Painful Portmanteau: Healthineers Name Review
Siemens recently rebranded its healthcare division, part of its long-term strategy to expand the department into its own company (the group became a separately managed business last year and acquisitions to grow its portfolio have already begun).
“The new name embodies the company’s pioneering spirit and engineering expertise in the healthcare industry,” the company said in its news release.
healthcare + engineers + pioneers = Healthineers. Get it?
A word made by combining parts of two or more words is a portmanteau–a French word for a large suitcase that opens into two sections. Lewis Carroll introduced this meaning of portmanteau–“two meanings packed up into one word”–and penned many memorable examples. (Slithy and mimsy are among my favorites.)
Portmanteaus can effectively fill a vocabulary void (smog, brunch) serve as shorthand (Brangelina), or express multiple aspects of a brand in a single name (Microsoft, Snapple, Nabisco). They are often whimsical.
From the Siemens news release, it appears they were aiming for an-early-20th-century-“ooh-the-future-is-so-shiny” type of name (think Rocketeer). They also stated that the new name is meant to emphasize their “identity as a people company,” one big group of healthcare engineers, pioneering their way to a utopian future.
Siemens, founded in 1847, is the largest engineering company in Europe and one of the most respected in the world. Its healthcare division employs about 45,000 people internationally to make diagnostic, medical imaging, and clinical tools. The company has always been an 800-pound no-nonsense engineering gorilla.
Last year it introduced a new tagline, “Ingenuity for life,” to express what Siemens has stood for since its founding: “engineering expertise, genius, innovation and a sense of responsibility.” These are all great qualities but not ones that shout whimsy or Buck Rogers.
The spelling and pronunciation of Healthineers are also off-target. It’s long and clumsy, and “lth” is not a euphonic launching point for the second syllable. Not what you want from innovators in design.
The new name has not been well received, and the roll-out event was ridiculed. (I actually did laugh out loud at Lucy Kellaway’s Financial Times review of “possibly the most embarrassing corporate rebranding event ever,” a “writhing, Spandex-clad horror.”) And do check out the theme song video, complete with Spandex dancers (Spandancers!): https://youtu.be/0sRTtW59Mng)
The company wants to make a bold statement, which is a fine ambition, but it should track with the company’s brand. Fortunately, it’s unlikely Healthineers customers will lose faith in the company’s products and services because of the change. And the name is getting a lot of attention, just not the positive kind.
Siemens recently rebranded its healthcare division, part of its long-term strategy to expand the department into its own company (the group became a separately managed business last year and acquisitions to grow its portfolio have already begun)…
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