Tony SpaethIdentity6 Kirby Lane NorthRye, NY 10580914 967 6018www.identityworks.com“The Name Game” is Tony Spaeth’s twelfth annual reporton noteworthy corporate identity programs. We celebratecorporate leaders, and honor excellence. Sadly, we mustsometimes note their absence.Reprinted with permission ofACROSS THE BOARDThe Conference Board magazineMarch / April 20022001
M A R C H / A P R I L 2 0 0 2 A C R O S S T H E B O A R DThe Name Game. . . is getting harder to play because somany“good names”are unavailable.So what’s a corporate-identity specialist to do?Think initials?By and large, corporate identities change when leaders are confident. Since they are more confi-dent when prospects are upbeat (and this becomes a self-fulfilling proposition), identity changeis a pretty good economic forecaster. Beginning in January 2001, the forecast was recession. Itwas as if someone turned a switch to “off.” Leaders had decided this was no time to undertakesignificant change (and that was before Sept. 11, when more than one previously plannedchange announcement was put on hold).So this year, in the search for new identities that were exemplary as acts of leadership—cre-atively excellent as well as strategically sound—the pickings were slim. If there was a clearlyidentifiable trend at all, it was initials: They’re inexpensive and less scary than entirely newnames, and sometimes they’re even strategically sound.Joe W. Forehand, managing partner andCEO of Andersen Consulting, had nochoice. In August 2000, the arbitrator resolv-ing the firm’s bitter splitfrom Arthur Andersendetermined that“Andersen” muststay with the“Arthur” people.Forehand & Co.then knew theymust distancethemselves froman Andersen rep-utation they wouldno longer control, abit of wisdom dramaticallyaffirmed by Andersen’s later Enron troubles.It took just 80 days to generate, clear,and announce “Accenture,” which took effecton the first day of 2001.Accenture—“accent on the future”—wascoined by Kim Petersen, an Oslo-basedemployee. It was one of 2,677 name ideasthat Accenture’s 40,000 business consultantsadded to the thousands of ideas the brandingconsultants Landor Associates came up with.A whopping 550 names were searched forglobal availability, 48 “possibles” were morerigorously screened, and a subcommitteeof the executive committee narrowed thechoices to 10 survivors, then four, then one.In scale if not speed, that’s the kind ofeffort that naming requires in today’s world,in which (to quote Accenture) the 20-oddmillion registered domain names includeeasily 98 percent of the words in theaverage English dictionary. Because oftheir distinctiveness, good new namesare sometimes easier to make fun of
M A R C H / A P R I L 2 0 0 2 A C R O S S T H E B O A R D(one so-called expert said Accenture“sounds like a felony, five to 10 withgood behavior”). But they grow more rareevery day, and Accenture is one of the bet-ter ones.Landor’s designers gave Accenture astraightforward wordmark-type logo embel-lished with a simple arrow or “greater than”shape, and no separate symbol that mightcompete for attention with the distinctivename. It’s a clean win for CEO Forehand,expressing his vision to “transcend the bound-aries of traditional consulting and bring inno-vations that dramatically change the way theworld works and lives.”The Jan. 4 launch ad spoke of “A NewMission . . . A New Business Model . . .A New Attitude . . . A New Logo.” It mightalso have said “a new CEO,” because that’swhat it took—in the person of Sanjay Kumar—to shake Computer Associates out ofits longstanding identity depriva-tion. A great brand, or at least agreat logo, had never been apriority for founder CharlesB. Wang.The new Landor-de-signed symbol focuses likea telescope on the “A” in“CA” for no self-evident rea-son, other than to expressfocus itself; as the ad said, “ournew logo tells the world that CA isfocused, focused, focused.” Well, if yousay so.I suspect that company insiders havean exaggerated impression of their equityin “CA,” which for most Americans evokesCalifornia long before it takes us to ComputerAssociates. (The company’s full name appearsunder the logo, just in case.) Yet as a designthe new mark is fresh, intriguing, and memo-rable, and in