I frequently receive unsolicited spam. But I repeat myself. Among the most frequent spammers is something calling itself the Reverse Logistics Association (RLA). Until I went on its website to find out what it was and what it did, my only recourse was to guess at what RLA might be, an exercise I must admit I didn’t find entirely unpleasant, un-amusing, or unappealing to my incorrigible fancy. My strongest inclination, of course, was to take RLA’s moniker at face value, which I did. The logic went something like this:

Logistics connotes activities associated with sending stuff somewhere. So, I imagined reverse logistics must connote sending stuff back. That made me curious to know how much of the stuff that gets sent somewhere needs to get sent back. But businesses, associations, and even entire industries have sprung up around activities for which one might surmise there’d be even less demand, no? I was close. This is how the RLA site defined reverse logistics:

All activity associated with a product/service after the point of sale, the ultimate goal to optimize or make more efficient aftermarket activity, thus saving money and environmental resources.

There are two general approaches to selecting a brand name. Approach #1, which is probably what RLA thought it had chosen, is to take a flat-footed swipe at a handle that reflects in someway what you do. RLA didn’t quite get there. Nor did it specify on the home page of its website who it is or what it does. It only got around to defining reverse logistics on an obscure page navigable from an equally obscure link in a horizontal navigation menu in the footer of each site page. Until we find that link we’re left to conjecture that the RLA must be … well … about the business of sending stuff back.

Approach #2 is to coin a name that has no prior meaning. Following this approach, RLA might have chosen something like Snorglitz or Hischenflügel. It didn’t. Oh, well.

Regardless of whether you choose Approach #1 or Approach #2, neither can work unless and until you spell out who you are, what you do, why you do what you do, and for whom you do it. If you do it right, guessing can be the source of endless fun and frivolity at parties. But it’s a dismal failure as a branding and marketing tactic. And most CEOs I know or have known have little patience for fun and frivolity at the expense of their brands, their marketing communications, and their bottom lines. (That’s not to say they’re poops or anything.)

Since the worst examples are often the best examples, let’s use RLA’s bad example as a good one. The danger to its brand in its presentation is clear and present. Even if I’d guessed the definition of reverse logistics the first time, there was time lost in my having to guess. If marketing is an opportunistic activity (it is), why concede time to guessing games?

If you choose Approach #1, be specific in explaining who you are, what you do, why you do what you do, and for whom you do it. If you choose Approach #2, do all those same things — but first explain the significance of your name. If you don’t create the context in which you want your brand name to be perceived, thereby giving people a reason to retain and remember it, it’ll perish in the resulting vacuum. If you don’t believe me, Google Hischenflügel.

If you choose either approach and derive a brand name you don’t like, not to worry. Click the icon above to send it back.

Image by OpenClips, courtesy of pixabay.com.