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BRANDING | The Curse of the Three Intitial Company Name | Part One

Naming a company should never be left to its owners; their lack of objectivity often leads to the dreaded Three Initial Company Name, a mis-branding mistake that puts them at a permanent disadvantage.

If that sounds harsh, it’s based on decades of watching firms make the same company naming errors, based on the same bad assumptions, ignoring the imperatives of branding. Sometimes, a few years later, Austin West gets to correct this wrong-footed start by re-branding the enterprise, assuming it has survived. Selfish considerations aside, we much prefer to help companies begin with names that help deliver the three crucial branding essentials: visibility, differentiation, relevance.

What do they do? Your answer, sadly, depends on your memory.

Let’s draw a distinction here between naming a company and naming a product or service. It doesn’t matter a tinker’s damn what you name a holding company, if the products and services are going to be the star of the show. Procter & Gamble can go on being P&G forever; Charmin and Crest and Cover Girl will carry the water. But for many companies, particularly service companies and retailers, company name = brand name, so it must bear the burden.

It’s a burden not to be taken lightly. A fledgling firm might be, say, three guys who are all Microsoft certified who decide to form a consultancy. Or three Merrill Lynch guys who split off to open an estate-planning office. As talented as these folks may be at CRM software, or portfolio balancing, they’re not naming/branding experts, and so gravitate toward the Three Initial Mistake: they become CLM Consultants, one initial each from partners Curly, Larry and Moe, for a dreary worst-case example.