0

5 Ways to Keep a Brand Out of Trouble

Every once in a while a brand will screw-up. If you go online and google “Brand Blunders,” you will find annual lists of the latest and greatest mistakes that brands have made. Social media has given us all the opportunity to see, almost in real-time, the latest and greatest gaffes. An advertising campaign with the goal of reaching a million customers can turn into billions of thrill seekers who will never buy your brand in the first place. The size of the mistake will determine how famous you will become. Famous for all the wrong reasons, I might add. Some brands have gone to the extremes to fake real people product situations with the hopes of becoming a viral sensation, but in most case this too back fire.

Big brand mistakes are self-inflicted wounds based on ignorance, arrogance, tastelessness and just poor judgement. But, sometimes, the reward of free publicity and fame are too hard to give-up.

There is always the temptation of getting your brand noticed – there is good awareness and bad awareness. Generally the bad awareness doesn’t build your brand, but can seriously damage your brand.

Here are some tips on how to keep your brand out of trouble:

 

Fine Line Between Funny and Offensive

Humour is a great way to communicate your brand. Nothing is better than getting your customer to laugh. In a study conducted by Millward Brown, over half of all ads around the world are considered either ‘funny’ or ‘light-hearted.’ The funnier the ad the more memorable it is likely to be. This is where some brands have gotten themselves into trouble. It is generally when a brand tries too hard and misses the mark or just doesn’t understand their consumers.

Spy Sunglasses tried to be witty and humorous with their outdoor campaign when they plastered the slogan ‘Happy to Sit on Your Face’ on billboards.  Clever, but it didn’t sit well with their customers.  The billboard, slated for a six month stint, was taken down after only one month.

The British grocer Sainsbury’s wanted to promote their ‘low-price guarantee’ and used John Cleese to break down Sainsbury’s aloof image. Lecturing the customers and the staff misfired badly and successfully alienated the target audience.

Skittles is known for their entertaining and fun brand – Touch the Rainbow. The experience of eating Skittles is just as important as the candy itself. In 2008, they crossed the line when they portrayed someone who turned everything to Skittles that he touched. He could no longer hold his baby and he accidentally killed a man on the bus. Depressing rainbow.

Sloppiness

There are countless examples of typos, wrong prices and misinformation. I am sure you have your favorite blooper. Here are a couple examples that will put fear into you to make sure you double and triple check everything you publicly display on your brand.

La Redoute a French fashion chain has had a number of embarrassing moments. On their website, they had a photo of kids promoting their children’s clothing line, but clearly in the background is a naked man. On the same website, they are also selling a t-shirt with a spelling mistake. Instead of having ‘Enjoy Holidays’ written in the garment it read ‘Enjoy Holydays.’

Remember the launch of Apples iOS 6 mobile operating system with the new and amazing Apple Maps? This system would no longer feature Google Maps.  The issues in the Apple Maps were endless to the point that a Tumblr blog was setup to document all the map errors. Every media outlet had a wonderful example in their backyard of wrong bridges, wrong towns and cities, airports turn to parks and parks turn to airports. One reporter stated, “While they are not enough to stop the iPhone 5 love-fest, I sincerely hope that the massive flaws in Apple Maps do not cost anyone their lives.” I am sure there were a lot of Apple employees who didn’t get much sleep until they solved all the problems.

With the desire to offer the widest range of product choices and selection Walmart’sHalloween promotional web pages included a category called “Fat Girl Costumes.” By the time the company understood its error, it was national news and the brand damage was done.

There are many examples of sending the wrong email to the wrong customers or sending out tweets that don’t reflect well on the company like US Airways, who accidentally send a customer a tweet with a pornographic image with a naked woman with a misplace model plane. This tweet was re-tweeted hundreds of times before the company noticed.

Contests and promotions are another area that has high potential of messing up a brand. Getting legal advice is a no brainier, but also making sure the contest fits the brand promise and builds on the brand. Malaysian Airlines still reeling from its misfortune of losing two planes launched a ‘bucket list’ campaign, asking customers to tweet places they’d like to see before they die. I think you know how this ended.

Double and triple check everything before you release it and ask the question does this fit our brand values and promise?

The Shock Value

Fashionista blog says “people are pissed about Harvey Nichol’s new pee-stained ad campaign.” It seems that the British department store Harvey Nichols knows how to get people’s panties in a knot and the Daily Mail said that the campaign has “soiled many customers’ opinion of the store.”

