A key element in a company’s branding is what it calls itself. Business nomenclatures of the past were more straightforward; firms typically were named for their founders or the services they provided. Now names are much more creative — consisting of made-up words, atypical spellings and odd combinations of capital and lower-case letters: strEATS, QinetiQ, Opower, PopVox, 20/20 GeneSystems, JESS3. Today’s names are designed to stand out, create buzz and reflect innovation.
But creative naming isn’t confined to software and biotech firms. The typically staid, acronym-heavy government contracting sector also is getting into the act.
When a private-equity firm announced in March it was acquiring Global Defense Technology & Systems, the McLean-based contractor, better known as GTEC, had about four weeks to come up with a new name. Company officials settled on Sotera, a made-up word based on the Greek mythological term “soter,” which means safety deliverance and preservation from harm.
“We felt acronyms were not a great way to go because people don’t know what they stand for,” said Andrew Bryden, Sotera Defense Solutions’ vice president for marketing and communications. “Fortris,” a coined word evoking “fortress,” was among about 20 names the company ruled out. Bryden said the firm rejected Fortris after learning another company had registered a similar name.
Sotera “resonates with what we do, focusing on counterterrorism, cybersecurity and helping our military be more effective when deployed overseas,” Bryden added. Sotera is among several contracting firms that renamed themselves during the past year, three of which — Exelis and Acentia are the others — opted for made-up words.
“You have to have a product that delivers on the brand and you have [an extensive distribution system] to get that product into people’s hands,” he said. The distribution system “was something that we initially didn’t have.”