Last entry was about the strongest starting point for your brand

By Dan Rogers

Last entry was about the strongest starting point for your brand – a memorable, extendable, powerful name on which to build your business, domain URL and overall web presence, and one that carries the exact promise. Long and generic names do not work on many levels – we talked about how they get lost and truncated down to a set of otherwise meaningless initials.

Before we go on, there is an important distinction we need to make – the difference between “initials,” “abbreviations,” and an “acronym” – this distinction has a huge impact on your strategy choice.

Initials – this is a simple shortening of a legal or given name by taking the first letter and creating a series of non-pronounceable letters – as an example, the company formerly called Thomson Motor Products merged with Ramo-Woolridge (originally an automotive components company) to form Thomson Ramo Woolridge – eventually turning that to TRW! They ended up a sterile and meaningless set of initials based on a history nobody remembers! Not good.

Abbreviation – far and away the most common type of name mutilation is abbreviation – forming a 3+ letter set from the first initial of an original set of word – note that an abbreviation does NOT form a word you can reasonably pronounce – Premier Plumbing Service becomes PPS – it’s just letters, not a new word that can replace the original 3 words. It is simple shorthand to make a long and unwieldy name less cumbersome. Not good.

Acronym – is the same as an abbreviation, except the resulting truncated set of 3+ letters forms a new word or at least something that can be pronounced as a new word – the commonly known Radar is an acronym for Radio Detection and Ranging, or North Atlantic Treaty Organization becomes NATO – RADAR and NATO are truncated sets of words abbreviated into a new word – an acronym. These are more powerful and memorable than a bland and meaningless abbreviation, but still require an audience to comprehend, retain and act on 4 levels of information in the same way any shortened name does.

Let’s take a fictitious example of any local, community-focused credit union, originally formed (in this case) by a group of educators. For over 50 years the Anytown Teachers Credit Union served the needs of the local educators, retirees, school district employees and boosters. At some point just based on what they were called in-fact, they changed their logo to ATCU. With the changes in regulation, the aging and shrinking population of teachers in the local community, they expanded their charter to appeal to a younger and non-education marketplace of potential members. Is keeping the ATCU name the right move? Traditional, simple “equity” decision making on the part of the Board says that we are known as that and plus changing it costs a whole bunch of money. Rather a future focused question is whether future potential members want to be part of something not created for them, and with built in limits to the market it serves (Anytown) and the intended members (“It’s only for teachers”). Change the name! Plus note that ANY change to your branding requires changing all the places where it appears – a change in name, logo, color, tagline, even mailing address requires a rework of your materials – the costs are no different!