Good Companies, Bad Names: 4PSA’s Unfortunate Connotations


Pass the crappy names jar, I’ve got another donation.


Nope, I didn’t just have a brain burp. That’s the name. 4PSA.

I hate to state the obvious, but 4PSA is in the business of developing software for cloud computing purposes. (What? Not obvious?) In particular, VoIP products. They made news recently when they announced their new website ( and brand identity.

Ya know, it pains me, because I think I like these guys. I spent some time on their website, with their blog, and they seem really earnest. They have some solid partnerships, a well-developed portfolio of products, and a 2010 best new Internet telephony product award to giggle about.

And, while I’m guessing the company name means something, I just have no idea what it is (Public Service Announcement?). Be nice if they made the explanation more obvious on their website, or included one at all. It was late, I was tired, but I couldn’t find any information about what 4PSA means.

More troubling though is the association I did have with the name.

Many of you probably know what PSA stands for. In case you don’t, it stands for Prostate-Specific Antigen, a biological marker used to detect prostate cancer in men over 50 years old. So if you ask most men over the age of 50 what PSA means and their association with cancer will be as immediate as if you said the word tumor.

It’s even more amazing that 4PSA decided to include a number in their name, further reinforcing the association with a blood PSA level. I lifted the following from the American Cancer Institute website:

In the past, most doctors considered a PSA level below 4.0 as normal. In one large study, however, prostate cancer was diagnosed in 15.2 percent of men with a PSA level at or below 4.0. Fifteen percent of these men, or approximately 2.3 percent overall, had high-grade cancers.

Incredible, right?? 4PSA didn’t just choose any old number. They chose the exact, determinate, number that the professional community looks to assess the risk of cancer and recommend a treatment plan! Almost too coincidental. I have to wonder if 4PSA actually intended to draw the association to the test, and, um, why?

Now, the PSA test is actually a pretty controversial test on account of the number of false-positives it produces. But that’s kinda irrelevant here. It’s still a test for detecting prostate cancer, and every male north of 50 shudders to think about it. Pretty big killer that prostate cancer.

So lets do a quick accounting of the 4PSA name:


  • Short


  • For most people, meaningless outside the realm of deadly disease
  • Hard to remember, but for the association with deadly disease
  • No immediate brand story, but for the tale about a DEADLY DISEASE

I’m guessing the name does have meaning, a back-story that doesn’t have anything to do with prostates and cancer. But it serves as yet another reminder of the importance of conducting not just trademark screening on name candidates but Google screens as well.

In addition to ensuring that a name is available as a trademark it’s critical to investigate the possible marketing issues with a name idea, such as, well, the link to deadly diseases. In all of 5 seconds 4PSA could’ve discovered this unfortunate association. It’s the first search result that’s returned when you conduct a Google screen on “PSA”.

Stay healthy, 4PSA. It’s not a good name, but I’m pullin’ for you.

Name Grade: C+

Final Grade:



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