CORPORATE BRANDING: Expert Opinion - A corporate brand with a story helps

Al Reis argues that the media is the voice of consumers and a new brand must have a story in order to win them over to the change

The corporate fad of the moment is the coined corporate name. Accenture, Agilent, Altria, Ameren, Aquila, Avaya and Aventis to name some recent examples. All are meaningless words that are difficult to spell and difficult to pronounce.

They do have one advantage. Lawyers love them. Coined names are a lot easier to register as tradenames. Not surprisingly, people hate them.

Take Accenture. I have yet to hear someone who doesn't work for the company express a positive reaction to the Accenture name: it sounds like 'Accident-sure'.

Accenture, Agilent, Altria, Ameren, Aquila, Avaya and Aventis are not small companies either. Last year they had $164.7bn in revenues.

Don't blame the media for the negative reaction to names like these.

The media are the collective voices of consumers. If the media are negative, you can be pretty sure that consumers are, too.

When a corporate name change is unavoidable, pick up a dictionary and try to find a word that already has some meaning. Keep in mind, too, that advertising is an expensive and inefficient way to establish a new name. PR is a much better choice.

But PR needs a story if it is going to accomplish its job. Where is the story value in 'Accent on the future,' the contraction of which became Andersen Consulting's new name? Finding a name with story value usually means finding an issue which differentiates a company from its competitors.

That's actually easy to do for Andersen Consulting. Unlike its competitors, the company recruits the bulk of its employees directly from college and trains them in the 'Andersen way' at a facility in St. Charles, Illinois. What name would exploit this differentiating idea?

"St. Charles Consulting" is the obvious answer. When a reporter asks, why did you call the company St. Charles Consulting? the answer positions the new firm.

Don't misunderstand. With a less-than-ideal name, the sheer size and weight of a company like Accenture will make it successful. Our concern is with the smaller firm that blindly follows the coined-name path.

Don't say you weren't warned.

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