Acronyms have a notoriously bad rap when it comes to naming and after spending some time working in Washington, D.C., I understand why.
Whether it’s think tanks like AEI (American Enterprise Institute) or BI (Brookings Institution) or “acronymed” legislation like PROTECT-IP Act (Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property) or ATTIRE (American Textile Technology Innovation and Research for Exportation), speaking in permanent CAPS LOCK was exhausting, confusing, and on more than a few occasions, downright silly. So, are acronyms permanently excommunicated from naming society, or do they ever have a time and place?
On occasion, we have done work with companies where acronyms actually worked well. This is especially true internationally. We just had to be sure that:
1) The acronym has embedded vowels in the right places so that it is pronounceable
2) The acronym itself wasn’t a real word or abbreviation that could cause confusion or conjure up some off-color meaning (e.g., Ever think about the meaning associated with the last two letters of IBM? Guess what PEDO means in Spanish?)
For example, some of the folks that developed the HDMI acronym came to us wanting another acronym for a new wireless audio technology and association. They needed a name that had the same potential as HDMI but for use on all types of new audio equipment such as wireless speakers and soundbars. The winning name was WiSA which stands for “Wireless Speaker and Audio” (go to www.wisaassociation.org). The leading “Wi” immediately positioned the name in the right space and the entire 4 letter acronym was short enough to work as an icon on all types of audio equipment.
Another example is when we developed the GEOS acronym to replace the NCCSP alphabet soup name which stood for: National Center for Conservation Science & Policy. The GEOS name worked so well coupled with the “Institute” trailer that there was no need to promote the meaning behind each letter. Go to www.geosinstitute.org for more information.
Still, even after working on these and other “acronaming” projects, most of the time acronyms don’t engage the target and grab their attention like more meaningful names that convey a key benefit or connect emotionally (e.g., Empower for a new Hoover vacuum, Puron for a greener “Freon” or Mirra for a Herman Miller ergonomically-designed chair). So if you just have to have an acronym for your new name, make sure it is pronounceable and as relevant as possible.