If the world of marketing were a giant cocktail party (and sometimes I think it is), there would be a surprising number of people walking around introducing themselves like this, “Hi, I’m CJL, nice to meet you.” At best, you might repeat it back, “CJL? Does that stand for something?” “Well, it used to, but everybody at the office and my best customers all called me CJL, so that’s my name now.”
Get it? Of course you don’t. None of us do, because initials don’t mean anything. They are code for something else. You have to be on the inside to know the code. And that’s no way to build a brand.
I’m not talking about acronyms, where initials form a word, real or imagined, that can be sounded out. These are sometimes effective, although their origin is often contrived. For example, SCORE, a free consulting service to small businesses, is an acronym for Service Corps of Retired Executives. The name is a bit convoluted when spelled out, but the word it forms is memorable and speaks of success.
Using the initials of your company’s name as a shorthand within the company is OK, but it can lead to a false comfort level with a brand name that is essentially nothing more than a monogram. Obviously it’s easy for you to remember, because you know what the letters stand for. Perhaps your loyal clientele also uses this short cut. If this were the sum total of your audience, no problem. But it’s not.
The most important role of a brand is to help gain new customers. This is true for virtually any business. By definition, new customers don’t know you very well. They might remember an acronym like SCORE, but they are far less likely to retain much meaning from “CJL Industries.” A name like that forces your marketing department to work much harder to gain awareness and retention of the brand name. And, even then, the most memorable word in this example is “industries,” which is just a generic descriptor.
Want more proof? Google “CJL,” or any combination of letters that doesn’t form a word and look at the random collection of nonprofits, guitar stores, cleaning services and engineering firms that show up.
So, I’ll summarize, rebranding to a monogram brand name makes it hard to remember, associates no meaning or promise, genericizes your business, performs poorly in search engines, and is probably in use by dozens of other unrelated businesses. Enough said.
But, what if your business has been using a monogram brand for sometime? Ay caramba, that’s a different story. It can be difficult to go back. The words that were used to form the initials may have lost their meaning over the years, but you will have significant equity built with your current customers and marketing efforts. The question of rebranding, then, is much the same as it is for any business—will your company be better off in the long run with a different brand name, or by staying with what you have now? That’s a tough question to answer, and a topic for another day. Today’s advice is: just don’t go there in the first place.
As published in the Central Penn Business Journal and Lehigh Valley Business.