What's in a name

The most effective marketing does not waver from delivering a central message that strikes a responsive chord with its target audience. A clever slogan or jingle can imprint itself on the minds of your audience for years — or even become part of the culture — or it can help bury you.

When fledgling Federal Express promised “absolutely, positively, overnight,” it set a standard it had to deliver or its slogan would hasten its demise rather than build its brand. Today, the name FedEx implies the promise and many people use the name generically for overnight delivery.

Trade and professional associations don't have big budgets for market research and advertising campaigns, but their name has to carry their promise into the marketplace just the same. If you lose the battle for relevance and quality, you've sealed the fate of your organization.

The National Council of Physical Distribution Management was formed by people who understood this — some were marketing professors. The group's goal was to demonstrate and promote the value of integrating the functions of transportation, warehousing and inventory management to improve efficiency and financial results. It was a message corporate America needed to hear in 1963, and the professionals who labored to accomplish those goals needed support and continuing education to keep their skills tuned to the needs of their management.

Managing the efficient physical distribution of goods was a step up from a functional description, but a level down from being strategic. In 1985, the association took a major step and changed its name to the Council of Logistics Management.

George Gecowets, retired chief operating officer of the association, would like to say that change was based on scientific research, but he actually saw title changes of members moving in that direction — often jumping completely over distribution. It was the right decision, and Gecowets says he took the position of looking where the herd was going and jumping in front to shout “follow me.” The momentum was already building and, despite some initial grumbling by a minority of members, the name has served the group well for nearly 20 years. But now the group has decided to change its name yet again — to the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals.

Name changes are never a simple matter. The Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals carries its history into a new era of supply chain management. You can argue how far in front of the herd the Council's leadership is in proclaiming the arrival of supply chain management, but don't ignore its cry of “follow me.” The changes have been evident at the annual conference, at the Roundtable level and in other programs developed by the Council. It's always a minority who lead change, but once the momentum gathers, it's hard to stop progress.

The Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals is a big name to grow into. As an association of individual members, clearly those who follow will share that vision of the future. From physical distribution management to supply chain management, this profession has always had to deal with what Gecowets calls the “coalescing of job functions” but very few name changes. It turns out, there is a lot in a name that delivers on its promise.

Perry A. Trunick
executive editor
[email protected]

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