A rose would still smell as sweet…

With Guinness and Grand Metropolitan’s rebranding to Diageo, Tom Bawden looks at the creative world of corporate naming.

With the strengthening of the economy, businesses are growing in confidence and are more prepared to take risks. So says

Bamber Forsyth director Clare Fuller, who recently took a calculated risk when she gave transport operator Cowie Group a brand new name – Arriva.

“The original company had changed quite a bit and old perceptions can be hard to change. A completely new name is quite a good way to help people view the client afresh,” says Fuller.

Meanwhile Guinness and Grand Metropolitan’s decision to call the new company Diageo could be seen as a potentially risky move. The name has been ridiculed in some quarters, with references to Italian footballers and Terence Conran restaurants coming thick and fast.

“On the face of it the business logic for the name isn’t strong, but emotionally it conveys the right feeling. All the groups in the new company share a dedication to fun and we have tried to capture that in the name,” says Wolff Olins consultant Jonathan Knowles who worked on the name.

With mergers and acquisitions on the up and many other clients diversifying, there is much naming work to be done. And, it seems, clients are increasingly opting not just for a new name, but for one with no obvious connection to the services it provides.

“I have certainly noticed a trend towards creating totally new names,” says Knowles.

The Burton Group will shortly relaunch as Arcadia after holding a public competition, and Wolff Olins came up with the name Concert, to be used by BT for business overseas. However, complications regarding BT’s proposed merger with MCI have left the future of that particular name hanging in the balance.

Meanwhile Siegel & Gale in New York is working up a new name for the soon-to-merge accountants Coopers & Lybrand and Price Waterhouse.

“One of the big decisions it [Siegel & Gale] must make is whether to come up with an entirely new name or an amalgamation of existing names. One has to be very careful with a new name because you can lose what you have built,” says a Price Waterhouse spokeswoman.

The proliferation of names apparently unrelated to the companies they denote owes much to the increased part played by design consultancies in the planning stage of identity work.

In very general terms, clients in the past have often come up with a name which the designer has had to incorporate into a visual identity, says The Core managing director Peter Melling. Now, he says, design is increasing in importance and the group is more often brought in at the beginning of the process.

The Core, based in Hull, is creating a hallmark logo for a group of insurance companies.

“The name and the corporate identity should work in harmony. The thought processes are the same for both, concentrating on the core values of the product and translating them into an identity consisting of words and visuals,” says Melling.

So the name, like the logo, is coming to be used in a more aesthetic way and increasingly aims to capture the spirit of the brand.

“The name has to look good and translate well on page. It must sound good and capture the ess-ence of the subject,” says Melling.

Knowles at Wolff Olins puts the proliferation of apparently unrelated names down to what he calls the third age of marketing.

“At first, companies concentrated on the attributes of their products. Once that had been sorted out they moved on to customer service. Now most companies have done that they are moving on to the next battleground – the place which the product inhabits within the consumer’s life,” he says. In other words, the way in which the company aims to differentiate itself from the competition through its personality.

“It has moved on from ‘who you are’ to ‘the way you do it’ and this is reflected in the names. With Orange we tried to get away from the Marks & Spencer or Boots idea of who we are, to a statement about a way of doing things. Orange was about the way the brand made you feel,” says Knowles.

He cites Virgin as a company which has created a particularly successful brand personality based on a “you’re being screwed, but we’re on your side” ethos. This is applied across a range of goods and services including cola, banking, retail and an airline. A more literal and less emotive name reduces the personality of the company and its ability to straddle a range of sectors.

The same thinking is behind the Diageo name for Guinness and Grand Metropolitan. Guinness and other well known brands in the Diageo portfolio will operate as before, but under a new company banner intended to unite its constituent brands as a group in the business of fun.

“It is a frame around the brands to enhance rather than eclipse them,” says Knowles.

The Core’s Peter Melling agrees: “When you are mixing together companies, which might have quite different images, you have to change the name because an amalgamation would send out mixed messages.”

This is true of The Core’s work with the group of insurance companies. Melling says the name will not contain any direct references to the constituent groups.

With clients increasingly clubbing together under different banners for different projects, hallmark branding is another rich source of new naming projects.

But not everybody is in the business of “clean start” naming. Interbrand Newell and Sorrell deputy chairman Tom Blackett says the newly merged organisation has no intention of changing its combined name as yet. However he admits it is too early to say the group would never consider a new name at some stage. “Don’t worry, we’re not planning on doing a Diageo,” says Blackett.

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