Is this a trend: replacing or supplementing time-honored brand names with short, clever nicknames? Seems several high-profile companies are doing it, and I’m not sure why.
Do they think a nickname will make them more “folksy”, more informal, more “with-it”? Or is it a deliberate attempt to rebrand?
Whatever the case, I don’t believe it’s working for the several reasons I cite below.
Now companies have been given nicknames for quite some time, usually names are truncated because they were too long in the first place. These names – International Business Machines, Radio Corporation of America, American International Group, et. al. – were shortened by the expedient method of adapting their initials.
Some companies also acquired unsanctioned nicknames bestowed by customers, competitors or the media – like “Big Blue” for IBM. But I don’t ever recall any IBM ad referring to the company as Big Blue.
But it appears to me that Federal Express began the “sanctioned” nickname trend when they became FedEx to the whole world. It works for FedEx. I think it was a sound branding practice.
But not to be outdone, United Parcel Servive, aka UPS, introduced yet another moniker for the company. They began calling themselves “Brown”, as in “What can Brown do for You?”
I never understood that. The connotations and associations for brown just aren’t that appealing. Yet, there they are, now with three ways to designate the same company. I don’t understand, and I’m sure a lot of others don’t as well.
The latest to come under my radar is Washington Mutual. They began a clever and point-making series of commercials where the young, tieless banker proposed that their “panel of experts” from the traditional banking industry advise Washington Mutual on certain practices, and when the panels poo-pooed an idea, Washington Mutual would adopt them. Very clever and refreshing. But then, along the way, Bill, the young banker, began referring to the institution as “Wa Mu”.
Wa Mu? Do you want to bank at Wa Mu? I want all the nice banking practices – free ATM’s, no penalty over drafts, etc., but I don’t want to bank at Wa Mu. That’s taking “friendly banking” one step too far in my estimation.
So, if nicknames are beginning to replace brand names, I would advise that those nicknames be better at labeling the business and not just be a cute attention-getter.
I believe the name should be the rallying flag for the brand. That it should represent over the long haul the true core of the business. And to take a name, particularly one with some heritage and equity, and dilute its meaning is bordering on irresponsibility.