Name news is bad news

Have you noticed the bleating in the trade press recently about how what was GE Life is now Tomorrow?  In truth, it’s been fairly muted – frankly, the rebranding itself hasn’t been high-profile enough to bring about loud bleating – but it has been noticeable enough to make me wonder, for the hundredth time, why it is that rebranding stories are always written up as bad news stories, preposterous examples of bad judgement and extravagance.

Poor old Tomorrow, after all, had no choice about taking a new name.  The business having been sold by GE to Swiss Re, continuing to call it GE Life simply wasn’t an option.  Admittedly Tomorrow is one of those names that can lead to some convoluted sentence constructions (thank goodness that the newspaper Today doesn’t exist anymore, or we’d have “Did you see Tomorrow in yesterday’s Today?”).  But if it’s a silly name, what would have been a sensible one?  Obviously not Diageo, or Consignia, or Sesame (sold, incidentally, today), all of which were rubbished in their time.  I suppose there have been a few new names greeted with indifference (did anyone make much fuss about boring old HSBC?) but I can’t remember a single one that has ever been received positively.

What’s more, of course, rebrandings are always presented as absurd extravagances, huge amounts of money down the drain.  They always “cost several million pounds,” with £5 million the most frequently-cited figure.  Not in my recent experience they don’t:  the “Big Bang” overnight rebranding, where every manifestation of the old brand is thrown out and replaced all at once, is very much a thing of the past.  On the contrary, these days, more often than not the implementation of the rebranding is on such a gradual rolling programme that the last rebranding hasn’t been fully completed before the next one begins.

It may be that the general media climate of negativity towards rebranding stories reflects no more than a (very reasonable) dislike of brand consultants and a good deal of envy towards their very substantial fees.  But it is odd, all the same.  Other new things – new advertising campaigns, new products, new packaging – are usually rather politely received by journalists, but somehow new names seem to bring out the rottweiler in them. 

So, for what it’s worth and by way of slight counterbalance, let me just say that I think “Tomorrow” is an excellent new name for the business previously known as GE Life.

Must admit, though, I’m not quite so sure about Liverpool Victoria’s “LV=”.  How they can pay £5 million for something like that defeats me.

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