The Unexpected Perils of Business Acronyms

We’re all too familiar with acronyms. They pervade the business world in attempts to build brand awareness with convenience. However, within a crowded marketplace, this alternate nomenclature isn’t always the best marketing decision. Settling on an acronym comes with multiple dangers.

ABC. ING. NBA. KFC. GE. IBM. The list of successful acronyms could go on and on. However, unless you have the financial and visual power to market your business like these companies have, you will encounter difficulty in your industry’s marketplace. Many companies who find that an acronym is their best solution as a company identity manage to find a phrase that best describes their work and get stuck there. So, in order for things to move forward as fast as possible, they opt for an acronym. This approach builds simple visual and verbal recognition, however, it fails to build an understanding of what they actually do. And yes, we know that the process of finding a great company name can be difficult and time consuming, but it’s worth it.

While many companies take this acronym approach, we understand and observe that acronyms aren’t always chosen. For many, they are shorthand abbreviations that simplify communications internally, and over time, these abbreviations just “stick,” even on a larger scale. What’s really in a company’s name, though? Convenience or being memorable? Simplicity or vision? Having a simple name might be convenient, but it might be costly if it doesn’t produce consistent interest in your product or service. Your name is your identity. We can’t stress enough the importance of protecting and projecting this identity. Displaying it as memorable, intriguing, and with vision is essential for any company’s success, whether it’s an acronym or not. We would encourage choosing a name that leaves little room for becoming an acronym. However, if an acronym does catch on, make sure it has the same (or greater) level of credibility and indelibility as a full length name.

There are some perhaps unexpected perils of using an acronym as the basis of your company’s corporate identity.

YOU’RE NOT UNIQUE

Acronyms are used more than you might think. If you go by an acronym, chances are you’re not the only one (ABC is a perfect example). Choosing one might seem like the “right” move, until you come across dozens of other companies or organizations that go by the same acronym. This will confuse your brand with others and eliminate memorability.

SEO WOES

Choose any three letters and type them into a Google search. What comes up? A vast mix of various things could appear – perhaps an abbreviation for an esoteric medical term, the name of a university, along with multiple small business names. This “mish-mash” of various results is exactly what you don’t want when someone is looking for you. If you’re marketing yourself under an easily-confused acronym, expect this to happen. For most companies, their top 10 keywords that bring visitors to their site are brand related. As customers are subjected to your advertising, they might not remember what you do, but they’ll remember that simple, three-letter name. They’ll go home, search your acronym and find too many varied results. If you’re acronym forces your result too far down the page, your searcher will probably quit before even getting to your website, and you don’t want that. You don’t want to be associated with the obscure medical term either, do you?

CONSISTENCY IS KEY

When advertising to your target audience, you want to be concise, yet enlightening. You want your message to be clear. More importantly, you want that message to speak for itself when you’re not around. Since acronyms aren’t always planned, establishing consistency across all visual and verbal mediums is vital to eliminating confusion for your potential customers.

ACRONYM CASE STUDY

About one year ago, a client of ours was going under the name MSI Services. This name simplified communications, but lacked interest and vision for what they actually did. MSI Services made the decision to change their name to navitend. The name isn’t an acronym, but it brings interest to their identity, and makes people actually want to know what they do. navitend is an IT consulting company that provides leadership and technology services to organizations. Ultimately, their goal is to navigate their customers to their goals and tend to their every need. Get it? This name is now memorable, visionary, yet still simple, creating a deeper interest in what they have to offer. MSI Services offered the same vision, but now its more effectively communicated in their new name.

So, what’s really in a name? Feel free to share how corporate names have played a powerful role in your business experience. Perhaps you’re experiencing some of these same issues. Time for a new name? A new brand? Maybe you need help with your current brand name guidelines? Give us a call.

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