In a conversation with one of our clients in the A/E/C industry a week or two ago, I commented on the remarkably ineffective naming practices of most engineering firms. It seems everywhere I turn, I run into a collection of letters masquerading as an engineering practice — RJN, FJM, H+L, G.E.C. The list goes on. I have to believe the majority of these brand names just sort of run together for prospects and clients. Going a bit further, it would seem almost completely unlikely that any could really be top-of-mind for a specific skill set or service offering.
90% of Engineering Company Names are Indistinguishable
So, with my curiosity peaked. I decided to take a closer look. I asked an intern to review the names of all 500 A/E firms listed in ENR, and classify them by naming convention. Not surprisingly, the results were unremarkable:
A full 57% of companies utilize an egocentric name to represent their business. Often, these names sound more like law firms than anything — Draper Aden Associates, Barton & Loguidice, Destefano Partners. While I’m not one to bash a company named after its founder (after all, our name was Mlicki for 40 years), it seems a bit problematic given that it’s almost completely the industry norm.
Generic Names Abound
Another 35% of A/Es utilize some form of generic naming structure, either a collection of letters or a descriptive name that somehow describes the service offered — Soil and Materials Engineers, Earth Systems, Inc., Professional Engineering Consultants PA. While these names are good at communicating what a company does, they’re not at all extendable to new practice areas or new service offerings. Nor, are they highly memorable. My ability to differentiate Soil and Materials Engineers from Earth Systems is quite low. Both seem to have something to do with the earth and the ground, which I suppose has the makings of a decent positioning strategy — after all, they excluded air, water and fire.
Effective Names are Rare.
Only 8% of companies utilize a “branded” approach to naming. That is a name that is an arbitrary, associative or coined word that embodies the firm’s unique positioning, core values or underlying belief system. Some rare examples include Enercon, Ingenium, and Ensafe. Each of these words conjures a story. They offer a hint of what the company does, yet are simple, distinct words that can be remembered by a prospect.
Does Naming Matter?
If you own an A/E practice, you’re likely asking yourself, why do I care? After all, some of the most respected brands in the industry rely on egocentric (Fluor, Bechtel) or generic (URS, CH2M Hill) names. Well, chances are you’re not running one of those companies. And, while the name of the founder who started your company 100 years ago might have significant meaning to you, there’s a reasonable chance that it means next to nothing for today’s up and coming buyers.
1. A Good Name Can Help Win Business
An effective brand name (backed with strategic, effective marketing and business development) helps you create unaided brand awareness for the services you provide in the markets in which you provide them. It should be memorable and distinct so that prospects remember your company when your BD people call them.
2. A Good Name Gives You Options
The best names are not only ownable, but also extendable. They enable your company to seek out new markets, provide new service offerings and diversify into new areas. After all, Amazon probably wouldn’t be in the toy business if they chose to call themselves, Books.com. For a little more insight on naming, check out the thinking behind the Rattleback name.