Corporate Brand Naming


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Twenty years ago a corporate name was simply
a trade name that described an industry, a service
or a product (most often the corporate name
was the founder’s patronym). The study
reported in this paper reveals that as companies
are becoming increasingly aware of the importance
of corporate reputation, they are managing
their corporate names more actively and treating
them as corporate brands rather than merely
trade names. Newly created brand names are
now consciously designed to evoke associations
with a set of core corporate values that typically
focus on themes such as life, competence, unity,
vision and performance. By focusing on values
that are common to most corporations, however,
corporate branding may fail in one of its foremost
goals, which is to create differentiation.
This paper provides an analysis of the corporate
re-naming phenomenon and discusses its implications for corporate brand naming.

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Corporate Brand Naming

  1. 1. Corporate Reputation Review Volume 8 Number 4What is in a Name Change? Re-JoycingCorporate Names to CreateCorporate BrandsLaurent MuzellecDepartment of Marketing, University College Dublin, Republic of IrelandABSTRACT and strategic device. For strong consumerTwenty years ago a corporate name was simply brands like Coca Cola, the name is arguablya trade name that described an industry, a ser- the only valuable asset; outside its brandvice or a product (most often the corporate name context, the product, mostly made of water,was the founder’s patronym). The study sugar and bubbles is a cheap commodity.reported in this paper reveals that as companies For corporations and corporate brands, theare becoming increasingly aware of the impor- name is a prism through which each stake-tance of corporate reputation, they are managing holder perceives the company. The nametheir corporate names more actively and treating might be synonymous with a way of doingthem as corporate brands rather than merely business for suppliers, a distinctive in-housetrade names. Newly created brand names are culture for employees, an enjoyable experi-now consciously designed to evoke associations ence for consumers, or a steady return onwith a set of core corporate values that typically investment for the financial community.focus on themes such as life, competence, unity, Academic articles which have tried tovision and performance. By focusing on values answer the illustrious question ‘what’s in athat are common to most corporations, however, name?’ often come up with the answer ofcorporate branding may fail in one of its fore- reputation and brand identity (Fombrunmost goals, which is to create differentiation. and Shanley, 1990; Perkins, 1995; Aaker,This paper provides an analysis of the corporate 1996; Tadelis, 1999). This indicates thatre-naming phenomenon and discusses its impli- company names are the receptacle of cor-cations for corporate brand naming. porate brand and reputation. A brand name is the basis upon which the brandKEYWORDS: corporate brand, naming, equity is built (Aaker, 1991) and a corpo-rebranding, identity change rate name is the vehicle that conveys cor- porate associations to the customer (BrownINTRODUCTION and Dacin, 1997; Dacin and Brown, 2002). ‘If all of Coca Cola’s assets were Additionally, the name constitutes the link destroyed overnight, whoever owned between the corporate identity, understood the Coca Cola name could walk into a as what the company ‘is’, that is its values bank the next day morning and get a and its behavior (Olins, 1979; Dowling, loan to rebuild everything.’ 1996; Balmer, 2001), and the corporate Carlton Curtis, VP Corporate image, which is thought of as the stake- Communications, Coca Cola holders’ perceptions of corporate attitudes Corporate Reputation Review, (Bernstein, 1984; Davies and Chun, 2002). Vol. 8, No. 4, 2006, pp. 305–321 # Palgrave Macmillan Ltd,Brand names are a fundamental marketing These various perspectives demonstrate 1479–1889/06 $30.00 Page 305
  2. 2. What is in a Name Change? the key role played by corporate names as vides an analysis of the recent wave of cor- strategic marketing assets. Replacing an porate name changes and discusses the established name with an entirely new academic and practical implications for name would therefore seem to go against corporate brand naming. elementary marketing theory and practice. The paper is divided into three sections. Yet companies adopting new ‘branded First, the literature on brands and corporate names’ are frequently reported in the busi- identity is reviewed to establish the predica- ness press (McGurk, 2002; Lamont, 2003; ment of corporate brand naming. A data- Wiggins, 2003). This phenomenon, some- base of re-named companies is then times referred to as corporate re-branding, investigated and analysed in order to ascer- has been quantified by Enterprise IG, tain the characteristics of a newly created which estimates that each year between corporate (brand) name. The results are dis- 1,000 and 2,500 companies around the cussed and the comments of two brand- world change their names.1 naming specialists taken into account for Structural factors precipitating a name analysis purposes. The final section discusses change such as corporate mergers and the managerial implications of the findings. acquisitions, or major changes in geo- graphic scope or competitive corporate LITERATURE REVIEW strategy can partly explain the re-branding In order to understand the corporate re- phenomenon (Muzellec et al., 2003). How- naming phenomenon in the emerging con- ever, while these factors may tell one why text of corporate