, the question is inescapable: Why Pepper? Where did this non-banking name come from? So here’s a behind-the-scenes look at what we went through to give Pepper its name.

The story is simple. “Pepper” in gematria (the ancient Hebrew code) is 360, just like a startup, a helpmate, and psychological therapy – the three key qualities we all want to find in our banks. Obvious, right?

Okay, you’re onto us. That’s not really what happened. Not even close (although the gematria is actually correct). Just like choosing a name for a new baby, the process of selecting the right name for a new company is exciting, interesting, and complex. Anyone who has tried to name their own child, hamster, or iPod knows that we all bring our own personal associations, biases, beliefs, experiences, and preferences to the table.

But at least naming a child is an intimate, personal process where the parent/s can deliberate and decide for themselves at home. When you’re naming a new brand or company, there are more than a few stakeholders involved, as well as a complex set of factors (image, business, legal, and also emotional) to consider. From the moment we set out to establish Pepper and began this exciting journey, full of tasks and high expectations, we knew that the product we were developing would revolutionize the banking status quo. Pepper’s unique services and “100% mobile” philosophy – from signing up and opening an account, through easily-accessible 24/7 service, to the design, experience, language, tone and style, and of course the unconventional character of the Pepper team – were simply exceptional.

And if Pepper was exceptional, it was clear to us that the name also had to convey that same distinctive character. We set out to find a name that would express our unique qualities and set us apart – not only in the banking category, but in the market as a whole.

To make sure we didn’t lose our way in this labyrinth of names, we jotted down a few key principles to guide us along the way. The name had to be:

1. A name that reflects the unique DNA and spirit of the team and product.
2. Easy to remember, spell, and type
3. Filled with positive associations
4. Phonetic and easy to pronounce, so that it rolls off the tongue
5. Short and simple
6. Clear and convenient for communication outside Israel (yes, a lot of banks and fintech companies around the world are very interested in Pepper, and we get quite a few guests visiting us from places as diverse as China, Australia, and Africa who come to hear the Pepper story)

So we looked around. What was going on in this field worldwide? What were “new banks” calling themselves, and why?

We spoke to the founding team of Atom in the UK, who began building their digital bank around the same time, and were happy to share their thoughts on the name selection process. The Atom team said that, since they were a startup not linked to an established financial brand (it’s since gained BBVA as a major investor) they looked for a name that would convey both security and expertise. And that’s how they arrived at “Atom”.

Dozens of names came and went from our drawing board: ARK, BETA, NOVA and even OH! And… Pepper.

At one of the meetings, someone (for the sake of proper disclosure, an advertising guru who has been at the top of his industry for generations) looked at the crowded list of names and asked, “So… why not Pepper?”

Silence. And then the smiles began to appear (okay, not everyone smiled immediately). We decided to sleep on it. We got up in the morning with Pepper, and when we went back to the original principles we had set ourselves, we realized that this name met all our requirements perfectly, conveying the different, spicy, “non-banking” character we were looking for.

We still love the name a lot, and I hope that very soon you too will understand why Pepper could never have been called anything else.

Vanessa Eyal
VP Marketing