comparison to the previous non-mark, it effectively signals change for the bet-ter. It’s an illustration of good (if esoteric)design overcoming weak verbal elements (ini-tials and the generic name) to create a moreviable corporate brand.Initials are a defaultstrategy, too, whennames get piled onnames in a merger,like that of GlaxoWellcome withSmithKline Beecham.In creating the name“GlaxoSmithKline,”CEO Jean-Pierre Garnier(a pharmacologist, Fulbright scholarand Stanford MBA) honored the two com-panies’ naming traditions but also madethe communicative name “GSK” prettywell inescapable—only one syllable shorter,but a good deal less cumbersome than thefull name.The design solution, from FutureBrand’sLondon office, struck me at first as a pill(or even a guitar pick), but I’m told GSKthinks of it as a heart. That’s appropriateimagery, given Garnier’s desire to soften andhumanize this corporate giant.The same consulting firm, FutureBrand,initialized the Royal Bank of Canada.In this instance, globalization was the drivingrationale. To survive and grow, Royal Bankmust significantly increase its U.S. presence,expand its Canadian relationships wellbeyond banking, and become a more globalplayer. “We want to be able to use a commonbrand name and logo wherever we operate,”concluded CEO Gord Nixon, who determined“Royal Bank of Canada” to be a netliability, too limiting in Canada,and elsewhere a vestige ofcolonialism and a miscom-munication of purpose.Launched last August,the new parental name,“RBC Financial Group,”is an easy out, with anadded plus: “RBC” canalso be the unifying brandumbrella over all subsidiaries,like RBC Liberty Insurance andRBC Centura, and all units—RBCInsurance, RBC Royal Bank, and even RBCBanque Royal.
M A R C H / A P R I L 2 0 0 2 A C R O S S T H E B O A R DUnfortunately, the great “Leo,” a classicof modern identity design (introduced in1901, modernized in 1962 by Lippincott &Margulies, and revised in 1974), had to becompromised. To mate him to the initials, Leowas put on a blue shield, turned to face right,and stripped of his crown. FutureBrand curledLeo’s mane—which some Royal Bank execu-tives felt was “too aggressive”—and shrunk his“somewhat lewd” tongue.I can’t argue with the strategy—to uniteunder one global brand—and in that regardthe initials will help. Yet I regret the passingof a great brand symbol. I will miss the beauti-fully drawn old Leo, tongue and all, sittingon his pointy shield. And I wonder if, in thelong run, the flight to initials, no matter howpractical they seem (and how familiar to theirowners), is ever a flight to strength. The majorCanadian banks, incidentally, are now CIBC,TD, BMO . . . and RBC.The battle over the name“Morgan”was joined in 1935 whenin the wake of theGlass-Steagall Act, J.P.Morgan & Co. decidedto remain a bank, andspun out the securitieshouse Morgan Stanley.Originally soulmates,through mergers and dereg-ulation the firms areincreasingly head-to-head compet-itors, and their shared Morgan is a growingsource of confusion. Who is the real Morgan?Five years ago, the impossible name“Morgan Stanley Dean Witter Discover &Co.” effected the wish to offend neither merg-er partner. “Discover” fell away in 1998, fol-lowed by the January 2001 announcementthat “Dean Witter” would soon follow; evi-dently chairman and CEO Phillip J. Purcell,who came from the Dean Witter side, knowsa good thing when he sees it. Then lastApril, a new logo design signaled clearly (ifdeniably) Morgan Stanley’s intent to empha-size “Morgan,” rendered in solid black whileStanley faded to gray. Designed by LandorAssociates, the mark incorporates a trianglewhose placement further isolates Stanley—cover Stanley with your hand, and you’ll seea nicely self-contained Morgan logo.Incidentally, the press release unveilingthis logo dwells on this “directional triangle.”