brands, the notion of cor- re-branding occurs, they do not reveal the porate branding is first reviewed. The extent to which corporate naming is con- differences between the corporate identity sidered as a strategic marketing variable in and traditional brand perspectives on its own right, or whether it is merely naming are then highlighted in order to viewed as an administrative expediency. underline the challenges for corporate An additional point of interest, therefore, is brand naming. to investigate the marketing role, aim and features of newly adopted names. Branding the Corporate Identity Studies pertaining to this area of research There are many perspectives on corporate have focused on the brand naming process branding in the literature (eg Schultz and (Kohli and Labahn, 1997), on brand name de Chernatony, 2002; Balmer and Greyser, semantics and symbolism (Collins, 1977; 2003). Corporate brands can be seen as Robertson, 1989; Klink, 2001) and on the communications, vision, identity, culture, types of associations evoked by new names position, promise, image, or covenant (Kohli and Hemnes, 1995; Delattre, 2002; (Dunnion and Knox, 2004). However, two Glynn and Abzug, 2002). These studies are broad approaches may be identified: one is either concerned with traditional (product) centered on the organization and the pro- brand naming strategies and their impact motion of internal values as well as culture on customers’ imagery or corporate name and vision (Hatch and Schultz, 2003; Ind, patterns within industries. Yet, corporate 2003; Urde, 2003); the other focuses on the branding goes beyond traditional brand external audience and the marketing of the theory and differs from corporate identity brand (King, 1991; Keller, 2000; Aaker, (Balmer and Gray, 2003). In this paper, the 2004). This might be because the concept two perspectives are brought together to of corporate brand is at the crossroads provide a broad review of the corporate between the idea of brand and the notion re-naming phenomenon. The paper pro- of corporate identity.Page 306
  3. 3. Muzellec Corporate identity refers to an organiza- Brand Names versus Corporate Namestion’s unique features, the way in which an Defining a brand as ‘a name, term, symbol,organization reveals its values and strategy design or a combination of them’, impliesthrough communication, behavior and that the name forms the essence of thesymbolism (Leuthesser and Kohli, 1997; brand concept (Aaker, 1991). The name isvan Riel and Balmer, 1997). In other a critical, core sign of the brand, the ‘basiswords, it is deeply rooted in the organiza- for awareness and communications effort’tion persona and can be assimilated as a (Aaker, 1991: 187). Since the name can‘statement of central character’ (Albert and bring inherent strength to a brand (KohliWhetten, 1985). By contrast, a brand could and Labahn, 1997; Klink, 2001), brandbe seen as a more contrived item, essen- names need to be actively managed intially managed by the marketing depart- order to influence external stakeholders. Inment. Indeed, a textbook definition of a conventional branding perspective, thebrand sees it as ‘a name, term, symbol, name is an instrument at the disposal of thedesign or a combination of them intended marketing team, who can use symbolismto identify goods or services of one seller in order to affect consumers’ perceptions ofor a group of sellers and to differentiate products or corporations’ attributes (Klink,them from those of competitors’ (Kotler, 2001; Yorkston and Menon, 2004). Once1992).2 Over the years, the brand con- launched, however, the new name becomes cept has stretched beyond its concrete the psychological property of consumersphysical attributes to include intangible, (Lerman and Garbarino, 2002).psychological aspects; the brand has Brand experts are still unsure about thebecome ‘a collection of perceptions in the ideal properties of a brand name. Manymind of the consumer’ (Restall and brand consultants believe that a brandGordon, 1993). name should be unusual enough to attract Those perspectives are brought together the attention of the external audience, suchwhen corporate branding is considered as as Xerox and Yahoo! (Ries and Ries, 1999;‘a systematically planned and implemented Godin, 2002). Yet, academic research indi-process of creating and maintaining a cates that names descriptive or at least sug-favorable image and consequently a favor- gestive of the product’s relevant attributesable reputation for the company as a whole are more likely to be recalled and likedby sending signals to all stakeholders and (Keller et al., 1998; Klink, 2001). In sum,by managing behavior, communication, an actively managed brand name should beand symbolism’ (Einwiller and Will, 2002). able to attract attention, provoke a highAbove all, manipulating a key symbol such level of recall and/or recognition and initi-as the name of the corporation is about ate positive associations.sending a powerful signal, that something Identity is about behavior as much asabout the corporation has changed (Dowl- appearance (Olins, 1979); hence the reci-ing, 1996; Stuart and Muzellec, 2004). procal influence of attitudes (‘inner iden-More importantly, with the old name tity’ — verbal school of thought) on thebeing discarded, so are its associations. The outward show (‘projected identity’ —new name gives the opportunity to build visual school of thought). Identity (andup new associations. Yet depending on the image) may be crafted by the managementoutlook taken on corporate branding, ie of marketing aesthetics, ie the corporatebrand or identity perspective, the mission name, logo, design, colour, font etc (Mar-proposed for the new name could vary gulies, 1977; Schmitt and Simonson, 1997).significantly. Because the name is only a single, although Page 307
