The smart way to name your business  

Short business names: Why three is not always a magic number

Posted on March 09, 2017 by Dave Clark

Scrabble letters

Marketing is all about communication, and when it comes to naming your brand, the challenge is fitting all that you want to say about your business into just a handful of letters. In order to get the most out this opportunity to communicate your brand identity to potential clients, knowing how to use your character limit is key.

One rule that Novanym recommend is steering clear of the three letter business names. Whether takes form as an abbreviation, acronym or initialism, the message your hoping to convey is likely to be lost entirely.

Every one of our cool business name ideas have been crafted to communicate and engage in a single word .com domain. We work to help firms begin their journey with a name that delivers three crucial branding essentials: visibility, differentiation and relevance. This takes more than 3 letters.

Trying to decode a three letter business name

Changing to initials can be a useful tactic for well established businesses who’ve carved out a high profile for themselves in the market (think IBM or BBC). But it’s only a feasible solution for those who have laid the groundwork.

Let’s take an example. Say three junior partners in a leading law firm set out to go it alone in the biz: Cooke, Patel and O’Connor. As talented as this team might be in the field of corporate law, say, they’re no branding experts. So they gravitate towards the standard formula and makes the mistake of becoming CPO.

Unfortunately for CPO, the name is virtually meaningless to anyone outside of their company. A client approaching it for the first time not only has no idea what type of law the business practices, but no way of knowing that CPO are partners in law at all. All this is assuming that they got the name right in the first place, when spoken aloud it can may be hard to distinguish P’s from B’s and C’s from T’s. With profit margins on the line, it’s an expensive risk to take.

Short business names need to be memorable

By the time you’ve reached the end of this post, you’d be forgiven for having forgotten what CPO stands for, even for forgetting the acronym itself. This is the case for the vast majority of three letter business names.

Being able to attribute meaning to a name or concept is key to improving our chances of remembering it. So while you could argue that a three letter company name is short, and therefore easy to recall, without a discernible meaning the opposite may be true. Some of our best names are just five letters in length, but it’s enough to conjure an impression of the business services, industry and brand voice.

An additional risk very short business names introduce is being confused with competitors, or even with businesses operating far outside your own industry. This issue has become intensified as businesses seek catchy domain names to enhance their online presence.

The World Wildlife Fund once challenged the World Wrestling Federation for the rights to brand themselves with the acronym WWF. The losers were forced to a splash billions re-branding themselves as WWE – you’d have thought they’d learned their lesson.

It’s not just business competition to keep an eye out for. If we revisit CPO, this is also a term commonly used to refer to a ‘compulsory purchase order’. If you’re trying to launch a new business, that’s not the greatest thing to be mistaken for.

OLT, or one last thing: there are currently more acronyms in our language than ever before. The three letter pool is saturated by the stock exchange, international airport codes, and text message terminology.

So, with our vocabularies saturated with meaningless monikers already, it’s probably best to stay clear. A company name that can be spoken over the phone, accurately spelled and then remembered days later is much more likely to help your brand succeed.
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