“It points toward the northeast, the generaldirection of financial success. As a delta, thetriangle symbolizes change and the inclina-tion to innovate. The three points symbolizethe three groups served by the Firm: clients,shareholders and employees.” No disrespectintended, but this is a lovely example of thepap you get when you ask publicity peopleto “explain” design.Meanwhile, at the other Morgan, nowJ.P. Morgan Chase, there is another lead-er who sees a good thing in the Morganname. Indeed, CEO William B. Harrison Jr.has made a career of name acquisitionand identity change, moving like a hermitcrab from shell to larger shell. HisManufacturers Hanover acquired and soonbecame Chemical, which acquired andbecame Chase Manhattan, which acquired J.P.Morgan and on Dec. 31, 2000, became (forthe moment) J.P. Morgan Chase& Co.I say “for the moment”because much like“Morgan Stanley DeanWitter,” the compositename J.P. MorganChase sacrificescoherence and stability.It is best thought of asnamed and designed (byInterbrand) for the moment,to implement the acquisitionand make sense to investors, ratherthan as a lasting new brand in the market-place. That will come—but not until the lead-ership team develops a clearer understandingof the new brand’s global platform.Meanwhile, it’s interesting to watch howthe market responds to the brand signalswe all see. Because the parent keeps alow profile, and the unit’s identical signature(J.P. Morgan minus the Chase) is more visiblyI wonder if the flight to initials is ever aflight to strength.
M A R C H / A P R I L 2 0 0 2 A C R O S S T H E B O A R Dpromoted, it’s easy for us to confuse the partfor the whole and assume that Chase hasalready gone away . . . as in all likelihoodit will—that is, unless Morgan Stanley effec-tively preempts “Morgan.” Both names areoften already truncated to “Morgan” bythe press, a practice neither firm should tol-erate (in the other) until a court resolvesexclusive ownership—or until they roll it backto 1935 and reunite.When the fundamentals are in place andthe time is right, an identity refreshmentcan lift any corporation to a new level. Havingjust acquired the Coastal Corp. to becomethe world’s largest natural-gas company, ElPaso Energy Corp. refreshed itself in February2001 by shortening its name.Certainly chairman and CEO William A.Wise was enthusiastic about the change, hail-ing it as “an unrivaled platform to sustainEl Paso’s track record of success.The strong, clean lines ofthe logo represent our dis-ciplined approach to cre-ating new businesses andgrowing existing ones.”(The sentiment is admi-rable even if Enron’scollapse ends up takingdown El Paso too.)The “strong, clean lines ofthe logo,” designed by SterlingGroup, include acarat-like arrow evocative of the newAccenture mark (are these things in the air?),but to neither company’s disadvantage—it’s agood, simple device that no one can own out-right.On April 25, 2002, Philip Morris share-holders will vote in favor of the cor-porate name Altria Group, because there’sno good reason to oppose CEO GeoffreyBible’s wishes on this matter. It’s a clearcase of, “Everyone knows who we are, andthey’re wrong.” If there’s an issue, it’s . . .what took so long? Why not change the namein 1986 when General Foods was acquired,or 1989 when Kraft was added to makePhilip Morris the leading U.S. food company?Nabisco, acquired in 2000, added a fewmore percentage points to non-tobacco sales,now 44 percent of the total, yet imageresearch has showed—no surprise—thatpeople can’t get past “Philip Morris, tobaccocompany.”Public image is important, but the imagewithin headquarters is of far greater impor-tance. When Bible says, “Hi, I’m the chairmanof Altria,” he can now be less concernedwith thinking, acting, and reacting as headof a tobacco company. Multiply that by every-one else in the corporate family, and callit leadership.Landor’s New York office created the“Altria” name and the logo, featur-ing a “mosaic” symbol whosedirect inspiration (per thedesigner) was a compart-mented shelf in the PhilipMorris corporate recep-tion area that featurespackages sold by its sev-eral companies. The sym-bol is appropriate and fun,a splash of color that speaksof multiplicity and diversity.The name itself (appropriately,higher in basic Latin) is short and sweet—so short and sweet that it’s already in useby other firms, albeit in dissimilar businesses.(Because we’re running out of names, corpo-rate lawyers are defining business categoriesmore narrowly, sometimes specifically dis-claiming involvement in a category in whichanother owner’s coverage applies, to helppersuade patent examiners that there will beno confusion.)In contrast to Altria’s “mosaic” box, whichrepresents only the corporate holdingcompany, the new Amersham “matrix” boxhelps as well to explain the relationship ofthe parent to its businesses—one of the classicfunctions of an identity symbol.In 1999, U.K.-based Nycomed Amershamsold its stake in Denmark-based NycomedPharma, retaining the Nycomed AmershamImaging unit but not its name, and soonafter, it bought out Pharmacia’s interest inits Amersham Pharmacia Biotech unit. New
