The professional services group's logo at the time of its demise in 2002
The half-life of radioactive brands is shorter than you thought. In fact, it is 12 years, according to a bunch of former partners at Arthur Andersen, the professional services group that disintegrated in 2002 after getting far too cosy with Enron, the bankrupt and fraudulent energy company.
They have bravely acquired the rights to “the iconic brand name” for their global tax group – previously and uninspiringly known as WTAS. It is in part a bet on a special type of business amnesia. Read more
Rajeev Suri, newly appointed head of Nokia, has plenty to tackle at the Finnish group, but one challenge relates to the part of the business he no longer oversees – the handset business that has finally transferred to Microsoft’s ownership.
As head of Nokia Solutions and Networks, Mr Suri developed the telecoms equipment business, which now makes up the largest part of “new Nokia”, more or less autonomously from the devices business. Its culture is likely to dominate the Finnish group as it now evolves. But what of the deep-rooted residual link with the handsets in our pockets?
Even if the Nokia brand is quickly stripped from smartphones, I wonder whether the Finnish group will experience the business equivalent of “phantom limb syndrome” – twitching and wincing as though the amputated devices arm is still attached to the rest of the body corporate. Read more
PwC/Booz's new 'amper-brand'…
Cesare Mainardi, chief executive of Booz & Company, has a ready explanation for the consultancy’s rebranding as “Strategy&”, now Booz’s takeover by PwC is complete:
It invites a discussion about what we’re about and what we’re thinking and how we can help our clients transform.
True enough. Unfortunately, the initial discussion of the new “amper-brand” – pronounced “strategy and” – is likely to start with “What were they thinking?”. People still remember PwC’s ill-fated attempt to rename its consulting arm as “Monday” in 2002, a misstep that had plenty of critics humming the Boomtown Rats’ hit “I don’t like Mondays”. (Luckily for the professional services firm, roughly by Tuesday, IBM had bought the consulting business and PwC never had to live with the consequences.) Read more
Straight-talking Karl-Thomas Neumann, chief executive of Opel, has given the world of reputation management a useful new metaphor for brand-blight: the “red elephant”.
At the Geneva motor show, he told the FT that the General Motors-owned German marque had suffered from a perception problem:
There was a red elephant standing beside the car that nobody talked about which says: ‘You can’t buy me because I’m an Opel’ … and we are addressing this now.
Not welcome in the showroom (image: Dreamstime)
Whether or not Mr Neumann has mixed up “elephants in the room” and “red flags”, I find the image compelling enough to be worth spreading.
Plenty of companies persist in assuming that a brand’s historic reputation will sustain it, without tackling the scarlet pachyderm that may be frightening off customers. Antidotes include: 1) making such a noise about the brand that it drowns out the trumpeting of the creature standing alongside; 2) improving the quality of the product so that it is no longer dwarfed by the public (mis)perception about it. Read more
EE is the descendant of one of the most ridiculous brands in corporate history – Everything Everywhere, which turned out to mean Nothing Anywhere – so I feared the worst when I saw the UK digital communications group had signed a partnership with what it inevitably calls the “iconic” Wembley Stadium. Football fans already chant about “going to Wemb-er-lee”, so the brand gurus could so easily have renamed the ground “WemblEE”.
Wembley Stadium, as it will be, sEEn from the air (source: EE)
Happily, common sense and history prevailed. Fans will have to survive a blizzard of EE branding, including the illumination of Wembley’s arch in EE blue, but the press statement is clear that “the world-renowned name of the stadium will remain”. It usually does. When new names are applied to old stadiums, often either the name doesn’t stick – or the company doesn’t. Read more
Hassan Rouhani, Iran's chief marketing officer
Iran’s snappy tagline “Death to America” is so 1980s. It is long overdue a facelift, which is why the country’s new president appears to be pushing for a brand refresh.
The current line’s longevity is no surprise. It meets most of Inc’s “five tips for writing an effective slogan“.
Admittedly, it doesn’t rhyme (but who has ever written a successful rhyming couplet that ends “America”?) and while it definitely underscores the country’s “general mission”, it doesn’t really differentiate the product from, say, al-Qaeda or the Taliban. Read more
Google's Android KitKat sculpture – hard to stomach?
Something has gone slightly mad with brand management if we barely shrug at the news that Google’s next release of its Android mobile operating system will be named after a chocolate bar.
Android Key Lime Pie was the original name – continuing a trend of labelling Android versions after sweet treats. The Android KitKat idea was kept under wraps until this week, but it is now out there, complete with an Android KitKat sculpture at Google HQ in California. Read more
About a year ago I was in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights, gazing down at the Golden Gate Bridge from one of Larry Ellison’s many spectacular homes. The Oracle chief executive wasn’t there – he had lent the house out for a reception. In any case, he would be the last person to apologise for enjoying the fruits of his success. But the view from technology executives’ balconies is getting stormier. After banks and bankers, could they be next to feel the sting of a populist backlash?
As Felix Baumgartner struggled to correct his spin at the start of his 128,100 ft descent to earth on Sunday, I couldn’t help thinking of the consequences of failure for Red Bull, his sponsor.
Mr Baumgartner’s feat was obviously extraordinary and compelling. It was a new frontier for him, and for YouTube (where 8m people watched the dive live), but despite strenuous efforts to identify some great scientific benefit of the stunt, it is a far greater leap for brand-marketers – and I worry where they will go next.
The Austrian’s sponsor is an introverted company with an extrovert energy drink brand and it has blasted out a niche in extreme sports, from Formula One to air races. Plenty of people pointed out on Twitter on Sunday that if Mr Baumgartner died, so would Red Bull’s slogan “Red Bull gives you wings”. Read more
Soon to be available in light blue
The shift of economic power eastwards from crisis-hit developed nations has another milestone: the publisher of Wisden – the annual “bible” of English cricket enthusiasts – is licensing production of an edition tailor-made for the Indian market.
A bit like Hermès, with its recent launch of a range of saris in India, Bloomsbury Publishing and its partner want to recast a western brand for enthusiastic Indian consumers.
The deal – with FidelisWorld FZ, a sports and entertainment management group – comes wrapped in the sort of biz-speak that would make John Wisden, the cricketer who founded the almanack in 1864, shudder. FidelisWorld, says the press statement, “aims to unify the fragmented sectors [of the Indian market for cricket information] into a consolidated whole… thereby achieving synergies and building value”. Read more