Itâs clear that corporate name changesâand the marketing communications efforts they demandâare a high-stakes game. Even though the number of name changes in the first six months of this year declined about 30% from the first half 2001, they are still occurring with staggering frequency. From January through June of this year, nearly 1,400 U.S. companies were renamed, according to branding consultancy Enterprise IG Inc.
Corporate name changes have slowed since the economic bubble burst in 2000, observed Robert Kahn, exec VP for Enterprise IG. âWhat [companies] are doing is taking what they have and making it work harder,â he said.
For some companies, though, change is unavoidable. David Redhill, director-global brand strategy for Deloitte Consulting, who is overseeing the companyâs name change and is a former employee of branding consultancy Landor Associates, said he expects corporate name changes to accelerate again soon.
âNew waves of technology and the speed with which they enter the marketplace and things like Enron can color perceptions of a whole industry and the reputations of clients almost overnight,â he said. âThis means that corporations have to be a lot more responsive and open to change.â
Changing a corporate name can be a complicated task. The process requires an exhaustive trademark search, an examination of how a new name will play overseas and decisions about marketing the new moniker.
The Enron effect For economic and regulatory reasons accelerated by the Enron and Arthur Andersen scandals, the Big Five accounting firms have moved to sever ties with their consulting units.
KPMG Consulting was spun off from KPMG Inc. and went public in 2001. The Securities and Exchange Commission required the new entity to change its name by 2005. The company announced on Oct. 2 that it was changing its name to BearingPoint immediately.
The renaming process, which was headed by Linda Rebrovik, BearingPointâs chief marketing officer, took slightly less than a year. As a global company, the firm needed a name that would work overseas.
âYou have to make sure thereâs no Chevy Nova,â said Julie Cottineau, naming director at branding consultancy Interbrand, New York, referring to the infamous branding of a car model, which in Spanish translated as âno go.â
KPMG Consulting had to find a name that fit its brand and was available. âIt literally gets more difficult every day to develop a globally available trademark,â said Anthony Shore, senior director of naming at branding consultancy Landor Associates, San Francisco.
After considering more than 500 names, the former KPMG Consulting chose BearingPoint. The nautical term is intended to reflect how the company helps clients set directions and reach goals. The name change is currently being promoted with TV spots showing professional golfer Phil Mickelson exchanging a KPMG visor for a BearingPoint visor. The spots were created by Arnold Worldwide, Washington, D.C.
The new name has received mixed reviews. âI think itâs O.K.,â said Jim Gregory, CEO of branding consultancy CoreBrand L.L.C., Stamford, Conn. âItâs not horrible. â¦ I understand what theyâre trying to do.â
Others have not been so kind. âItâs the worst bloody thing Iâve ever seen,â said Enterprise IGâs Kahn, who complained that ads for BearingPoint say the company has done more than change its name but then donât back up that statement.
Itâs important to note, however, that many observers criticized Accenture when it first appeared. âNow, itâs pointed to as a poster child for doing it right,â Gregory said.
Unlike BearingPoint, which launched its new name with a big bang on a single day, Deloitte Consulting has chosen an unusual, staggered process to launch Braxton. Even though the company wonât formally change its name until January, it announced the new name in July. âWe wanted to avoid leaks,â Redhill said.
Braxton was a name to which Deloitte already had the trademark rights, since it had acquired Braxton Associates in 1984. For Redhill, the use of a name the company already owned is important, because it reinforces a core principle of the companyâs brand: âPragmatism,â he said.
The official Braxton kickoff in January will include TV advertising created by DDB Worldwide, San Francisco.
Consulting firms not alone Consulting firms arenât the only companies engaging in corporate name changes.
ITWorld.com, an International Data Group company that runs a Web site for IT professionals and offers Webcasts for marketers, is changing its name to Accela Communications.
ITWorld, which was created in 1999, had outgrown its name, said Bill Reinstein, the companyâs CEO. The problem: the Webcast platform proved so attractive that non-information technology companies wanted to use it. âYouâd be meeting with big publishers outside the IT space, youâd take out your business card, and youâd cringe a little bit,â Reinstein said.
So Jennifer Devine, the companyâs marketing communications manager, went to work. The company considered lots of names, including ForeCast and Brandwidth, before arriving at Accela Communications, which is meant to emphasize the companyâs desire to accelerate lead-generation for its customers. The process, including a trademark search and development of a new logo, was completed in about 90 days and cost about $20,000, Devine said. That figure includes new logo treatments and communications (e-mail blasts and public relations), but doesnât include costs for staff time.
Outgrowing a corporate name It often takes time to see how a name change has performed. Universal Foods Corp., Milwaukee, also believed it had outgrown its name. Through acquisitions and growth, it had morphed from a food ingredient manufacturer to a company that also made computer printer ink and ingredients for pharmaceuticals. But because Wall Street was still assigning food industry analysts to follow the company, Universal Foods didnât believe its share price was receiving its full valuation.
So it hired CoreBrand to find a new name. Noting that the company developed ingredients that helped foods and other products taste, smell and look better, CoreBrand suggested the name Sensient Technologies. The word Sensient, which was available for trademark and as a URL, seemed to underscore the idea that the companyâs ingredients made products more palatable to the senses.
The new name was announced in November 2000. Two days after the announcement, the companyâs adjusted share price stood at $20.69. On Nov. 5 of this year, the shares closed at $24.65, a 19% boost in a bear market.