Here are two reasons why you shouldn’t use acronyms in your advertisements.

Example #1 | As hard as it is to believe, a portion of your intended audience won’t know what you are talking about.

In 2015, we explained that the acronym SMB (for “small and medium business”) is used constantly by those who work as marketers at large companies or startups that sell products to small and medium businesses. However, as we explained in 2015, SMB is rarely, if ever, used by small business owners. Even CEOs of medium size businesses don’t know what the “M” stands for. Unfortunately, those marketers use the term so much at work, they start using “SMB” when they name products.  I promise: SMB is not in the vocabulary of small business owners. Even Google doesn’t understand what SMB means.

Example #2 | When purchasing your product, customers are thinking about their problem or need, not what your acronym means.

While listening to an NFL football playoff game on my car radio recently, I heard an announcer read an ad (like in the old days) for Valvoline oil. During the ad, the announcer used the acronym D-I-Y (as in “do-it-yourself.”) As the ad ended and the announcers went back to talking about the game, the announcer who didn’t read the ad asked, “Hey, what does DIY mean?”

The announcer who had read the commercial laughed and said, “It means ‘do it yourself.’ But don’t feel bad. I had to look it up earlier in the season.”

My first thought was, “Who possibly can’t know what DIY means?” But then I remembered all the times I’ve been in my favorite independent hardware store with a question like, “I need one of those white plastic round things you attached to a drain.”

“Do you mean ‘PVC?'” the clerk asks, trying not to chuckle.


If you spend money on advertising, make sure that every word counts. Acronyms may be good ways to filter out those who aren’t your desired customer or speed up conversations among a specific tribe of professionals or specialists. But are you positive every potential customer knows what your acronym means?


Customers are more emotionally engaged with their personal problems than they are with our acronyms. Drop the acronyms and explain how your product solves their problem.