Yell chief executive Mike Pocock really fired up this issue by admitting to the press shortly after launch that the name means nothing.
But is having a meaningless name really such a problem for brands? As several people pointed out in our voxpop piece on naming, a meaningless name can provide a useful ‘blank canvas’ for a brand.
And even dropping an established brand name for a completely new and unrelated one doesn’t necessarily have to be a problem. While we all know the disaster stories (particularly Consignia) there are plenty of examples of nonsense rebrand names becoming established – look at Norwich Union’s now-settled rebrand to Aviva, much criticised at the time.
Beyond the meaningless names, I believe there are two major problems with the hibu rebrand.
The first is that it’s unclear how to even pronounce the name. I’m sure I wasn’t the only journalist to be pulled up by the Yell press office for saying ‘hee-boo’ instead of ‘high-boo’.
Now again, this doesn’t necessarily have to be a problem, it could even be a talking point, and presumably once above-the-line work begins, any confusion about pronounciation should disappear.
But the second – and most important – issue, is that Yell revealed details of the new branding before it had even been approved by shareholders. And with the vital shareholder meeting not scheduled until 26 July there’s still a chance that the brand might not be adopted.
Landor’s hibu identity is actually pretty well-conceived – with soft ‘shouldered’ typography providing a clear link to the people-focused brand that Yell are trying to create.
But by revealing the logo in isolation leaves a huge number of unanswered questions – what is the story behind the brand? How will it be applied? Why the umlauts? None of these can be answered until the brand is adopted and put into use.
So, many questions remain about hibu.
Will the new branding, in a reprise of the Gap logo debacle from a couple of years ago, be quietly killed off before launch? Will it be another Consignia – and be dropped after coming into use. Or will everything click into place after July when the brand fully launches – and we’ll forget a time when we ever referred to ‘Yell’?