  4. 4. What is in a Name Change? quite visible element of the corporate visual are formed based on historical perfor- identity system, it will not modify a cor- mance, organizational culture and employ- poration’s appearance on its own (Margu- ees’ attitudes, rather than generated by a lies, 1977; Melewar and Saunders, 2000). new name (Hatch and Schultz, 1997; This suggests that a ‘name’ is less essential Stuart, 1999; Ind, 2003). This suggests that to the constitution of associations in a cor- a traditional corporate name, be it the porate identity context than in a brand name of the founder (Ford, Michelin etc) context. A new name along with a new or the name of the place where the com- visual identity can nevertheless help to pany was first set up (eg Evian, Raleigh), create new associations as was done success- reflects the corporation’s history and iden- fully, for example, with Lucent Technolo- tity better than a new name will ever be gies, a spin-off of AT&T (Schmitt and able to do. The characteristics of both Simonson, 1997). brand names and corporate names are sum- Due to the importance of the behavioral marized in Table 1. element of identity, the name is sometimes So far, corporate names have been stu- seen as a trap that may catch the unwary died through their length, their descriptive (Dowling, 1996; Balmer, 2001). Badly associations and their linguistic features handled, a change of name might just (Kohli and Hemnes, 1995; Delattre, 2002). widen the misalignment of the communi- Conclusions in both studies were identical: cated identity with the actual one (Balmer new names were generally shorter, product and Greyser, 2002; de Chernatony, 2002). and geographic associations were dropped, The two schools of thought on identity are and many coined words were created. therefore wary about the importance and Organizational behaviorists Glynn and management of corporate names. The Abzug (2002) reviewed historical naming visual or appearance school considers the patterns and found that corporate names name as one single variable among many are influenced by a web of institutionalized other elements of the corporate visual iden- practices. That is, organizations follow the tity system (Melewar and Saunders, 2000). practices of other institutions from similar The verbal or behavioral school of thought industries when it comes to adopting a suggests that feelings towards a corporation new name. Table 1: Differences Between Brand Names and Corporate Names Brand name Corporate name School of thought Branding Corporate identity Importance in communication Central Secondary mix Primary audience Customers Employees, customers, financial community Level of distinctiveness High: Capacity to attract Low: Capacity to be accepted attention by a wide audience. Must not shock Semantics Induce positive feelings in the Reflect ‘inner’ identity or marketplace culture Management Actively managed Inherited (unmanaged)Page 308
  5. 5. MuzellecCorporate Brand Naming Challenges bundle together a collective sense of pur-Corporate branding goes further than the pose, while encompassing the unique com-traditional branding and the identity per- bination of history, leadership, strategiesspectives. First, it surpasses product brand- and values, and being accepted by theing by ignoring product features and varied stakeholders. The difficulty of meet-focusing on the underlying values and ing all these objectives simultaneously isvision of the corporation (Hatch and self-evident and demonstrates the complexSchultz, 2003; Urde, 2003). Secondly, cor- challenge involved in corporate re-brand-porate branding goes beyond corporate ing.identity by fusing the internal and externaldimensions of corporations (Balmer and Corporate Brand Name TaxonomyGreyser, 2003). The branding of the cor- Brand consultancies usually employ taxo-poration has several implications therefore nomies of some kind to discuss alternativefor newly created corporate (brand) names names. Common among those taxonomiesthat must deal with a series of dichotomies are labels such as descriptive, suggestive orand challenges. associative, and arbitrary or freestanding The first challenge pertains to the time- names. Interbrand (2005), for instance,frame. The corporate brand name must refers to descriptive, associative and free-take into consideration the heritage of the standing names. A descriptive namecorporation but should also set a direction describes the product or service for whichfor the future, and maybe create a sense of it is intended, eg Rent-A-Car. Associativenew departure, particularly following a (or suggestive) names evoke associationsreputation crisis or a merger. Related to implicitly or explicitly with product fea-this initial problem is the issue of the tures (for instance, Jaguar brings associa-degree of change a name can support. tions with elegance and aggressiveness) or,Should continuity with the old name be in the case of corporate brands, with a setfavored or, on the contrary, should a of corporate values. Freestanding (or arbi-totally new name be created signifying a trary) names have no link with the productclear break from the past? or service that they refer to but might have The second challenge concerns the target meaning of their own, eg Orange or Pen-audience; a new name must be noticed by guin. In some cases, such names have noexternal stakeholders but must not alienate intrinsic meaning at all, eg Kodak orthe internal audience. Likewise, the values Xsara, in which case they may be calledinduced by the new name should reflect abstract. Turley and Moore (1995) havethe actual identity of the corporation