M A R C H / A P R I L 2 0 0 2 A C R O S S T H E B O A R Dnames were needed all around.Advised by consultants WolffOlins, CEO Sir WilliamCastell decided early on tofocus on “Amersham” as amaster brand with a familyof units, and set aboutplanning the characterand attributes of the newbrand. The clever nine-dot-matrix symbol is meant toexpress the parent’s role as providerof a framework, within which each currentand future business unit expresses its ownidentity with shape and color.As it happens, this nine-dot matrix isalso famous for the challenge to connectall nine dots with four straight lines, withoutlifting your pencil, whose solution is the der-ivation of “thinking outside the box” and“beyond the nine dots.” Though I’m toldthis was not a factor in Sir William’s thinking,his new symbol is nonetheless a creative actof leadership.My personal vote for Identity of the Year2001 goes to a company smaller thanall of the above: to Simplex Solutions Inc., forits “Slasher” logo (their name, not mine).Credit goes to chairman and CEO PennyHerscher and two San Francisco firms,US Marketing Services for strategic counseland The Ideas Group for design.I first noticed this elegant wordmark in anad announcing the company’s IPO, becauseits visual impact and quality impres-sion stood out from the crowd.The more I learned about thecontent, the more brilliantthe design solution seems.Turns out that Simplex, atester of integrated-circuitchips, was not only aboutto go public but was alsoready to launch cutting-edgetechnology that would reposi-tion it as a designer of faster andbetter chips, not merely an eval-uator. Furthermore, this new technology(called “X Architecture”) would permit perva-sive use of 45-degree routing of the circuitson a chip, shortening their routes and gen-erally speeding things up.Thus, to potential investors, the new logo’sslashes illustrated the key benefit of the prod-uct it was about to launch, which would repo-sition and recharge the company.In this article—as well as my 12 previousfor Across the Board—I have ofteninterchanged the words brand and iden-tity. During the decade, brand seems tohave become the predominant business buzz-word, while identity has faded. Every adver-tising agency and marketing consultant nowvaunts its branding expertise, and evensome corporate-identity firms appear tohave submerged their specialization into the“branding” crowd.In the corporate context, is there a dif-ference between brand and identity? And isit important? I think so, on both counts.But the difference has more to do with whois doing the talking than with what theyare talking about. Brand is about marketing,and those who talk about “the corporatebrand” are probably focusing on the brand’smarketing attributes, and on the company’scustomer audience. Identity is more funda-mentally about defining and shaping theentity behind the brand, and thus has moreto do with managing (or leadership) than withmarketing.Thus people talking about “corporateidentity” are more likely to be thinking aboutthe “Who are we and where are we going?”aspects of corporate planning, and thenalmost incidentally about “How can we bestexpress this to help us get there?” And they areprobably focusing on the company’s leader-ship team and employees first, business part-ners and investors second, and only then onthe customers whom the employees will ulti-mately create.The bottom line: Identity comes beforebranding, because management comes beforemarketing. If you must reposition your cor-poration, before anyone redesigns the brand,make sure—as have El Paso’s Bill Wise andSimplex’s Penny Herscher—that you have firstaddressed the identity questions. ♦In the corporate context, is there a differencebetween brand and identity?