Alphabet Soup – The Do’s and Don’ts of Choosing Your Company and Domain Names

One of the first things we go over with our clients, especially those who are just starting a business, is how they should pick their company and website domain names. One might think this is easy, and a kind of no-brainer, but you would be surprised by the number of mistakes a company can make!

For instance, one of our clients chose a domain name of, we’ll call it, He owns an insurance agency, CTS Insurance. During SkyHawk’s initial conversation with the owner, we advised him to find a different domain name. He told us he had a heck of a time finding a domain name that wasn’t already taken, so came up with CTS and added “insure” to that, and quickly purchased the domain name. So what’s wrong with that domain name? Look closely and one can easily misinterpret it to read  “CT-sin-sure.” Not good; especially for a professional business.

This kind of thing has happened more times than you can imagine. Take, for instance, a seemingly innocuous name like “Kid’s Exchange.” Everyone is familiar with this brand, I’m sure. The problem? When they run the name together in their logo and domain name, you get “kidsexchange”which, unfortunately, can read as “kid-sex-change”. Uh…ok…you get the idea!

Here’s what happened to our aforementioned insurance client. He decided, when we suggested he should look for a different domain name, that he was going to stick with the So we went ahead and built a website for him under that domain. Once completed, our client showed the site to some of his friends and colleagues, and lo and behold, 2 of them, right off the bat, mentioned the “sin-sure” thing! And that’s when our client decided to change his domain name. And that involved more time and money for our client to switch the domain name and all his website links.

You can avoid this type of situation by writing down all the names you think would be good names for your business, taking them apart to ensure there are no potential offensive words or concepts within your name (even just regular words that could make it hard to understand what your actual name is). Then, when choosing a domain name, which oftentimes will be different or have additions or a shortened version of your actual name, do the same thing. For instance, our client’s insurance agency name is CTS Insurance. Fine. And now, after the first faux-pas, his domain name is Perfect!

We would like to share more on our point about company naming. Unless you are an already well known business, household word status and all that, making initials your company name is like asking to be forgotten. Sure, everyone knows what GE stands for. But General Electric only started using GE after YEARS of becoming a household name as General Electric.

In his book, Ogilvy on Advertising, the guru of marketing himself, David Ogilvy, makes a clear point on this very thing. He calls it “alphabet soup.” Here’s what he states:

“Whatever you do, for goodness sake, don’t change the name of your corporation to initials. Everybody knows what IBM, ITT, CBS and NBC are, but how many of the following can you identify? AC, ADP, CBI, CF, CAN, (etc etc… he lists about 20 more). Yet this is how 37 corporations sign their advertisements. It will take them many years and many millions of dollars to teach their initials to their publics. What a waste of money.”

But we think an even more relevant point given today’s internet world, is simply that a company who’s sole name are initials, can become easily confused with or identified with something else, forming a sort of mental aversion or stress. This is largely due to the excessive amount of abbreviations in use today, from our social networking tools, to all the specialized (and abbreviated) nomenclatures of various technologies.  And this is not to mention the big point of being unmemorable thereby easily forgotten.  Now who wants to be unmemorable or confusing in business?

But if you are absolutely dead set on using initials as a business name, at least make them mean something that relates to your business, and which, if asked, will make sense to your clients! (Believe it or not, we’ve come across businesses whose initials meant something special to the owners, but which no one else would understand)

Why keep your potential customers guessing? Why not start with a name that is clear, unique, and unambiguous? And a name that says something about the personality and values of your business?

Anyone else have either bad or good naming experiences? We’d enjoy hearing your input and suggestions.

About Sherry Katz

General Manager at SkyHawk Studios, Sherry has over 25 years experience in and around the sales, music, performance and fine art fields.


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