If you ask Tom Ford, he’d say that the shock value works just fine. He built a fashion empire (worth over $275 million) on pornography.  “When I shaved G for Gucci into the model’s pubic hair it was meant to be tongue-in-cheek statement about branding,” Ford said in People. “We had Gucci emblazoned on everything in those days—so I said why not the pubic hair too. It wasn’t just about sex.”  Really! Somehow he continues to get away with this type of thinking. But there is a limit to what people will allow a brand to do with their brand relationship.

Unlike most advertisements which centered on a company’s product or image,United Colors Benetton’s branding building focused on social and political issues like racial integration, AIDS awareness, war, poverty, child labor, death, pollution, politics, etc. The advertisements initially succeeded in raising the brand’s profile, but eventually began to cause dissatisfaction among customers, retailers, government bodies and various international non-profit organizations.

Some of Benetton’s most provocative advertisements were of a priest and a nun kissing, a just born baby with uncut umbilical cord, a black stallion and a white mare mating, a colourful mix of condoms, a black woman breast- feeding a white baby, AIDS victim and his family taken moments before his death, people on death row, a bloody uniform of a dead Bosnian, and senior political leaders kissing each other. I am still trying to figure what all this has to do with buying a sweater or a new polo shirt.

I never thought Microsoft would be an example of shock value. In 2009, they introduced the IE8 with an online commercial called ‘Oh my God! I’m gonna puke (O.M.G.I.G.P.). The purpose of this ad was to showcase their private browsing feature that is ideal for keeping your online porn habits a secret from others people who might share your computer.  As the Microsoft spokesperson said “some of our customers found it offensive, so we have removed it.”

Super Bowl is the Olympics of branding position new and old brands.  Insurer Nationwide created a buzz, but the jury is still out if it helped or detracted from their brand.  They ran a campaign depicting the death of a child, due to a preventable accident at home. The negative reaction is largely based on why share this message at a time when people want to enjoy a game. USA Today describes the ad as “depressing, upsetting, and even brought down the uplifting Super Bowl atmosphere.” You be the judge.

Brand Boundaries

Where are the brand boundaries? For Tom Ford there are no boundaries as it concerns beautiful naked people, but see if he can sell food products or toys for children. Somewhere in the process common sense must prevail.

In 2010, Gap clothing store launched a new logo to portray the brand as more modern. In two days, they heard clearly that they change wasn’t what their customers wanted.  While their goal was to appeal to a more hip crowd, their existing customers who pay the bills didn’t want anything to do with the new image. Gap was smart enough to listen to their customers and quickly react.

In 1996, McDonald’s invite “adults back to McDonald’s by enhancing [their] adult and food image” as reported in the Mac Today magazine. It took two years to develop the adult burger Arch Deluxe. McDonald’s research revealed that 72% of consumers think the chain has the best burgers for kids, but only 18% said it has the best adult burger – a huge opportunity.  McDonald’s spend an estimated $200 million in a promotional blitz to launch this new product that failed miserably. The McDonald brand is based on friendliness, cleanliness, consistency and convenience. If someone at McDonald had asked their customers if they wanted a” burger with the grown-up taste,” they would have said no.

 

Does It Make Good Sense?

Or, better yet does it make common sense? Just because you have a powerful and very recognizable brand doesn’t mean people will allow you to sell them anything.

Bic, the company that sells disposal pens, lighters and razors decided they should be also selling disposable underwear – actually, a line of women’s disposable pantyhose. Besides that they were disposable, there was no credible link between the Bic brand and the product. What were they thinking? Maybe they were thinking that they could do sexier advertising now that they were into underwear like Calvin Klein.

Colgate, the toothpaste company and the first to put fluoride into toothpaste had the bright idea to market frozen meals. They failed completely. Nobody wants a toothpaste-flavoured meal. Yet there must be many bright people at the Colgate Company who reviewed and approved this opportunity with the goal to succeed. Maybe they are too close to seeing the big picture beyond the consumer’s mouth.

 

Final Comment

The moral of the story is use the ultimate acid test – stand back from the situation and ask yourself does this message build on your brand promise. Is it building goodwill? Will you be sending the wrong message to your existing customers? Common sense should prevail. If you screw up, be transparent and fix the problem. Time and honesty will heal most errors.

And finally, double and triple check everything and if possible get as many eyeballs on everything before it goes out. In this instant world on digital communications, it becomes even more important that you communicate clearly and honestly.  Once it’s out there, it is out there for life.

 

1

The Scent of a Successful Brand

We use our traditional senses (sight, sound, taste, touch and smell) to help make decisions and navigate the world of consumerism. Most brands focus their relevancy strongest on only two of these – sight and sound. It is through the use of imagery, design, texture, colour and rich sounds that strong emotional ties are built between a brand and its customer. But the strongest sense for evoking an emotional reaction is smell. Let’s take a look at who’s made the best scents of it.

“When we think about any experience, whether it’s personal or commercial, our sense of smell so profoundly plays into how we perceive and make judgments on the experience,” says Ed Burke, director of training and communications for ScentAir, a company that develops scents for other companies.

People are using their nose more acutely as we have become more sophisticated in many aspects of our lives. Today, we are all culinary experts; we have embraced new cuisines and use many new exotic spices, thanks in part to our noses. We have all become wine, beer and scotch connoisseurs as we swirl our glasses and stick our nose into the vapors. We are refining our sense of smell in many areas of our lives and are more aware of what we like and what we don’t like.

According to a report published by Kline & Company, a New Jersey-based market research firm, home fragrance retail sales reached nearly $5.6 billion in 2012. But Unity Marketing believes this market is growing so quickly that it may well surpass $10 billion.

According to Aradhna Krishna, a professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, scent marketing falls into the category of sensory marketing. In her book, Customer Sense: How the 5 Senses Influence Buying Behavior, she defines sensory marketing as “marketing that engages the consumer’s senses and affects their perception, judgment and behaviour.” Krishna says that “no other cue is as potent as a scent-based cue,” and explains that the structure of the human brain is responsible for the close link between memory and smell.

Experts have suggested the special impact of odour on our memory could be related to the proximity of the closeness of our olfactory bulb, which helps us process smells, and the amygdala and hippocampus brain regions which control emotion and memory.

A well-known idea called the “Proustian Phenomenon” proposes that distinctive smells have more power than any other sense to help us recall distant memories.

Everyone has a library of smells that trigger memories like the scent of fresh cut grass, hot apple pie, vanilla ice-cream, someone’s perfume or after-shave, baked bread, balsam fir tree, and a dirty diaper. Pew!

Scent marketing is made up of two specific categories:

  • Ambient scenting, which uses pre-existing smells, such as movie-theatre popcorn, to recall consumer memory, and sets the stage
  • Olfactive branding, which creates signature scents based on a brand’s qualitative traits and specific clientele.

aromamarketing

Bloomingdale’s uses ambient scenting throughout their stores. They use the soft scent of baby powder to trigger mother’s memory in the infant department, soothing scent of lilac in the intimate apparel department and coconut in the swimsuit department. During the holiday shopping season you will find the scents of sugar cookie, chocolate and evergreen to incite the shoppers into a festive mood.

Any business that has the ability to control the customer’s environment in relationship to their brand experience can use ambient and olfactive branding. High-end retail chains, hotels, airlines, stores, banks and, even cruise ships are using signature scents to build their brands.

After touring the mall with my nose front and center, the most obvious and somewhat irritating use of distinctive fragrance is Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister as they pump their musky and masculine colognes through their ventilation systems. But I need to hold my nose, as I’m not their target audience of 12- 24 age youth who desires a heavy-duty stimulus of smells and loud music to get a reaction.

Other brands like Anthropologie, Aritzia, American Eagle Outfitters, Urban Outfitters and Old Navy all had subtle, unique fragrances that resonated with their environments. Standing out was the fashionable Hugo Boss store with their signature-scent of citrus, tamboti wood and tonka bean, Lululemon with its grassy and rosemary fragrance and the posh Tiffany& Co jewelry store with is cotton-candy scent. I am not sure that was a fit. But maybe it helps with the sticker shock of the $100,000 ring. Love can be such sweet sorrow.

HB-614_xlrg

Ed Burke’s says the upscale hotel chains have embraced scent branding in a big way with the Westin Hotels utilizing the scent of White tea and Kimpton’s Hotel Monaco chain using a blend of soft citrus, green tea, black pepper and cloves. Good enough to drink.

Carnival Cruises, Qantas Airlines, home-builder Jayman Homes in Calgary all profess to use unique fragrances specifically chosen and designed to enhance the brand experience for their customers. Jayman’s director of marketing, Careen Chrusch says, “It doesn’t take away from the visual experience, and helps solidify the positive memories [consumers] have when they think of our brand.”

A study conducted by Chicago’s Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation claimed the amount of money gambled at a Las Vegas casino slot machine increased by 45 per cent when the site was odorized with a pleasant aroma.

Casino1

But is this invisible brand enhancing ethical?

While marketers say they are just beautifying the consumer experience, critics would argue that consumers are being unknowingly manipulated.

The Canadian Marketing Association’s code of ethics states that marketers must not knowingly mislead consumers. In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission says it is unethical to transmit information below the consumer’s threshold of awareness.

Brand identity is more critical today than ever before, as more and more businesses and products compete for consumer attention across an ever-increasing variety of channels. Our senses play a vital and complex role in forming our thoughts, impressions and behaviors. By targeting the senses, brands establish a stronger and enduring emotional connection with their consumers. As online shopping continues to skyrocket it becomes even more important that every face-to-face brand time with customers become even more memorable.

Many brands fail to make use of their customers’ sense of smell. So harnessing the power of scents is an excellent opportunity for you to differentiate your brand from your competitors. As human memories are closely tied to smell, the longer you build your olfactive brand the more positive memories will be associated to your brand down memory lane.

Start smelling your brand today.

0

Brands That Target The Heart

Love at First Sight

Most brands need to earn the customer’s love, over time. To speed up the courtship, a number of brands are trying to become more human-like. People choose their favorite brands with their hearts, not their heads. A real human story evokes emotion and is more powerful than any brand storytelling.

Carolin Dahlman says in her book, Love Branding, if you can learn to master your customers’ emotions and make them feel the love, you will earn more money. She explains that love is a two-way street and most brands fail to love their customer’s back. So what does that mean? It’s all about giving back what you get. I guess you can say it’s not a one-night-stand but a commitment – a long-term commitment.

Emotional Branding

No one knows this better than Procter & Gamble. Over the last 178 years P&G has been at the forefront creating powerful, emotional relationships between consumers and brands. They have been pioneers and leaders in embracing technology to build an emotional brand connection with their customers. Utilizing soap operas on the radio and early television, to award shows, to fast-growing web ventures.

P&G Global Brand Building Officer, Marc Pritchard emphasized the importance of one-to-one relationships in today’s always-connected, always-on digital environment. He said that brands need to be less focused on making money and instead place more emphasis on improving the lives of both existing and potential customers. He too thinks it’s important to give back to the customer.

P&G’s used the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games and the Paralympic Winter Games to thank moms through several highly emotional stories. There aren’t too many mothers who can’t relate to these stories.

P&G Pampers brand is another good example of how P&G is defined a higher purpose for their brand beyond the functional benefit of keeping babies dry. Pampers has leveraged the key consumer insight that moms—especially first time moms—are constantly looking to connect with others who are sharing similar experiences. Pampers created programs such as “Pampers Village” and “A Parent is Born” as forums for moms to connect, learn and discover. If you visit their Canadian Facebook page they have over 14,488,921 likes – pretty good for a dirty diaper discussion.

But is this love? Love is defined as an emotion of a strong attraction and personal attachment – the ultimate goal for any brand.

 

1934-food-heinz-ketchup-swscan04154-copy

Love Potion

But it’s hard to argue with success, and no brand is more successful than Heinz Ketchup. A brand that has been around for over 139 years and still the bestselling brand of ketchup in the world with over 650 million bottles sold in 2012. So what is their love potion? Diane Levine, author on the blog Beneath the Brand, says their enduring success comes down to a few simple but brilliant relationship strategies:

  • Maintain a core (or at least an air) of consistency
  • Spice things up once in a while
  • Be considerate of your partner’s needs

 

At the end, she says it’s the little things that matter most.

In Romancing the Brand: How Brands Create Strong, intimate Relationships with Consumers, branding expert Tim Halloran argues that today’s effective marketer must foster a deep, committed, and emotionally connected relationship with their consumer base. They must keep the sparks alive in a long-term relationship rather than focus solely on the short-term, single purchase.

 

Better Lives

Building off of Diane Levine’s three strategies, Tim Halloran includes ‘Listen to your customers’ and ‘Strive to make your customers’ lives better’.

On the last point, Nike ‘Just do it’ is now more about ‘Help me just do it’. Nike+ has become an enabler to its customers and bringing them together in a virtual community to stay motivated and challenged. Nike’s success has to do with its focused use of athlete relationships and innovative brand experiences to inspire its customers to feel like athletes. Its products and technologies are always linked to values such as aspiration, achievement and status.

Tim Hortons has found its way into the hearts of Canadians not only through their coffee on every corner of every city and town of Canada but also through their social consciousness of understanding Canadians. From their support of the Canadian military to tapping into the Canadian passion for hockey, they have successfully used the Canadian brand to reinforce their own brand love.

Love Me

If you read this article out of context you would think that we were talking about the secrets for a successful marriage. In truth, what we are talking about here is a deep and emotional relationship between a customer and a brand. The interesting thing is that the historical brands figured this out a long time ago and just keep re-engineer how they engage and support their customers. The internet gives every brand the opportunity to engage with their customers on a one-to-one level but without the insights and relationship strategies to connect on an emotional level, there will never be any love.

If you want customers to love your brand make sure you give more than you take. Follow through on the little things, keep your promises, learn to apologize when you make a mistake or disappoint and spend time learning about what is important to them. But most importantly, your brand must be authentic and real to be loved.

 

0

Be First In The Customer’s Mind

Branding is all about mind over matter

It’s important to understand how the brain works if you want to build a lasting brand. Al Ries and Jack Trout wrote a number of successful books on this topic in the ’90s. The 22 Immutable laws of Marketing and Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind are my two favorites. Their major point: Be first in the customer’s mind — first in positioning in the market or category. Why? The simple fact, most people won’t remember the second best. There are a number of examples to support this theory. Do you remember the first movie that you saw in a movie theatre or the first music concert you went to? Or your first date? Most people could easily answer this question. The first experience of anything that defines a new market, or category and changes your perception or memory has a very good chance to be encoded in your brain – especially, if the memory is emotionally charged. Now, tell me the second or third movie or concert you saw? The answers are not as easy. Unless I asked you, what was the first country music concert (which might not be your first concert) or the first horror movie you saw? We will skip the second or third date question that could be too complicated.

leaking_head2

A memory begins with perception; it is encoded and stored using the language of electricity and chemicals. To properly encode a memory, you must first be paying attention. Since we are inundated with brand messages daily (over 3,000 per day) most of what we encounter every day is simply filtered out, and only a few stimuli pass into our conscious awareness. If we remembered every single thing we noticed, our memory would be full before we left the house in the morning.

 

MIT-WorkingMemory_0

Contextual Memory

The human brain is an incredible machine. In the book, Kluge: The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind, the author Gary Marcus, a psychologist, tackles the idea that we have two thinking systems inside our skulls. He argues that human evolution has created two distinct ways of thinking – an ancestral system that is instinctual and reflexive, and a more modern, deliberative one that involves reasoning. He explains that humans developed “contextual memory”, which means we pull things from our memory by using context or clues that hint at what we are looking for, therefore we are better at the quick retrieval of general information rather than specific details.

Examples of this are seen in branding every day, where we take complex products and compartmentalize them into a simple ‘first’ attribute or benefit.

For example: Vehicle Safety = Volvo, Fights Cavities = Crest, It Tastes Awful = Buckley’s, King of Beers = Budweiser, Magical = Disney, you get the picture.

So what does this mean when building brands? Be the first to offer a new brand promise that is simple and easy for the consumer to consume. If you can synthesize it down to a single thought, image or word you have a greater chance of locking up a place in the consumers mind. Here are some examples:

  • iPod – connecting over 220 million ears to the iconic white earphones
  • Twitter – making news 140 characters at a time.Twitter says there are about 284 million active users and about 500 million tweets per day – plus or minus a revolution.
  • PlayStation – Over 100 million boys barricade themselves in their bedrooms finally found something else to do with their hands.
  • Netflix – Over 50 million customers in over 40 countries have entertainment choices, where and when they want it.

Both Coca-Cola and Pepsi continue to be wildly successful with two distinctly different brand positions: Coca-Cola is the “real thing” (first in the minds of consumers) but Pepsi had successfully position itself as the youthful coke as the “new generation” to carve a new category.

evolution_of_manBasic Instincts

Back to author Gary Marcus insights, about the human mind where he says, most pleasures are attributed from the ancestral, reflexive system. This would explain why we are always distracted and are attracted to anecdotal and emotional hearsay that affect the way we see the world, filter information and make irrational decisions.

While we like to portray ourselves as highly evolved logical, reasonable bioforms, we are still tied to our basic instincts. Tapping into this insight, brands must have a connection to the non-rational side of the brain. This would explain a number of successful products who have built their brands on emotion and why the best technically superior products don’t necessarily win. As a matter of fact, I have an almost brand-new beta video player and a blue-ray disk player for sale, if you are interested.

