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Naming Steve Rivkin

Brand Naming: Consider the First Letter of the Name

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Should you start your new name with an S or a C? Why not a J or a K?

In other words, does the first letter of your product, service or company name really matter? – aside from the gambit of leading a directory category with an “AAA Plumbing”-style moniker.

The following table is not purely scientific, but it shows how letters which begin “ordinary” words differ in frequency from those beginning brand names and trade names.

The first column comes from a page count of letters in a dictionary that does not include proper names.
The second column shows the frequency in two long lists of brand names.
The third shows the frequency of trade names on the New York Stock Exchange.

Some initial-letter words are so close in frequency, they’re clustered.

Dictionary Frequency Brand Name Frequency Trade Name Frequency
S C A,C
P S S
C M B
T A T
B, M B M, P
A, D, R, W P, T D, E, F, G, H
F O N, R
E, G, H, I, L D, L I, W, L
O H K, U
N F, G, R J, O, V
U E, V Q
V K X, Y, Z
Q I, W
J, K J, Z, Q, U, X, Y
X, Y, Z

Even more than the table indicates, initial S-words outrank others in ordinary usage by a country mile. (A lexicographer jokes that he cannot be confident a new dictionary he is working on will ever get finished until the S block is done.) But among brand names and trade names, S-words rank a distant second.

Here are some other observations:

  • C-words tie for the top in brand names and trade names.
  • L-words rank eighth in frequency in all three categories, and X- and Y-words are at the bottom in all three.
  • P-words are second in dictionary occurrences but fifth among trade names and sixth among brand names.
  • A-words are at the top for trade names, but are fourth among brand names and sixth in dictionaries.

Is there a lesson here? If you’re a contrarian marketer, one thing is clear: Concentrate on J, K, X, Y, and Z as the first letter of your brand name.

Sponsored ByThe Brand Positioning Workshop

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1 Comment

Marcus on November 03rd, 2010 said

Interesting analysis. Usually J, K, X, Y, Z are examples of first characters to avoid if you read other naming articles.

On the other hand, one should be more unique if one used them. They might be a bit problematic though because they can sound like “C”, “Ex” and “S” + Y and J can get mixed. Still they are used for big products like SonyEricssons “Xperia” etc.

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