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Guest Blog: “How many billion have you spent?”

Though Rapport has great design and marketing expertise inside, we have many experts help us with specialized work. If a client calls needs more than a name, but a complete brand exercise to back it up, we call Andris Pone, co-author of Brand: It Ain’t the Logo* (*It’s what people think of you). Below is the second of three excerpts – enjoy!

From Chapter 15:  Great Names Mean Business

by Andris Pone, president of Coin, the naming company.

The Initial Mistake

Choosing a name with initials is a good way to make your life miserable. A set of initials has no personality, no emotion, no visual imagery and is very difficult – a pain, really – to remember. Rest assured you will end up constantly repeating and explaining your name to everyone who is trying to understand
1. What the heck it is and 2. What the heck it means.

Initial names are successful when earned, not created. So why do otherwise smart businesspeople slap initials on a logo and think their work is done? Because very successful companies like GE, BMW and UPS surround them. People see this successful Branding and think they can emulate it. What they forget is that companies like these have earned the right to use the short form. Often it was their customers who started using the convenient shorter version long before the Brand itself formalized the use.

Of course, we all know that GE stands for General Electric and HP stands for Hewlett-Packard, because these Brands have been around forever and have spent infinite amounts of money to build awareness.

But please take a moment and tell me what these abbreviations mean:

  • AMD
  • AME
  • CNS
  • FPL

All of these are real organizations. But it’s unlikely you have any idea who these Brands are or what they do, because unlike GE or HP, they have not spent billions, over decades, spreading the word.

Have you?

Keep it Short

Think of almost any well-known Brand name, and it will be brief – two or three syllables at most. If the Brand name you’re thinking of is longer than three syllables, chances are very good that it’s been shortened by customers or by the Brand itself – like Federal Express to FedEx.

Pick a short name for your Brand, or people will shorten it for you.  And then you’ll probably lose the meaning you worked so hard to convey.


Kinect, the name of Microsoft’s controller-free video game, conveys many layers of meaning in just two syllables. Kinect of course is derived from connect. It’s a memorable association, because players are connected to Kinect in an entirely new way. They do not hold any kind of controller. The game console scans your body with an electric eye, and then your movements (say, the way you throw punches in Kinect’s boxing game) are interpreted through your character in the game. Thus Kinect is also derived from kinetics – defined as “the branch of mechanics… concerned with the study of bodies in motion.”

Kinect is also short.  It is easy to spell even though it’s misspelled. And like many of the world’s most successful Brand names (think Disney, Google, Kraft, and Toyota), it sounds pleasant and powerful by beginning with a “plosive” letter (those letters including d, g, k, p and t).

Next installment: Language and legal follies

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