but added two more categories of brand namesalso appeal to the marketplace. As a result, in their study of service brands, ie person-a corporate brand name has to be assigned based brands (patronymic name) and geo-the mission to inspire and to carry the set graphic names. In the case of corporateof values that define the corporation. brands, acronymic names historically con- This leads to a related and final dichot- stitute another important category as theomy; the choice between a corporate name success of IBM, GE or BP demonstrates.that evokes attributes that are industry-spe- Collins (1977) examined the relationshipscific or one that induces universal values. If between sound and sense. He set up twothe distinguishing core attributes for corpo- opposing theories known as the ‘Julietrate brands are cohesion, uniqueness, principle’ and the ‘Joyce principle’. Theintangibility, complexity and responsibility ‘Juliet principle’ draws from the answer to(Ind, 1998), a new corporate name must Shakespeare’s illustrious question: ‘What’s Page 309
  6. 6. What is in a Name Change? in a name? — That which we call a rose, constructed corporate brands. by any other name would not smell as sweet’. The principle states that the mean- METHODOLOGY ing of a name is not determined by its A sample of 166 companies was chosen for verbal form but by the associations that the exploratory research. Using the search arise over time. The ‘Joyce principle’ states engine Power Search on the Financial that the phonetics of a word symbolize its Times website (, one can meaning. It is derived from James Joyce’s retrieve articles on companies having chan- creation of hundreds of new words that ged their name. A search on ‘name sound to the reader somewhat like what he changes’ from January 1, 2001 to January meant them to denote. Accordingly, cor- 31, 2003 (a 25-month period) returned 314 porate names might be classified along a articles. Due to redundancies of articles spectrum from totally descriptive to totally and/or companies, this number was freestanding, as shown in Table 2. reduced to 116 when it came to identifying This review of the literature compares companies. Another 50 examples of re- the differences between the characteristics branded companies were found via other of brand names as informed by branding secondary sources (newspapers, websites, theory and the properties of corporate advertisements) and were added to reach a names as implied by the corporate identity critical sample size. Old and new names literature. This reveals a series of challenges were classified according to their name for corporate brand naming which has type (descriptive, geographic, patronymic, been analysed by reviewing a database of acronym, associative, freestanding). The 166 re-named companies. Two main first four categories were easily assigned aspects of name change were under consid- but distinguishing between associative and eration. The type and level of name change freestanding names proved to be a more provide indications as to whether the heri- difficult exercise. Names were classified as tage of the corporation is taken into con- associative when an etymological study sideration in the new name. The meaning provided some meaning and/or a plausible and connotations evoked by new corporate name explanation was found on the com- names, particularly those derived from pany’s website; otherwise, names were Latin, were also considered to determine classified as freestanding. To reduce biased whether new names are shaped to appeal interpretation, two independent readers to the marketplace or to the internal audi- reviewed the categorization afterwards ence; and whether they strongly differenti- and pointed out potential disagreements. ate the company or are embodied in an Consequently, 15 names were reclassified. industry-specific isomorphism. More This approach allowed further investiga- importantly, the etymology of new corpo- tion and categorization of the associative rate names can reveal the essence of newly names. Table 2: Types of Corporate Brand Names From the most ? ? ? ? to the most descriptive abstract Descriptive Geographic Patronymic Acronymic Associative Freestanding names names names names names namesPage 310
  7. 7. Muzellec Replicating Delattre’s methodology the theme brought out by new corporate(2002), the changes were also divided into brand names.two levels: Level 1 comprises names thatdisplay permanence or continuity. Perma- RESULTSnence is reflected in a change of spelling(eg from to Ebookers). Review of the DatabaseContinuity in the naming patterns refers toa combinative change in which the system Type of name and type of changeis relatively unchanged; this includes sim- The review of the database revealed thatplification, name lengthening, initialization, previous names were predominantlyor a combinative modification (eg from descriptive (31.8 per cent) or person-basedMorgan Stanley Dean Witter to Morgan (24 per cent). Acronymic (14 per cent) andStanley or from S.J. Berwin & Co to geographic names (6.9 per cent) also featureS.J.B.). Level 2 refers to names that have quite strongly among the old names. Free-been created from scratch and which have standing and associative names represent 15no commonalities with the previous name per cent and 8 per cent, respectively, of the(eg from Andersen Consulting to Accent- old names. By contrast, the new names tendure). to be more abstract. More than 60 per cent Since several business articles have of them are either freestanding (32.5 persuggested that numerous companies adopt cent) or associative (32.5 per cent). Descrip-Latin-coined words when they change tive names account for only 18 per cent andtheir names (Dickson, 2002; Kella