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Monday, April 28, 2008

Acronyms in brand building...

by David Bookout

Word combinations reduced to letter sets. They're everywhere. There is even an AcronymGuide.com website that is dedicated to the definition of acronyms.

Here in Silicon Valley things like "Chemical Vapor Deposition" have become better known as "CVD", and on the internet we've turned "Internet Service Provider" into "ISP". Simple. But, are acronyms really good strategies for brand building?

Like most things, it depends. For companies like Kentucky Fried Chicken it has taken a lot of time and money to be able to use "KFC". In fact, over the years, international growth and the exclusive use of KFC had completely removed the iconic Colonel image from the companies packaging, and subsequently from the minds of consumers.

A literal name, like Kentucky Fried Chicken produces some real clarity relative to the offer the company is making. Conversely, an "empty vessel" like KFC needs to be filled with narratives and imagery that connects the desired audience to the offer quickly, clearly and connects with some fundamental concern.

For small to medium enterprise ( SME ) companies who can't spend the time and money required to move an "empty vessel" through the awareness, interest, trial sale, repeat sale continuum the use of acronyms is a waste. In addition these strategies run the risk of confusing their desired audience more than creating a clear, compelling image the audience can remember. This scenario "What was the name of that company honey? No, not the pool maintenance company, the one that did general contracting. Hmm, oh well, let's see what comes up on Google" is perhaps quite common. Opportunity lost!

Here are three simple keys for SME's to implement into effective brand building strategies:

First, stay away from acronyms. Instead, choose literal; company, product and service offer names where you can, while remembering that these will be the least expensive from a marketing budget perspective.

Second, if you must go the empty vessel route, consider developing positioning statements and taglines that could perhaps be more literal in the conveyance of the essence of the offer, and ride along with the name.

Third, in either event, stay connected to the emotional benefits that you think the desired audience will connect with easily, and utilize clear, concise, compelling imagery that supports the offer in the minds of the desired audience. For example, no matter how beautiful a desert image is, it should NOT be used in marketing imagery for contact lenses.

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