Read D.F.'s bio and previous columns


September 8, 2008

What Could Possibly Go Wrong When the Corporation Changes Its Name?


Oh no. Not the corporate name change. This always makes otherwise merely batty corporations behave in a batty-times-ten sort of way.


Companies change their names for a variety of reasons. A merger or acquisition. A lawsuit. (“You can’t be Weeblewobble Widget! We’re Weeblewobble Widget!” Enter Wubblewibble Widget.) A fold-in. (The dashing new division tanked so we’re folding it in to the old corporate behemoth.) And of course, my favorite, the always-popular re-branding.


Re-brandings sometimes happen for unpredictable reasons. One of your Valu-Jets crashes into a swamp, and Valu-Jet can be no more. You were doing just fine for decades as Dahmer Frozen Foods Inc. until one day you opened up the crime section, and hoo boy. Time for a new name.


But usually, re-brandings occur because companies are struggling and CEOs can’t figure out what else to change. So you go with the new name and logo. Can’t hurt, right?


The market just isn’t getting excited about Jones Paints. So from now on, we’ll be Questran. Image Maker of Tomorrow. What the hell is that supposed to mean? I have no idea. But it sounds more exciting than Jones Paints.


Along with the new name comes a new logo – er, sorry, I mean “primary mark.” This is a silver, unidentifiable swooshy/curvy/edgy futuristic thing that Phil in engineering thinks looks like an aardvark.


You get ready. You unveil the new name and “primary mark.” You launch the new web site. You change the sign out front and on all the windows. You’re Questran! Jones Paints? Never heard of it!




“Boss! The new logo, I mean ‘primary mark’, doesn’t show up when you copy or fax it!”


“Boss! Johnson just used some of the old letterhead to print an invoice! Can we fire him? He’s an idiot anyway!”


Boss!!! Someone just asked me if we raise horses. Do we? Can I work in that division? Please?”


A company meeting is quickly convened. The boss reminds everyone that Questran is now the company identity, and no one is to use the words “Jones” and “Paints” together. Someone volunteers that the Facebook group called Jones Paints Employees has not yet been renamed. The boss asks that an investigation begin immediately.


Someone asks if it’s OK to use old Jones Paints letterhead, of which there are approximately nine million sheets sitting around the office, to cushion breakable items for shipping. The boss says that is fine as long as the Jones Paints logo, er, “primary mark,” is cut off the paper before it is shredded into shipping material. Seventy-five people volunteer to serve on the logo-, er, “primary mark”-removal task force.


The boss wants it known that he means business.


“Jones Paints is yesterday!” he declares. “We have a new brand now! We are Questran! Image Makers of Tomorrow. And no I don’t know what it means! But we are Questran, only Questran and always Questran forever! Is that understood?”


Everyone nods.


Just then, Farley comes back from the mailbox.


“Hey boss, a check for $20,000 just arrived made out to Jones Paints. Do you want me to send it back?”


The boss grabs the check.


“Well, this slavish devotion to branding purity could get a little out of hand,” he acknowledges. “Let’s get back to work, Jonesers, er, I mean, Questers, er . . .”


He goes in his office and slams the door, shattering the glass to which the new name and logo had just been added.


“It doesn’t look like an aardvark now,” says Phil.


The corporate name change. What could possibly go wrong?


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


Click here to talk to our writers and editors about this column and others in our discussion forum.


To e-mail feedback about this column, click here. If you enjoy this writer's work, please contact your local newspapers editors and ask them to carry it.

This is Column # DFK150.  Request permission to publish here.
Op-Ed Writers
Eric Baerren
Lucia de Vernai
Herman Cain
Dan Calabrese
Bob Franken
Lawrence J. Haas
Paul Ibrahim
Rob Kall
David Karki
Gregory D. Lee
David B. Livingstone
Bob Maistros
Rachel Marsden
Rachel Marsden
Nathaniel Shockey
Stephen Silver
Candace Talmadge
Jessica Vozel
Jamie Weinstein
Brett Noel
Feature Writers
Mike Ball
Bob Batz
Cindy Droog
The Laughing Chef
David J. Pollay
Business Writers
D.F. Krause