Please, Oh Please, No Acronyms When Rebranding — Pack That New Name With Meaning

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Jim Heininger's story feature on Forbes.com.



rebranding name change

As we watch the daily reports of organizations announcing a rebrand, I shudder when I see a company using an acronym as a new company name. It is destined for trouble.


Rebranding, if done correctly, is the opportunity to accelerate enterprise-wide growth. It is the strategic move to update your story, to re-present yourself to customers and your industry, to energize attention toward your business purpose. Key to that movement is the identification of a new name that is packed with meaning to serve as the beginning of a new corporate story.


The naming process is an intense one and the cornerstone of rebranding. It starts with considerable research that seeks to understand the essence of your new brand. It means diving deep into your points of difference, your current image and reputation, your heritage, your products/services and your future strategic growth plans. All this input helps frame up a revitalized brand essence — a statement of brand purpose — that serves as the basis for your new name. That new brand name then needs to be aspirational, memorable, packed full of meaning and, of course, trademarkable. In my expert opinion, none of these can be achieved with an acronym.


Acronyms, often seen as the shortening of a longer descriptive name as a way to simplify it for customers, simply suck the soul out of your brand. Acronyms — just initials or letters — have no meaning and no differentiation. Someone just sees them as a shortcut, but, unfortunately, they cut the “reason to be” out of your brand.


One of the trends we’re seeing is organizations dropping outdated or limiting descriptive words from longer company names, leading into the most benefit-weighty word. Dunkin’ Donuts dropped “Donuts” to become just Dunkin’. This move might be better characterized as a brand refresh since the core focus of the company has remained the same, just modernized.


Now, if you have the resources to build a brand like IBM (International Business Machines), HP (Hewlett-Packard) or UPS (United Parcel Service), then feel free to invest in creating meaning out of abbreviated letters. Rather, I encourage you to define and convey what is unique about your business. That’s where we start when renaming organizations.


For example, our client, BPI group, a leader in executive coaching, leadership acceleration and career transition, embraced Bravanti for its new brand. An invented word, Bravanti, according to the press release, “is forged from brave – to face challenges with courage and conviction and avanti – a rallying cry to move forward into the future. Bravanti means "to go courageously forward, leading bravely and focused on igniting bold futures.” It is an appropriate call to action in these times.


T-Y Group, Harbor Linen and Riegel Linen merged together after private equity investment. All providers of linen products to the hospitality and health care industries, our team identified that their unique brand essence was that they were in “touch” with how guests feel. They knew the importance of that comfortable feeling that linens provide in a guest experience and could, therefore, consult on the best choices to deliver that memorable experience. The company relaunched as 1Concier. The 1 represents the three companies coming together as one, to be the first choice of quality linens and a one-stop shop for their customers. Concier, leveraging the role of a concierge to meet guests’ needs, is about exceeding expectations to enrich the guests’ experience.


Both of these examples demonstrate how a new name can be designed with meaning in mind that is relevant to customers.


If you are renaming your company, perhaps there is one word in your name that carries value and that you can lean into. Or perhaps it is time to revisit what differentiates you altogether. I guarantee you it won’t be found in an acronym.

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