The Problem:

Nobody knew them from Adam
The competition had deep pockets and deeper connections

Lumen Learning is a small fish in a shark tank. They’re competing against huge EdTech companies with fully integrated offerings that include textbooks, tests, and even curricula. So-called “education media companies” like Pearson and Cengage command the checkbooks of schools, colleges, and universities alike, and as shown by John Oliver on “Last Week Tonight,” the big boys don’t exactly have students’ best interests in mind.

“We’re suffering under a system where billion-dollar companies sell a new, barely-updated book every three years.”

— Tom Chapman, CFO, Lumen Learning

Lumen figures that if they can actually help students, they’ll end up standing out from the pack. With that in mind, the company used Gates Foundation grants to build a digital dashboard. It shows teachers when their students are stumped by highlighting which concepts to teach and which chapters to assign. On the student side, the platform suggests what they should work on and tells them what they’ve nailed. It gives them a direct line of communication with their instructors, too.

That’s a good story, but to even get the chance to tell it, Lumen needed a product name that stood out. After all, to depose the industry leaders, it isn’t always enough to just be different — you have to sound different, too.

The Fix:

Differentiate from the incumbents
Pitch forward progress

So what to say? “It’s a tool that makes life easier for students, teachers, and institutions alike?” We’ve heard that one before. So have teachers. It’s the truth, but it’s been worn down. Lumen needed a new way in, one that spoke to the platform’s benefits without sliding into cliché.

The answer: Waymaker. First, it skirted the typical EdTech themes: no wordsmash (TutorGroup, Pluralsight, Schoolzilla, Memrise), nothing about intelligence (Minerva Project, Clever, Brilliant), and no misspelling (Knewton, Udemy, Hullaballu). Second, the name let Lumen skip the “makes your life easier” speech — something that creates the way forward will, obviously, make life easier — and get into how it makes life easier: “Waymaker shows the way forward for your teachers and students.”

For Waymaker, the name is part of the pitch. It pushes conversations toward the platform’s core function, so that anyone who learns about Waymaker will learn, and remember, how it benefits people. For new brands especially, that kind of consistent messaging is essential to getting off the ground.


More you say?