Read D.F.'s bio and previous columns
September 8, 2008
What Could Possibly Go
Wrong When the Corporation Changes Its Name?
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
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
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!”
Someone just asked me if we raise horses. Do we? Can I work in that
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?”
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 . . .”
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.
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