Acronym or Ack!-ronym? The MUFG Name Review


As a naming specialist, I’m not a big fan of acronym brand names. Or initialisms either, for that matter. (For the record, an acronym is a word formed from the initial letter or letters of a series of words and pronounced as one word—think NASA. An initialism is formed in the same way, but the letters are pronounced separately—think IBM.)

One of the reasons I don’t like acronyms or initialisms is it’s usually hard to remember what those pesky initials stand for, so the name is meaningless. (Not to say that there aren’t exceptions—for example, the brilliant acronym MADD, for Mothers Against Drunk Driving.)

But there are acronyms, and then there are, well, ack!-ronyms. Like the one that a friend of mine spotted a couple of days ago in a full-page ad that ran in the San Francisco Chronicle. The headline was:

40 nations.
$2.5 trillion is assets.
One name.

The text was equally lofty:

Beginning today, one name is all you need to know for access to corporate and investment banking and securities services on six continents. One name connects you to the 2013 Global Bank of the Year and to one of the World’s 40 Safest Banks. One name that’s your gateway to Asia, as well as to top-rated deal makers in the Americas, Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

So what is the name of this global phenomenon that the world has been waiting for? The name is…get ready for it…

MUFG. That’s right: MUFG. Not the sort of name I would make the punchine of a high-toned ad for a leading financial multinational.

In case you’re curious, MUFG stands for the Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group. But who cares (besides Mitsubishi, that is)? This particular name is the most disastrous kind of hybrid: it’s almost an initialism. But it comes across as an acronym, because the interior “U” invites the reader to pronounce it as a word (which would be, er…MUF-ga?).

By the way, the ad was not heralding the name MUFG (which has been around for years), but rather, the integration of certain operations in the Americas under the MUFG umbrella. Whatever.

As far as the name goes, all I can say is MUFG, you MUFD this one. Bigtime.

Grade: D-

Final Grade:



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