They Kames, they saw, they conquered. Or did they?

There are two interesting questions about the recent rebranding of what used to be AEGON Asset Management and is now Kames Capital.

The first is how long it has been since the last asset management arm of a life insurer managed to get the green light to a plan to sweep away the hated parent name with a rebranding. For a time back in the 80s and 90s this was all the go – Norwich Union’s investment business rebranded as Morley, RSA’s as ISIS, Zurich’s as Threadneedle. But the tide has been flowing in the opposite direction for some time now, ever since Standard Life Investments pulled back from the brink and finished up not rebranding as George St Investments as they planned to do, and the Kames kapital kids seem to have scored somewhat against the run of play.

The reality is, of course, that the passionate desire of life-company-owned asset management businesses to do business under their own, independent brand reflects nothing more than ego on the part of the asset managers. If you take a bunch of firms which do share a parent name (say Skandia, Standard Life and Aviva) and a bunch which don’t (say Threadneeedle, M&G and Ignis) I don’t think you’ll find any evidence that in the real world, the naming approach makes any difference one way or the other. But I suppose at least getting their own way means that the fund managers will stop wasting thousands of very expensive man-hours agitating on the subject, which may be a good enough reason.

The second question is a rather different one: did Kames put their advertising business out to pitch before running their relaunch campaign? If so, I must say, it will definitely be one of the occasions when the losing agencies seeing the advertising that’s now appearing simply can’t believe that the clients could possibly have chosen it in preference to their own ideas.

I can’t find a copy of the ad to link to, but I can describe it easily enough: it’s a moody-looking City of London skyline, with a headline that says: “We’ve made a name for ourselves.” There are a few square inches of generic life-based investment copy, which basically says they’re pretty good at everything except equities, and then there’s a Kames Capital logo. (And one other thing – in small but not invisible type, there’s also the hated form of words “an AEGON Asset Management Company,” which, internally at least, must take a fair bit of gilt off the Kamesian gingerbread.)

This is a really useless ad, quite seriously the sort of thing that you can easily imagine Microsoft Clip-Ads doing in a year or two: just key in “asset management,” “rebranding” and the company’s name and address and this is exactly what you’ll get. I honestly don’t think it’s possible to imagine anything less inspiring.

In short, it’s an ad that accidentally gives the game away: it says that Kames Capital, for all its new name, is made up of the same old bunch of deeply timid, ordinary, risk-averse, creativity-free mediocrity-seekers.

Which, I suppose, shouldn’t come as a big surprise. After all, even in their new disguise, they’re still the asset management arm of a life company.

2 thoughts on “They Kames, they saw, they conquered. Or did they?

  1. For those pedants who seek in brand names a logical or pleasingly oblique connection with something relevant to their corporate culture, (you know: of the Dia ‘every day’& Geo ‘everywhere’ variety) this is KAMES from Wikipedia: ‘A kame is a geological feature, an irregularly shaped hill or mound composed of sand, gravel and till that accumulates in a depression on a retreating glacier, and is then deposited on the land surface with further melting of the glacier.’

    Any connection yet? No? Let’s dig deeper:’
    ‘Kames…are often associated with kettles, as in kame and kettle topography…kames are sometimes compared to drumlins, but their formation is distinctively different…..’

    Maybe Drumlin Capital (Scottish prudence with a methodical, dogged persistence?) was already taken?

  2. No, no, I think you’re barking up the wrong drumlin, Surrey. This is Kames as a proper noun, capital K – a Scottish name, apparently most famously of some 18th-century philosopher, also an unrelated and rather third-rate castle somewhere north of the border.

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