What’s in a name? The following column first appeared in Business AM 10 years ago today and I’m still fascinated with names; I’d love to hear why you picked your business name – a follow-up blog is definitely on the cards with all your thoughts…
ARISTOTLE once said: “Change in all things is sweet.” For all he was a bright dude, the ancient Greek philosopher just couldn’t have foreseen the absurdity of the proposed changes we have witnessed this week.
The Scottish “Government”? was one. I don’t think so. And Consignia joined an increasingly long list of corporate chameleons, spending pots of cash on a new name that means plums to their customers. In case you’ve been hibernating this past freezing week, Consignia is the new name for the Post Office. Yeah. Right. Of course. Well worth half a million quid.
They’re not alone of course. British Steel and British Gas spent time and money on Corus and Centrica. (Would you have remembered that? I certainly didn’t). Scottish Telecom became Thus (what that was all about is anybody’s guess). Management consultancy Anderson Consulting is about to spend somewhere in the region of £60m to market its new moniker – Accenture. Huh?
Corporate rebranding is the hip and trendy term for it. The excuse is that corporates don’t want an identity that describes what they actually do, because that would be limiting, wouldn’t it?
The desire to change names has been around for years. Some new names even made sense. Look at Unigate (United Dairies and Cow & Gate). Although it has to be said that they lost it a bit recently when they became Uniq, the “q” standing for quality, of course.
For what it’s worth, I think the daftness started with Prince. The diminutive purple-clad ‘80s pop star emerged some years later as Squiggle, the artist formerly known as Prince. (I’m afraid my PC can’t reproduce his little logo). And it was all downhill from there really.
To be fair, the name of my company doesn’t mean anything either. Tartan Cat. I could say it’s because the company’s got claws, or because I’m Scottish. But I’d be lying. The answer’s simple: I’ve got one, her name’s Dessie. And I didn’t have to spend half a million pounds to come up with it.
So what is in a name? Truth be told, not much. Changing the name of a company is just that. It’s a new name, perhaps in a different colour, and usually with a “swoosh” swirling around somewhere.
It’s an advertising agency’s dream. A whacking great commission to doodle and “play with colour” for weeks on end and then collect a huge cheque with more noughts than a checkers game. And for what? Usually, a new name or logo that requires the IQ of a genius to understand and a photographic memory to recall any more than two minutes later.
But big businesses just don’t get it. A name is just a name – the branding bit comes later. And then only if you can deliver. Socially it’s nice if people remember your name; it makes you feel important. And it’s the same in business. But if new acquaintances weren’t impressed by your conversation, or didn’t find you particularly friendly, or didn’t find your jokes funny, then remembering your name is ever so much more difficult. And surprise surprise, it’s the same in business.
If your company delivers a poor quality product or service or has a team of uninterested and disaffected employees who don’t make the effort, then your customers won’t remember you, other than to advise friends not to bother. But if your product is outstanding, your people are motivated to make a difference, and you are a joy to do business with, then your name – and your brand – will grow in strength and reputation. Common sense really, and it doesn’t cost half a million nicker to work it out.
Names have been very much on my mind this week, and not just in a business context. I collected puppy number two this week. A friend for my 11month old black labrador, McLeod. And after, ooh hours of thought and consideration, £2.14 for a cup of gourmet coffee and about 50p in phone calls to my advisors (best mates, actually) I called him Harley. Why? I could say it’s because he’s big and black, but the answer’s simple; I’ve got one.