“People who know, know CSFBdirect.”

But apparently, a lot of people don’t know. The tag on a series of advertisements that officially premiered Monday promotes the new name of a familiar online brokerage, DLJdirect, using the unfamiliar acronym of its acquirer, Credit Suisse First Boston (USA) Inc.

The phrase “people who know” gets right at the heart of a major problem with the campaign, branding consultants say: CSFB, a global investment bank that previously did not have an online brokerage offering, is not a well-known name among American consumers. And the letters don’t exactly trip off the tongue.

Meanwhile, DLJdirect, whose parent company Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette Inc. was bought by Credit Suisse First Boston in November, had enviable brand recognition thanks to promotions spanning Donaldson’s 12-year history.

“Why would you throw out that equity? It’s a tradeoff of brand equity for more alphabet soup,” said John Grace, executive director of Interbrand, an international consultancy based in New York.

Debra Isenberg, chief marketing officer at CSFBdirect, said the change is intended to bring DLJ in synch with its new parent company, “a global powerhouse” offering customers DLJ’s pricing and trading functionality along with broader research and more access to initial public offerings from CSFB. The name change, which is being promoted through print and television ads, makes clear that “this is a well-respected Wall Street firm that is offering brokerage online,” Ms. Isenberg said.

But Credit Suisse is forsaking the brand equity of a well-known company for an acronym few will recognize, said Hayes Roth, vice president of Americas marketing for Landor Associates, a branding and design firm in San Francisco.

“Outside of a sophisticated banking circle, consumers, I would gather, wouldn’t even know what CSFB is,” he said. “I would be amazed if they got playback that CSFB had any equity or meant anything.”

Besides being unrecognizable, the name is tough to pronounce, Mr. Roth said. “It’s awkward. You’d never recommend somebody do an acronym like that from scratch.”

Mr. Grace at Interbrand said CSFB could have retained the DLJ handle and quantified its relationship to the parent company, or at least introduced the new name gradually. It is not unusual for such a “migration strategy” to be carried out over several years, he said.

Or CSFB could have adopted DLJ’s name altogether, a strategy undertaken by Chemical Bank when it bought Chase Manhattan Corp. Chase was deemed the stronger brand and was retained, Mr. Roth said.

“That was a pretty smart business decision,” he said. “What happens in many of these situations is that egos get in the way and people say, ‘We bought them — our side can’t let their side put their name on us.’ ”

Building brand equity in CSFB direct will not be impossible, just expensive, the consultants said. AT&T spent $50 million in the United States alone to market Lucent Technologies, the systems company it launched in 1996, Mr. Roth noted.

“They’re going to have to spend fairly intense money to explain what CSFB is, what CSFBdirect is, and what the value of that is,” he said. “And that costs marketing money.”

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.