A Three-Initial Name Is the Worst Type of Name – By Far

If you are contemplating naming a business with three initials, please think again.

Three-initial names have no personality and they are not memorable

Just pick any three initials for a name that will only cause apathy
Just picking any three initials for a name will only cause apathy

They are usually derived from three generic words that have meaning only to the namer.

CMW, DFI, SLC, GFW: These are three-letter combinations that were registered in one week as corporate names with the Colorado Department of State. Now please participate in this little demonstration:Now, please write just one of them on a piece of paper, and set it aside until you’ve finished reading this article. Then, without referring to it, try to remember those three innocuous letters.

The point is, a series of unrelated, unfamiliar letters are not memorable. Even after a little repetition of those initials, a person will normally have to make a real effort to remember them. But there are more critical reasons three-initial names can be liabilities.

Initials have no personality They don’t resonate. They don’t elicit emotion. They communicate no passion, no history, no culture, no expertise, no credibility. They are just initials. Just select a three-letter name randomly from the phone book and see if it conveys any connotation, emotion or image for you. Nuf said.

Here is where an entrepreneur may interject, “Yeh? What about IBM or RCA?” If that’s your response as well, just think about the time, the expense, the repetition involved in making those household names. And adopting the initial-names came long after the original names (International Business Machines, Radio Corporation of America) were well-known.

Most often companies aren’t founded with three-initials. They begin with multi-syllabic names like Electronic Global Omnibus, and then employees start using the initials as a communication shortcut. Then customers and suppliers start to refer to the company as EGO as well. Then the initials seep into a brochure and then the annual report. Finally, someone suggests they just eliminate the garble of the original generic descriptor name (those abominations are the subject of another article for another time) that just vaguely describes the company’s business category. Now EGO is expected to stand on its own, representing the company in all its affairs.

But initials don’t mean a thing until a significant group of prospects and customers actually have considerable experience with the company, its products, services, policies and people. Once relationships are built, the name hardly matters. But even so, there are just some letter combinations that will never go together. Even that won’t usually stop the company shortcutters.

Why will a company, particularly a smaller one, continue to hang a three-initial albatross around its neck when they could instead find a short, active one or two word name that resonates with stakeholders? Even a coined word name is so much better than lifeless initials.

But if you insist on initials, there’s a short list of three-initial name candidates that already have meaning through usage as shorthand for longer phrases (like MVP, PDQ, RPM, etc.). Their familiar connotations might represent the company, its mission and vision fairly well. If you’d like that list, email me at martin@signaturestrategies.com.

But it’s hardly worth the effort because someone else has probably claimed those initials for their corporate name.


One thought on “A Three-Initial Name Is the Worst Type of Name – By Far

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *