That’s KISS as in “keep it short and simple,” not the band that made me want to rock and roll all night and party every day back in high school. But KISS the rock band knew what every branding pro understands: POA. (That’s the power of the acronym, for those of you not in the know.)
In “Alphabet branding,” Derrik J. Lang of AP’s news service for the under-35 demographic, asap (yet another acronym), points out that marketers are giving our alphabet’s 26 letters quite a workout.
“Thanks to the modern boon of branding,” writes Lang, “letter combinations are now imbued with meaning far beyond the kindergarten catchalls of ‘A’ for apple and ‘Z’ for zebra. Tons of time and money is spent rejigging and reimagining corporate word jumbles so at-home audiences regurgitate the appropriate feeling.”
In the marketplace these days, it seems ‘X’ is for extreme, ‘W’ is for hip, ‘I’ is for technology and any amalgamation can mean something entirely different — no matter what it actually stands for.
“In the good old days of naming, you named your company for what it did,” said Martyn Tipping, president and director of brand strategy for big-time marketing firm Tipping Sprung. “So if you sold business machines internationally, you’d call yourself International Business Machines. Your name described what you did and everyone was happy.”
But “IBM” is much, much easier to say than “International Business Machines.” So is “3M” instead of “Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing” and “AARP” rather than “American Association of Retired Persons.”
Training the public for this initial recall, Tipping says, requires “millions upon millions of dollars” and “years and years of sustained investment.” His firm does just that for companies such as Dell, Verizon and Gillette.
It seems many universities have a built-in advantage with this branding name game. At the University of Missouri-Rolla, where I work, we’re doing all we can to brand ourselves as UMR. It’s worked for USC, UCLA and countless other campuses, so maybe it’ll work for us.