How to Choose a Business Name, Part 7: Alphabet
When choosing a name for your new business, one thing that shouldn’t be overlooked is the first letter of your company’s name. It will be the first sound your customers hear, the first thing they read, and possibly part of an abbreviation down the road (just ask Mr. Hewlett and Mr. Packard.)
When we are giving the business names here at BrandBucket an overall quality score, the first letter doesn’t factor as heavily as other traits of a good business name such as spelling, pronunciation, length, longevity and uniqueness, but it does matter somewhat.
It all boils down to pronunciation.
If the first letter of your business name is one that isn’t common, or one that is pronounced differently across different languages, then there can be a moment of hesitation when your customer is reading or saying your name. You want your brand to convey strength and confidence — something that hesitation can undo in an instant.
Here’s our alphabet scoring method, letter by letter:
The Oddballs: Q and X
1 point. These are two of the least-used letters across all languages. When people are not used to seeing words starting with ‘q’ and ‘x’ in everyday writing, a brand name starting with one of these can make them pause. Their pronunciation is also not always straightforward — two different sounds for ‘x’ can be found together in one famous brand: Xerox.
The Uncertain: C and G
2 points. These are letters that can be both “soft” and “hard” depending on their context. Most languages have general rules to help us out — the letter ‘c’ has a hard sound when it’s before ‘a’, ‘o’ or ‘u’ (car, cot, cup), and soft after ‘i’ or ‘e’ (cite, cereal). The problem is that there are exceptions (Celtic), and that not all languages follow the same rules. In English, rules don’t even help much for the letter ‘g’ (gift, giraffe), so for those who may not speak English as a first language or at all, ‘g’ can be intimidating, even for a word that seems straightforward to English speakers like Google.
The Quiet Ones: H and W
2 points: These two letters may be easy to pronounce, but their breathy, almost silent sounds make them hard to hear. They are almost impossible to lip-read as well, which makes introductions at a noisy Silicon Valley bar or crowded Underground station difficult.
The Vowels**: E, I, O and U
2 points. In English especially, these guys do poorly on the pronunciation side of the fence. But what they lack in structure they make up for in auditory appeal. Many businesses choose names that start with a vowel because of the open, inviting sound that starts off the word.
The Other Guys
3 points. Business names that start with a consonant with almost no pronunciation variation have a lot going for them. There are a lot to choose from: B, D, F, J, K, L, M, N, P, R, S, T, V, Y, and Z.
**Last But Not Least: A
3 points. What’s so special about the letter ‘a’ you ask? Many of your reading this may be too young to remember the bulky but incredibly useful thing called a phone book. Long before the Internet and search engines, the phone book was what your thumbed through to retrieve the number of your dentist or to find a local plumber. And back then, many businesses guaranteed a certain number of new customers by being at the top of the list for their category alphabetically (a sort of prehistoric SERP if you will.) AAA Plumbers was followed by ABC Plumbing Service (with maybe Aardvark Plumbing Co. in between.) The desire to be on top carried over somewhat to the Internet age because of alphabetical directory listings. As search engines improve and directories become less common, being at the beginning of the alphabet isn’t as important. However, names that start with an A still seem to hold a special place in our hearts. Maybe because of the open and pleasant sound, or simply because there are so many brands that start with A that we consciously or subconsciously want to be part of the club, brand names starting with the letter A automatically get a full 3-point score in our book.
Want more info on what to look for in a good name? Checkout our full series on how to choose a business name.
Image art by The Best Part. Go buy the poster!