geographic names are down to 1.2 per cent.way, 2002; Lamont, 2003), a category The data support the supposition thatincluding Latin or Latin-based names was corporations are moving along the spec-created. trum from highly descriptive names to Finally a semantic analysis of associative highly conceptual names as demonstratednames was carried out in order to reveal by the graph in Figure 1.Table 3: Name Types Old name New nameName type Frequency (%) Frequency (%)Acronym 24 13.87 13 7.83Associative 14 8.09 54 32.53Descriptive 55 31.79 30 18.07Freestanding 26 15.03 54 32.53Geographic 12 6.93 2 1.20Person-based 42 24.28 13 7.83Total 173* 100.00 166 100.00*The total number of old names is greater than the total of the re-branded companies because inthe case of a merger and when the two previous names belong to a different name category; thenames of both companies have been included. Page 311
  8. 8. What is in a Name Change? Figure 1: Evolution of corporate names 35 30 25 20 Old name 15 New name 10 5 0 As nym e so tive ng d Ac ic iv se h di at ap ip ba ro an ci cr gr n- so st es eo ee D G r Fr Pe Level of name change origin. Table 3 combines Latin or Greek In total, 31 name changes (18.7 per cent) names, names derived from Latin and displaying permanence or continuity were names attributed to Latin. classified as Level 1. A total of 135 new corporate names (81.3 per cent) showed no Etymological analysis of newly created similarities with the previous name (Level associative names 2 change). The meaning of the associative names is now investigated. Corporate websites were Latin and Greek connotations visited in search of an explanation for the A total of 34 per cent (47 names) of the choice of a new name. Only 33 companies names that had changed dramatically actually provided any explanation of their (Level 2) did so to become Latin or Greek new name on their website. For 21 cor- in sound or in derivation. It is difficult to porations, the name meaning was revealed define what makes a word sound Latin. through an etymological approach particu- The ‘Latinity’ of a name is often suggested larly in the case of Latin and Greek names. through its ending, for instance ‘a’, ‘i’, ‘is’, Table 5 provides some examples of the ‘ys’ and ‘us’ are Latin or imply a Latin explanations supplied by the companies Table 4: Latin and Greek Coined Names End with the letter ‘a’ Altria, Aga, Areva, Avaya, Aviva, Capitalia, Centrica, Consignia, Dexia, Encana, Glambia, Izodia, Kelda, Olimpia, Permira, Ramada, Sonera, Syngenta, Zeneca, Xansa End with ‘i’, ‘is’ and ‘ys’ Acambis, Acordis, Altadis, Aventis, Elementis, Enodis, Invensys, Marconi, Misys, Novartis, Vernalis, Vivendi End with ‘us’ Chorus, Corus, Lorus, Mobius, Thus, Rubus Other Accenture, Agilent, Agere, Diageo, Lumen, Lucent, Thales, Visteon, VerizonPage 312
  9. 9. MuzellecTable 5: Meaning and Wishful Meaning of Brand NameName Meaning Source*Accenture ‘Today we are re-named, redefined and reborn. The Accenture name connotes putting an ‘accent on the future’Agilent Derived from the word ‘agile’, which means nimble and Etymology well-coordinatedAltria ‘The name ‘‘Altria’’ derives from the Latin word ‘‘altus’’, meaning high. It connotes an enterprise that aims for peak performance and constant improvement’Aventis From avere (avens, aventis), which means ‘desiring intensely’ or willing, with pleasure; eager etymologyAviva ‘The Aviva name tested positively in consumer research around the world, bringing with it associations of life, vitality and living well’BearingPoint ‘Set direction, gain access to the right information, transfer knowledge, and achieve results for their long-term success’Centrica ‘The name Centrica was selected because of its ease of use internationally. In many languages the word Centrica is meaningless and therefore cannot conflict with overseas language translations’{Diageo ‘The word Diageo comes from the Latin word for ‘‘day’’ and the Greek word for ‘‘world’’ or ‘‘every day, everywhere’’Enodis Derived from Latin and means ‘solutions’ EtymologyExelon ‘Exelon stands for experience and excellence, and that’s what the new company will be all about’Kforce ‘In 1999, the company changed its name to Kforce, an abbreviation for Knowledgeforce, with the ‘‘K’’ representing knowledge, (. . .) and the ‘‘force’’ signifies the knowledgeable team of people with a clear focus and commitment to the goal’Lucent Marked by ‘clarity’ or ‘glowing with light’ www.lucent.comNovartis Novartis comes from the Latin term novae artes, which means ‘new arts’ or ‘new skills’Permira Permira, a Latin word meaning ‘very surprising, very different’Thales Name of ancient Greek mathematician EtymologyVerizon Derived from the combination of ‘veritas’, which means Etymology truth in Latin, and ‘horizon’Vernalis Pertaining to spring; used to describe plants for Etymology instance Adonis VernalisVisteon ‘Coined from the words visionary and eon, Visteon is of Latin derivation and therefore recognisable in many languages’Vivendi Latin gerundive, means ‘vivacity’ and ‘mobility’ EtymologyXansa ‘The name is easy to say and read in all major market places and has clear phonetic links with ‘‘answer’’. The other inspiration has been the Sanskrit word ‘‘sanskar’’, which, among many meanings, also refers to culture and values which are internalized from past experience and determine future action’*Websites were accessed between January 2003 and October 2003. {Although the name is clearlyderived from ‘centre’, it was classified as freestanding due to this explanation. Page 313
