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Springfords LLP blog

Some news, views and comments about everything and anything, relevant and irreverent.

When Names Attack

20 May 2016

Is it TTFN for RBS as the bank contemplates a marketing move to reposition itself on the high street and drop their modern abbreviated moniker? 

The Royal Bank of Scotland may have very valid reasons for doing so.  The resurrection of some traditional banking brands may be among them, as may be a desire to remove opportunities for mischievous misinterpretations of their three-letter acronym which satirists have used to such effect over the past few years.  Think Ridiculously Bailed Shambles for example.  A more Reputable Bonafide Servant may be their answer.

Reworking branding has always been fashionable, but you don’t have to look hard for fashionable faux pas inflicted by the marketing teams of the corporate world.  There are almost as many examples of products that seemed like a good win at the time, only to turn into utter losers when exposed to the ridicule of the real world.

Language is no barrier to commercial calamity.  Most famously, Coca Cola reputedly sounds like that unappetising aperitif “bite the wax tadpole” when said in Mandarin.  Still, the company has fizzed on regardless, and their global rival has persevered in the same market too, even though their original advertising slogan readily translated into the patently disprovable “Pepsi raises you from the grave.”

A report by Millward Brown found that many brands can expect an immediate five  to twenty percent drop in sales upon changing names, and that the new brand image may not be as strong as it was before.  That’s possibly why the research company chose only to contract their name in their own rebranding, and probably checked that the name didn’t mean anything unintended in any popular global language.

Manufacturers of the “Rusty” found few English speaking customers for their cars, and similarly the “Pinto” didn’t make Ford much money among Portuguese drivers, especially those male ones in Brazil, for whom driving about in, literally, “a small willy” was just one affront to their manhood too many.

Call it right or call it a costly mistake.  Bottom Line might be a good name for an accountant, but the name might not work for a lingerie shop.  Similarly, just changing your name is no guarantee of success.   Did anyone try to board a “One” train in East Anglia, only to miss it by seconds?  “Sorry, ma’am, the announcer said it was the twelve thirty, One service, to Sandringham.”  

Savvy marketing firms say make sure your name is scalable. In other words, they advise having a crystal ball, so you know where your business will be in twenty years, and you won’t have to rebrand to better reflect your more mature commercial proposition.  So, if you’re thinking of starting up The Four Legged Stool Company, you might struggle to diversify if fashion ever goes triangular.  Music Magpie may have been your exchange of choice for pre-loved CDs, but now they do far more than old records and black and white birds.  An expensive rebrand may be on the cards for them.

No need to make a song and dance about it.  We heard that the reunited rapper Jay Z and his wife are planning a move to Scotland, and are on the lookout for something suitably baronial.  As an affirmation of his genuine loyalty, we understand the errant songsmith intends to solve all 99 of his problems in one, and put a spring back in the step of their marriage by naming their new home after the love of his life.  Beyoncé Castle.

Just say it out loud, you’ll hear what we mean.


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springfords blog

Some news, views and comments about everything and anything, relevant and irreverent.

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