There is Dignity in Branding Without Acronyms

The recent rebrand of healthcare provider CHW (formerly Catholic Healthcare West) into Dignity Health was a masterstroke of naming, and the resulting corporate identity is refreshing and beautiful. Not sure who did the naming and design. They did a great job.

I was mostly glad to see another example of one of my most hated branding conventions – the acronym – fall by the wayside, its decaying corpse fertilizing the ground from which a real brand has sprouted and now begins to grow. And grow. Grow in a big and positive way. Literally. Here's what I'm talking about:
Dignity Health Logo, Before and After

At a recent event in San Francisco (where I got to Talk to Chuck in real life) I ran into a fellow I know who is a senior executive with Dignity Health, neƩ CHW, and got to ask him about how the rebrand had affected business. He was emphatic. "It has completely changed everything for the better." He stated unequivocally, "Our people are energized. Our patients view us in a whole new, more positive light. New business opportunities have appeared in markets where we could never compete before, because of the associations with our former brand."

There are two branding forces at work here. First, acronyms don't inspire anybody (hello, insurance industry marketing execs?), and can't hide the words behind them. How long has IBM not been International Business Machines? Decades. Maybe more than half a century. But IBM will always be dogged by the concept that it sells machines. Not computers. Not software. Not consulting. It sells all those things, but in the end the machine is still there, in the background. With CHW, Catholicism and all the baggage it carries with it were ever-present in the brand's identity.

Secondly, would you rather work for CHW or for Dignity? Would you rather be treated by CHW or treated with Dignity? What we're looking at is a brand essence that spawns a positive, very humane brand vision. Hard to get all worked up about an acronym. Hard to believe in an acronym. Hard to see a better world being created by an acronym.

In short, drop the acronym. If your brand is an acronym, run, don't walk for the nearest way out of that brand death-trap. Develop a brand strategy that includes a brand essence and brand vision that draw on your real strengths and true sources of superiority. Consider the deep human needs of your customers, which are far more valuable than the first letters of the company's name.

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