Naming With Initials: a Bad Idea

Just because IBM, RCA, AIG and MSN use initials to identify themselves doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

Company names should mean something, convey a concept or set a mood. There are very few three-initial brand names that do so.Initials have no personality They don’t resonate. They don’t elicit emotion. They communicate no passion, history or expertise. They are just initials, having no actual meaning, just an identification – like a part number.

So why is it companies continue to take the easy way out and name themselves with initials?

The Alphabet Naming SoupNow I know that most often those initials stand for something, usually three multi-syllable, Latin-ending, generic descriptors that vaguely describe the company’s business category. Not only is the name a mouthful, it’s not memorable. Even within the company, the formal name has no meaning. Besides, it’s too long so they quickly establish the initials as the shorthand name. Then they begin to use it outside the company and just assume it communicates something to someone. It doesn’t until lots of money and lots of time have expired.

Now some initial sets could stand for something appropriate to the companies or appealing to their customers: MVP, QED, ASAP come to mind. But most of those three-initial names might just have been picked from a bowl of alphabet soup by a blindfolded chimp.

I opt for a short, active one or two word name. Even if it’s a coined word name, that’s so much better than lifeless initials. And usually those short names have fewer syllables an a set of three initials. Remember that a major function of a brand name is to represent the company in a distinctive, memorable way. Names like Google, Yahoo, Amazon, eBay are easily remembered, especially more so than CRW, MSN, AOL and IMC.

Martin Jelsema

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