0

WABBA (Will All Brands Become Acronyms)

Today, we are surrounded by acronyms and meaningless letters. Every business and industry has its acronyms and initials. We all need a decoder ring to make sense of all the abbreviations and acronyms. Actually, there is a website Acronym Finder dedicated to decoding acronyms and abbreviations with more than 4 million definitions. We don’t even notice how many initials and acronyms we use in a day like, 24/7, WWW, LOL, TBD, ASAP, FYI, ROI, FAQ, SAP, SOL, KPI, ETA, SEO, SWOT and OMG, to name a few.

 

After Y2K, the DotCom bubble and 9/11, there have been an explosion of companies moving towards acronyms and initials to reinvent themselves, such as: The Hudson Bay Company to HBC, The Royal Bank of Canada to RBC, Kentucky Fried Chicken to KFC, British Petroleum to BP, Lucky Goldstar to LG, YMCA to The Y and Bank of Montreal to BMO.

LOL – WTF

 

Wisconsin Tourism Federation recently changed its name to The Tourism Federation of Wisconsin, retiring its unfortunate WTF (also known as What The F&*K) logo in favor of the innocent TFW. While Wisconsin Tourism changed its name to stop the humiliation, many companies are doing this to expand into new non English markets or to remove words that made the company too regional and old.

 

There have also been brands that have had a long life as initials such as: GE, IBM, HP, BMW, UPS, SAP, AT&T, H&M, MSN and VW. Most people today couldn’t tell you the words that these initials originally represent.

 IKEA

So Much Meaning In So Few Letters

 

As it gets more and more difficult to come up with unique brand names that can be trademarked (see Building a Brand Identity Isn’t Getting Easier) developing distinctive acronyms is another solution. IKEA is an interesting acronym that was made up from the founder’s initials “I.K.” (Ingvar Kamprad). The “E” came from the farm where he grew up (Elmtaryd), and the “A” from his home county (Agunnaryd in Sweden). The world’s #2 search engine and web directory Yahoo was derived from the acronym for “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle”.

Simplicity Or Survival

 

The charm of initials and acronyms are their simplicity. There is no need to memorize several words, especially if they are long and difficult to pronounce (like German companies such as Bayerische Motoren Werke, BMW or Systeme, Anwendungen und Produkte in der Datenverarbeitung, SAP). Acronyms and initials can easily be communicated in many languages, cultures and countries. Graphically, they can create a strong design mark that can also convey emotional dynamics and more importantly can be legally protected.

 

The main problem is acronyms mean nothing upfront. Remember your first day in a new company – all those nonsensical abbreviations – all just a scramble of letters. Over time, you had to load each with meaning and build a mind library of what each letter represented if you couldn’t actually remember the literal words. Acronyms and initials are inherently not descriptive of the business and possess no imagery or benefit-oriented language in and of themselves. Ideally you want a brand name that communicates something about the category, or a benefit to working with the company, or both.

 

Name = Benefit

 

In the car insurance industry, GEICO competes with companies like Nationwide, SafeAuto, and Esurance. Right away, the three GEICO competitors’ names all tell you something about who they are. Nationwide – extensive network of service and coverage. SafeAuto – keeps you and your car safe. Esurance –provides access to insurance online. What does GEICO tell you? The first thing that comes to mind is the little green gecko. GEICO built their brand recognition by extensive advertising. In 2013, GEICO spent $935 million on advertising, almost three times the average spent by the rest of the 10 biggest insurance companies. No surprise their brand is well recognized.

 

Small and medium size companies can’t afford the time and money to build a brand from initials and acronyms, unless the initial or acronym is very exclusive and memorable.

 

untitled

 

However, there is a way to cheat by using the initials/acronym as a design mark with the full words that represent the initials. Consulting firms like law, advertising, architectural, where the people are the differentiating factor tend to use the founders and partners names as the brand. To be customer friendly, they must abbreviate the brand name to simple letters or acronyms to help the customer. Just make sure the final initials/acronym does not spell words you couldn’t say in front of your mother like WTF. However, there are still those companies who try to push the limit like the popular FCUK which stands for “French Connection UK” a trendy clothing store.

 

Professor treating acronyms like formulae.

 Shorthand

 

The Internet, texting, tweeting and social media have forced everyone into new abbreviated, shorthand to fit, save time and work with a mini keyboard of two-inch by two-inch. Many companies have also abbreviated their company names to have more memorable URL addresses.

 

Acronyms and initials are here to stay and will continue to become more prolific as more brands become more global and more digital. TTYL (Talk To You Later).

 

Footnote: The term acronym is initial abbreviations that can be pronounced as a word, such as NASA or IKEA, whereas, the term initials are just initials that are pronounced individually, such as FBI or BMW.