  10. 10. What is in a Name Change? themselves or found through an etymolo- combining synonymous and similar terms. gical approach. For instance, agreement is synonymous Some key ideas emerged as central to the with union and accord; high is synon- meaning of those new names. In order to ymous with superior, which is synon- explore those ideas, a list of derived mean- ymous with excellent and advanced, which ings was established through an etymologi- is similar to innovative, which is similar to cal study of the corporate names, ie either new. Ambition is related to dream, vision based on the proposed ‘etymology’ pro- and will, which then connects with force vided on the corporation’s website or based and strength. Experience is synonymous on the researcher’s own use of French, with knowledge and skill, which is also English and Latin dictionaries. The initial similar to competence. Thanks to this tech- investigation provided a list of 37 key- nique, a map of derived values was con- words reflecting the ideas, concepts or structed, as shown in Figure 2. values induced by the 54 associative brand Five clusters of values were then identi- names, shown below in Table 6. fied: unity, life, performance, competence The second step involved clustering and vision. In order to visualize how these keywords into general themes by organizational names fit back into this map Table 6: Keywords Implied by New Corporate Names accord being energy high lively strength advanced central excellence important new superior agile competence experience innovative oxygen unique agreement direction force intelligence skill unity ambition dream future knowledge solution vision answer drive guidance light spring vivacity will Figure 2: The values underlying corporate namesPage 314
  11. 11. MuzellecFigure 3: Corporate names and corporate valuesof values, they were placed back in a simi- of Nomen, a leading naming agency, cred-lar framework (Figure 3). Fourteen associa- ited with the creation of famous new cor-tive or suggestive names were excluded porate names such as Wanadoo, Vivendifrom this map because they did not suggest and Thales. The following section inte-values or ideas but were associated with grates their reactions.their respective industry (eg Capitalia, The literature review indicated that ifOmnicom, Sonera, Liberty Media) and/or corporate brand naming was to go beyondtheir country of origin (eg Swiss, Eircom). corporate identity and traditional branding, Essentially, corporations were moving it would need to overcome a series ofalong the spectrum from highly descriptive dilemmas. The following summarizes thenames to more conceptual names. Among researcher’s analysis and indicates how cor-those, associative names display a great porations elude the corporate naming pre-level of similarity both in sound (use of dicament.Latin terminology) and in symbolism (clus-ter of five ‘common’ values). A New Corporate Name for Tomorrow’s Corporate BrandDISCUSSIONS AND INTERPRETATIONS: The types of corporate new names suggestWHAT IS IN A CORPORATE BRAND that corporations are geared towards theNAME? future, disregarding their roots by drop-In order to confront corporate brand name ping the name of the founder of the com-inventors with these initial findings and to pany, the place where it was first set upgenerate discussion, two brand naming and the sector of industry from which itspecialists were consulted. Olivier Auroy is emerged. The evolution from industrythe European brand name specialist at association to non-figurative associationLandor Associates, an internationally reflects the ambition of companies to putrecognized branding and design consul- forward values rather than relying on his-tancy. Marcel Botton, CEO and founder torical attributes. Page 315
  12. 12. What is in a Name Change? In addition, according to brand specia- A New Corporate Name to Resonate lists, naming decisions are often made by with all Corporate Brand Audiences top management. As a result, there is an The process used to select the best name for emphasis on vision and future; indeed a corporation may also explain some simi- many corporations such as Visteon, Veri- larities between the new corporate names. zon, Accenture and BearingPoint have Names are not selected based on their sal- adopted names that suggest the idea of ience but on their capacity to be accepted vision. If corporate brand management is a by a wide audience (Kohli and Labahn, dynamic process that involves continuous 1997). As a result, a dull name might be adjustments between vision, culture and more acceptable than an eccentric one. peoples’ images (Hatch and Schultz 2003), preferring one element at the expense of ‘The name that is selected in the end — the other might become problematic. which is not always the one that we recommended — is the result of a compro- A New Corporate Name for a Global mise reached in a corporate committee. Corporate Brand Everybody has an idea about what consti- The large number of names that sound alike tutes a good name; eventually, it ends up (Accambis, Altadis, Altria, Aventis, Aviva, with what I would call an ‘‘idiominys’’3 etc.) suggests that names were selected on (An ‘‘ignominious’’ Latin-coined word their ability to be widely accepted by the for ‘‘idiot’’, ‘‘idiom’’ and ‘‘mini’’). The lowest common denominator in the mar- least audacious option wins!’