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With few exceptions, names work better than initials.

You’d think it’d be pretty obvious.  But accounting firms curiously LOVE their initials.
The problem is, initials don’t mean anything.

They’re gibberish. 

Which one is easiest to remember if you wanted to Google them tomorrow?  Here, try this:

Which of the “names” below grabs your attention?

Smith & Jones

It’s pretty obvious, right?

So why do so many smaller accounting firms choose to use their initials instead of their actual names?

Part of the problem is that the biggest accounting firms use their initials as their logo.

Think KPMG,  PwC, E&Y, BDO, BKD, RSM, UHY, CBIZ.   The thinking might be – “They’re big and successful.  They must know what they’re doing, so let’s do that too.”Initials logos LARGEST Accounting firms copy

The only difference between you and them is, you know, the 150,000 additional professionals working to spread the brand worldwide.  Oh, and the hundreds of millions of dollars they spend every year in advertising and PGA sponsorships. You’re probably not in the same category. Fewer boots on the ground, and a tiny fraction of their marketing budget.

And they started out with a pretty big marketing challenge to overcome. “KPMG” isn’t an altogether bad alternative to asking people speaking 100 different languages to pronounce “Klynveld Peat Marwick Goerdeler.” And “PwC” is a heckuva lot easier than asking people to keep saying “PricewaterhouseCoopers.”

If you have a long or complicated name, your audience will do the abbreviating all by themselves, you just need to accept the reality and go with it. But never try to foist arbitrary initials on them. If you can get away with using some shortened version of your firm’s actual name, that’s always a better solution.  See more detailed analysis here“Don’t use initials in your law firm’s logo.”

Of course, when you’re really prominent, you can call yourself whatever the heck you want with total impunity. Just look at [The artist formerly known as] Prince.

Of course, if you’re reading this blog post, chances are you’re neither KPMG nor Prince. You’re just a good, solid firm, with a good reputation, and a marketing budget that you’d like to have a bit bigger.

So, unless you have a truly awful, impossible-to-spell or -pronounce name, use your firm’s street name.  That is, your first name or two – whatever your community most typically calls you.  (Read more here.)  Generating business is really hard, so why make your life even more difficult?  (See Part 2 of this post here.)

More importantly, it’s what Ries and Trout call “The No-Name Trap” in one of my favorite marketing books, “Positioning: The Battle for The Mind.”

Reid and Trout Initials The No-Name Trap

If your firm is thinking about rebranding with its initials, or you might possibly be persuaded to rethink a bad decision, immediately read Chapter 10 of Positioning.  Or just contact me (at +1.847.432.3546 or and I’ll talk you through how to safely handle the process and pitfalls.


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