New Name Beat has been on hiatus for a while, but it's back with plenty to talk about. This week I'll take aim at some bad examples; next week I'll make amends by applauding some apt and well-crafted names.
Let's start with a multiple-choice quiz: What does the name "Accretive Solutions" call to mind?
b) Recombinant DNA
c) Something about a labyrinth and a minotaur
d) "Expert solutions in accounting and finance"
The answer--of course!--is accounting and finance.
"Accretive Solutions" attempts to solve the riddle, What do you get when you add Horn Murdock Cole to Dickson Allan, BF Consultants, and CFO Services? Technically speaking, you do get an "accretion": the Latin roots of the word (ad + crescere) mean "growing larger." In biology, accretion is the growing together of parts that are normally separate; in geology it's the slow deposit of water-borne sediment on land; in astronomy it's the increase in mass of a celestial object.
So, yes, "accretive" accurately describes the process by which the merger was effected. It may even describe the way the company does its work, one form at a time. But it's the wrong word for the corporate name. ("Solutions" is wrong, too, but for different reasons that I'll get to in a moment.)
Look at your face in the mirror when you say "accretive" and notice how the long e sound forces your mouth into an unlovely rictus. Strike one. Now listen to yourself. That long e has a small, compressed sound, unlike the sounds made by long or broad a, o, or u. Strike two. The short i of the -tive suffix reinforces the compression. Strike three.
Now, sometimes a "small" sound is just the ticket, as with Lilipip, which makes mobile educational software for children, or Twitter, whose users "revel in the minutiae of everyday human existence." (Thanks to The Name Inspector for that great description, and also for the lead to Lilipip.) But when you're entrusting your family's or your company's finances to an accounting firm, you want that firm to sound solid and substantial, not itty-bitty.
There's another problem with "Accretive": it describes a process instead of communicating a benefit. Who cares that the company was formed by agglomeration? Or that it does its work step by step? How will that information help me feel confident about the firm?
As Horn Murdock Cole (which is how the company used to identify itself in its public-radio sponsorships), this firm sounded traditional and maybe even a bit stodgy. But it clearly communicated that the name partners were actual people, and that, by extension, the company employed real people in real offices who took a personal interest in their clients.
Accretive Solutions, by contrast, is a pseudoscientific name that says nothing about relationships. The corporate web site speaks warmly and engagingly about trust and "the human connection." But the corporate name is at war with that message.
What's happened here is an all-too-common phenomenon in naming: the company has mistaken description for benefit--and forgotten that customers care mostly about benefit.
Finally, "accretive" carries just enough of an echo of "secretion"--especially when "accretive" is preceded by a word ending in s--to be tainted by the yuck factor. I don't know about you, but when I think about my accountant I don't want to be distracted by thoughts of glandular processes.
What about "Solutions"? Here's how The Dictionary of Corporate Bullshit defines it:
- a widely abused, vague, generic, and slightly mysterious term used to describe products, of all things, particularly software
- so overused it has lost all meaning; calling something a solution is really just a way of further reinforcing that it has added-value
Lately, "solutions" means "services," too--and ideas, and conversation, and idle dithering in meetings. It's a completely empty word.
(And as Frank Lingua [CEO of Dissembling Associates] put it in a spot-on parody of corpspeak, "If you aren't the lead dog, you're not providing a customer-centric proactive solution.")
"Solutions" is yet another slopover from the vocabulary of science (like corporate DNA); in combination with "Accretive," it really does sound like something liquid that's been precipitated in a test tube.
I don't care for "Accretive Solutions," but I do like that the company uses its new initials in phrases such as "AS Promised" and "AS Delivered." That's fresh, clever, and meaningful. Too bad the initials represent a missed opportunity.
Read other posts in New Name Beat.