. (Auray, ketplace. As explained by brand naming personal interview, 06/02/2004). specialists, Latin is the common denomina- tor of all European languages, including A New Corporate Name to Conform with English, which is increasingly used as the Prevalent Practices international business language: The natural apprehension towards novelty and the common inclination to repeat what ‘Ok, so you think that all those names seems to have worked elsewhere constitutes sound Latin because of the suffix ‘‘is’’; so a related explanation. Corporations con- let’s take Altadis, (the Hispano-French form to prevalent practices in their industry tobacco company) for example, and the and create names that follow institutiona- core word ‘‘Altad’’: Altade, with a lized models that suggest category member- voiceless ‘‘e’’, it’s necessarily French; ship (Glynn and Abzug, 2002). Just like ‘oo’ otherwise it’s Italian, Altadou, it’s also became the distinctive feature of internet French. Altada, Altadi, Altado, it’s Italian. brand names (Yahoo, Google, Kelkoo, Altadas, Altada, it’s Spanish. Altadu, it’s Wanadoo etc), Latin-coined names may be Romanian. Altady, Altadey it’s English. becoming the common feature of newly Altader, Altaden, it’s German. Altadis, it’s created corporate brands. Since ‘Lucent, more international . . . However, for the Thales, Vivendi’ have arguably reached record, Altadis, it’s Alliance, Tabac and high levels of awareness, it was believed that Distribution.’ (Bottom, personal followers like ‘Aventis, Aviva and Elemen- interview, 06/02/2004). tis’ would reach the same level of visibility with similar names. The similarities in sound are due to a belief that an international corporation must A New Corporate Name to Induce not bear a name denoting its country of Universal Corporate Brand Values origin. To initiate positive associations, brandPage 316
  13. 13. Muzellecnames suggesting key values are being poration (Ind, 1998; Einwiller and Will,chosen. The semantic analysis revealed five 2002). The collection of perceptions thatsummary values that occur frequently: per- defines a brand can be intrinsically influ-formance, competence, unity, vision and enced by the semantics of the name (Klink,liveliness. The extent to which a name 2001). Three options are available to man-actually succeeds in inducing positive agers when it comes to choosing the nameassociations is beyond the scope of the pre- of the corporate brand.sent research. A review of articles on the The first option is to keep the currentre-naming of CGNU (Aviva), Scottish name of the corporation. Just like mostPower (Thus) and KPMG Consulting brands were product names before they(BearingPoint), however, can certainly became brands, corporate names can behelp managers to identify the potential pit- transformed into corporate brands withoutfalls of tampering with established names, being modified or with little least in terms of public relations (Brier- For instance, the name Banco Bilbao Viz-ley, 2002; Dickson, 2002; Kellaway, 2002). caya Argentaria (BBVA) went from being Additionally, the fact that the underly- a ‘simple instrument of recognition’ toing meaning of newly created corporate being assimilated to an explicit brandnames can be narrowed down to five prin- experience (Alloza et al., 2004).ciples suggests convergence rather than dif- The second option is to use the Joyceferentiation. Surely, most companies want principle to define the organization. Theto perform well, to be coherent and to dis- role of influencing stakeholders’ percep-play some level of competency in their tions could very well be assumed byrespective fields. They most likely want to descriptive and suggestive corporate brandbe seen as lively as well. Indeed, a survey names. A descriptive or suggestive nameconducted by the American Management can infer what the corporation does (indus-Association (2002) revealed that profitabil- try-related attributes) or what it stands fority, innovation and ‘have fun’ were among (business values/culture attributes).the most cited values. Aviva for example is Descriptive names displayed in the FTassociated with ‘vitality and living well’, database often described the organizations’but can Aviva ‘own’ — to paraphrase Ries activity, for example, Ebookers, ITV Digi-and Trout (2001) — the terms ‘vitality and tal, EasyInternetCafe and Nationwideliving well’? It is difficult to understand Accident Repair Services, but neverwhat constitutes the distinguishing features depicted a feature of the corporation, ieof such companies. All those names seem there was no corporation with a name suchto be interchangeable. Could Altria be a as Greatcorp, SuperServ, or Fast& firm company, Aviva a food Descriptive names are diminishing inand tobacco holding and BearingPoint an popularity, essentially because they offerinsurance group — probably. the lowest level of protection in terms of trade mark (Davies, 2002). A suggestiveMANAGERIAL IMPLICATIONS: name such as Capitalia (ex-Banca diCREATING A NAME TO CAPTURE THE Roma) may also succeed in representingCORPORATE BRAND ESSENCE the corporation’s sector of activity.Developing a corporate brand is about Expressing what the company ‘standsdefining the organization in a way that is for’ is done through the use of associativeunique and distinctive. The goal of corpo- brand names that refer to the company’srate branding is indeed primarily to create way of doing business or, in other words,a favorable image and differentiate the cor- its business culture. Corporate brands can Page 317
