Burt Alper is Strategy Director of Catchword, a San Francisco naming company. I asked him what he thought of two recent naming stories, PWC Consulting’s change to MONDAY, and the British Post Office’s change from the Post Office to CONSIGNIA, and then back to the Post Office. Here is his reply:
“Before I start ranting and raving, please note that as a general rule, all name changes are viewed with disdain. Accenture, Agilent, even FedEx and SGI (as official name changes) were all universally panned by the media, and worse still, most employees. Over time, these brands have become more comfortable, and the barrage of complaints has died down. Nevertheless, both Consignia and Monday suffer from “novelty blues”.
Consignia was doomed from the start. I understand why they wanted to change the name, but they should have known better than to choose a name like that. Look at who they compete against: United States Postal Service, Federal Express, DHL … all very dry, but solid sounding organizations. Companies that are considering a name change must be aware of who they really are, not who they wish they were. Consignia is a fine name, just not right for Royal Mail. It sounds techy, new, and Italian. Even though the Latin root implies some sense of reliability, the style of the name is totally inappropriate for this space. Royal Mail feels more appropriate. It may reek of monarchy, but it sure sounds like the folks you expect to deliver the post.
What’s most upsetting about all this is that they spent the money to change … twice. Talk about paying both coming and going!
The recent announcement by PwC is another example of inappropriate naming styles, although in this case, the semantic content of the name is troubled too. (At lease Consignia didn’t have any negative associations.) Monday is the day we all dread. Songs have been written about how crappy the day can be. Other than Monday Night Football, can you name a single positive association?
But wait, there’s more. How are we supposed to use the name? “I’m going to engage Monday.” How does one differentiate the dreaded day from the company? How about, “I’m the president of Monday.” Oh really?
The web site tries to educate us on why the name works (starting fresh, working hard, etc.). I found it interesting to note that the name does not function independent of the brand identity. You NEED the background to understand the name. Even if you didn’t like the name Accenture, you could at least see where they were coming from.
I’m in the naming biz, so I know how hard projects like this can be. Nevertheless, in their effort to think out of the box, PwC may have placed themselves out of contention. Time will tell whether this name becomes accepted by the business community. I’ll wager they lose market share for the next 6-12 months until their remaining clients begin to spread the word about how good they are (and prospective clients become desensitized to the name itself). Better deliver on quality of work, though, or the life of this identity will be short.”
Thank you, Burt.