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Boozing it up

By Mark Skoultchi

June 12, 2008

I saw a recent ad in the New York Times announcing the name change of the management consulting group of Booz Allen Hamilton to just Booz & Company. At first I thought it was a joke – maybe something management consultants do to one another instead of putting cellophane on the toilet on April Fool’s Day. Upon closer inspection, I realized it was not a joke; just a poor decision.

I remember when Anderson split into two groups. The accountants kept Anderson (only to destroy that brand a few years later with front-page ties to Enron and other corrupt companies) while the consultants forged a brave new brand: Accenture. At the time, the new name was ridiculed by the media, the branding world, and by most employees. Sadly, most new names suffer this fate. However, as the brand took hold (and the old name suffered an even worse fate), much of the criticism faded. Today, Accenture is viewed as a strong brand name, and a great case study for how successful name changes can be.

Which brings us back to Booz. I’m sure I’m not the only one who chuckled at this truncation. Any of the other co-founders would have been better – Hamilton & Co. has a nice ring to it. Booz? Please. Do you really think clients want to trust their company’s future to a bunch of … Boozers? Boozos? Loozers? C’mon.

Why did they make this move? A cascade of tactical errors. First, I’m guessing they tried to come up with something new. Maybe the hired a big naming company to suggest a few ideas. When none of those “jumped off the page” (a phrase heard all too often by naming consultants like me), they gave up. Never mind that they probably passed on dozens of solid brand names that just needed a little support to get off the ground. Remember, these are the smartest guys in the room.

Second, they looked at their competition. Not a very strong group of brands, I’ll concede. PricewaterhouseCoopers – the name that’s so long they had to shrink it just to fit it on the letterhead. IBM GBS – because we thought more initials would add clarity. Bain – almost as bad as Booz. These names are the bane of my existence. Don’t even get me started on Monday – thank goodness that name was taken off the market. (As I have said many times before, please folks, let your trusted naming consultant help you! Naming is not best left to the bean counters and graphic designers.)

Finally, they considered their existing assets. I can hear the conversation now … the head of the branding committee says: “Everyone calls us Booz anyway. It’s shorthand for the company name. If we just use that, we can bridge our equity back to the old brand, but still separate from the Government Services Group. It’s perfect! (Heck, at least it’s better than Bain.)”

And there was one poor soul, in the back of the room, too afraid to speak up and say WHAT EVERYONE ELSE SHOULD HAVE BEEN THINKING: “Um, excuse me for being difficult, but … do we really want to brand ourselves after alcohol? Does that have the tone of serious business we are looking for? And, forgive my insolence, but hasn’t Mr. Booz been dead for like fifty years? Oh, and one more thing … instead of looking backward to our old glory years and dead founders, couldn’t we use this as an opportunity to move our brand forward, into new territory with new messaging and new strategic positioning to help us better compete with our better-branded competitors? Isn’t that what we would tell our clients to do? No? Oh, well forget I said anything. Go on.” A Dilbert moment if there ever was.

These guys are supposed to represent the smartest of the smart. I say they don’t know diddely squat about branding. Next time, call a naming professional. I’d be happy to help. “Consultants-R-Us”? “Consultopia”? “Strategery Consultified”? No? I’ve got more. Wait, come back…

Name Grade: D

Grade:
D
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