  14. 14. What is in a Name Change? be defined as internal meanings formed existing words that are easily remembered within the organizational culture (Berg- but applied in a new context. For example, strom et al., 2002; de Chernatony, 2002). a colour or a fruit like Orange is applied to According to the ‘Joyce principle’, names the context of a telecommunications com- can carry intrinsically positive values that pany. This strategy presents some advan- provide the basis for a corporate communi- tages. Starting from a clean sheet might cation programme which will reinforce give corporations the opportunity to build initial beneficial associations. The name an ad hoc identity and create differentiation. Altria, which suggests ‘an enterprise that If identity is an abstract concept (Czar- aims for peak performance and constant niawska, 2000), then a name should be able improvement’4 is typical of this category. to carry the fashionable values that domi- When the corporate brand is supposed to nate at a certain time and place, ie a green resonate to a wide audience, it becomes company or a fun company. more difficult to find values that appeal to An ‘empty vessel’ name, free of intrinsic all kinds of stakeholders. It is interesting to associations, combined with thematic cor- note that many names suggesting perfor- porate branding campaigns allows some mance such as Altria, Altadis or Excellon variability in the positioning of the cor- are being promoted mainly to investors. poration. For instance, today ‘Orange, an These corporate brands do not deal directly innovative company’; tomorrow, ‘Orange, with consumers; they either hide behind a reliable partner’. The only thing Orange their brand portfolio or are solely engaged might find difficult to claim is ‘Orange, a in BtoB relationships. Corporate brands green enterprise’! Unfortunately, since suggesting the idea of life such as Aviva, ‘empty vessel’ names are meaningless, they O2 or Vivendi are more exposed to consu- do not necessarily provide the company mers and are being communicated through with a credible story to tell. The conse- mass media. For many corporate brands, quences in terms of acceptance levels can however, it seems difficult to determine be dramatic, particularly among staff. who is their primary audience. As seen ear- ‘Monday’, the briefly adopted name of lier, the cornelian choice between differen- PWC Consulting, is a freestanding name. tiation and acceptance among a variety of A public relations exercise was supposed to stakeholders has led many corporations to explain that Monday stood for ‘fresh think- articulate universal values in a universal ing, doughnuts and hot coffee’. Employees manner. Applying the Joyce principle and other stakeholders, however, started to might sometimes be too constraining associate ‘Monday’ with less favorable because it forces corporations to induce although quite amusing images: associations within a restrictive framework. Initiating favorable associations, how- ‘The word on the street is that the PWC ever, is only one of the two main goals of board called their creatives last Friday, corporate brand naming. An equally cru- ‘‘Have you come up with a name yet?’’, cial aspect of corporate branding is to dif- they asked, ‘‘Probably Monday’’, said ferentiate the corporation in a crowded their contact’ marketplace. This might be better per- formed with names based on the ‘Juliet or principle’. This third option does not necessarily mean employing newly created, ‘A quick straw poll in the office reveals abstract, meaningless words such as Kelda that most peoples’ opinion is not ‘‘a fresh or Zeneca. It may also include the use of start, a positive attitude’’, but ‘‘I hatePage 318
  15. 15. MuzellecTable 7: Corporate Brand Naming Options Same name Names based on the Names based on the ‘Juliet ‘Joyce principle’ principle’Main Focus on Focus on values such as: Ability to focus on anythingcharacteristics heritage Life Vision Performance Unity CompetenceDisadvantages Stuck with Limited range of values that No story to tell. May past negative may not equally appeal to all alienate internal stakeholders associations stakeholdersAdvantages Acceptance, Induce positive attributes Allow for greater variability recognition, in positioning equity Monday’’. But that fits with their opinion sistent with previous studies regarding cor- of management consultants too’.5 porate name changes. The contribution resides essentially in the analysis of theThe managerial implications are summar- meaning of associative names. It revealsized in the simplified template in Table 7. that the values promoted by new corpo- The template provides managers with a rate brands revolve around the key notionsframework, which informs them of the of liveliness, competence, performance,advantages and disadvantages of each unity and vision. By inducing the samenaming option. If the corporation can be types of values through the same mediumdefined by something genuinely distinctive, (the use of Latin-coined names), however,it might be worth looking for a descriptive newly created corporate brands fail toor suggestive name that captures the create differentiation. The use of associativeuniqueness of the organization. Unfortu- names could well be too restrictive bynately, this study reveals that newly created nature. Corporations might be better offbrand names often capture only the general choosing less sophisticated names whoseaspirations of any corporation, eg compe- associations can be shaped by a proficienttence and performance. If managers want branding programme. A factor that shouldtheir brand to achieve differentiation, they influence naming decisions is who is goingshould avoid those five corporate brand to be the primary audience of the newlycliches. ´ created corporate brand. As the anecdotal evidence suggests that either associative orCONCLUSION freestanding names can be successful, how-As companies are becoming increasingly ever, this paper does not conclude thataware of the importance of corporate some name types are more suitable thanreputation, they are managing their corpo- others. Evaluating what makes a corporaterate names more actively and treating brand name successful could offer a direc-them as corporate brands rather than tion for further research, unless one acceptsmerely as trade names. This study is con- the proposition that thriving brand names Page 319
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