Is Acronym-Based Naming Out of Time?

Who, or what, is that?
ISS, International Space Station or Integrated Social Selling? I-O, Input-output or Immuno-oncology, or the name of one of Jupiter’s moons? API, Air Pollution Index, Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient, Application Program Interface or Associated Press International? VC, Venture Capital, Voice Chat or… Viet Cong? You get the picture.

Jumping into the alphabet-soup name game
At this stage of technology-based communications and industry-specific terminology, “Acronymphilia” has secured its place in a frequently confusing arena. Sticky burrs lie in wait as you enter the realm of business naming with an acronym. But first, think about the big dish of caveat in front of you entrepreneurs considering the risk.

Components of a signature acronym
The more brand elements built-in to enhance your business messaging, the more viable the acronym. The chosen letters should somehow represent the business and, better still, its core values. N.O.W., the National Organization for Women, exemplifies this very well. Not only does it identify its audience and state a cause-based purpose, it conveys a sense of urgency in a powerful reference to the concept of time. Better yet, it’s usually pronounced as the word itself, and not just the letters.

Legacy and personification
Quantas, initially named Queensland and Northern Territory and Aerial Services, showcases a made up word derived from an acronym. The original name was cumbersome and not in the least bit interesting or memorable. By now, the airline’s legacy status has brought us to a place where we typically associate the brand with an adorable Koala bear awkwardly consuming bamboo leaves. That kind of brand personification doesn’t happen overnight.

Variations on the acronymized theme
Syllabic abbreviations combined to make up a new name are considered – by some - to be a type of acronym, which uses the addition of non-initialized letters. Companies like Nabisco, the food giant formerly known as National Biscuit Company and Weruva, the pet food makers who named their business by using the first two letters of each of their three cats named, Webster, Rudi and Vanessa, have done it. Is it clunky or is it enough to endear you?

Just memorable isn’t good enough
Weave in more than one concept, brand angle, trait or service offering, but don’t create an acronym solely for the purpose of shortening the name you have in mind. Let it draw a straight line to what you offer. When it comes to acronyms, it has to connect to the brand it represents.

Confusion is costly!
Illustrating the point; I’m on the mailing list for Investor’s Business Daily. The headline from one of their recent newsletters read, “Get Social with IBD”. Now I understand that the third letter of the acronym is different, but by the split seconds it takes me to get to the letter I, and then the letter B, my mind has already gone to IBS, Irritable Bowel Syndrome. This is unfortunate and definitely not something to “get social with”.

Cringeworthy, but so very amusing
For a bit of levity, here are a few examples of gaffes in lettering-only naming:

T.B.A.G. - Tempe Bicycle Action Group

B.A.R.F. - Biologically Appropriate Real Foods

S.H.A.G. - Senior Housing Assistance Group

V.A.G. - Visual Arts Gallery

W.T.F. - Women Take Flight

You’ve got to wonderWTF were they thinking?

Maybe acronyms are best left for the mnemonic device
S.M.A.R.T., an acronym employed to guide the progress of measurable goals, whereby each letter stands for a value in the process  - specific, memorable, attainable, relevant, timely - with several variations, is used as a management tool for some organizations. Didn’t we all use an acronymic “trick” to memorize the order of the planets orbiting around the sun? My Very Easy Method, Just Say you kNow Planets, is one that I use for recall. Which one do you use?

In the E.N.D. - no, not Exotic Newcastle Disease or Energy Never Dies
You can see why due diligence is strongly advised when considering an acronym for your business name. And unless it’s extraordinary, this kind of naming should be left in the past.

N.U.F.F. - National Union of Freedom Fighters - said.

Please, pretty please... won't you share an acronymic anecdote, any encounter with letters-based names, whether good, bad or absurd? That would be so much F.U.N. Jump on to our website mailing list to have more content like this delivered straight to your inbox.