Good Strategy, Bad Execution

By Burt Alper

November 9, 2007

Enterprise IG’s recent rebranding to The Brand Union has created quite a stir in the naming and branding community. The general perception seems to range from “yawn” to “those idiots”. And really, who can argue? It’s just another “brand___” name in a sea of “brand___” competitors.

But to evaluate their choice, I think you really have to break it down into two components: the naming strategy and the naming execution. IMHO, the naming strategy actually makes sense. I’m all for coming up with distinctive names that stand out in the competitive landscape, but a company the size of BrandUnion, with the pedigree it has, doesn’t really need to stand out. Does IBM stand out? Does Southwest Airlines? How about General Motors? Folks who stand out just for the sake of standing out (um, does anyone remember MarchFirst?) often end up following the dodo bird.

The strategic issue this rebranding work is designed to solve is that Enterprise IG was spending too much energy convincing people it was a branding company. Their previous name was generic, irrelevant, and downright awkward. The new name, while not perfect, at least puts them in the right competitive set. The end result should be that the company can now spend less energy telling people it should be considered along with Interbrand and more energy telling people why it is better than Interbrand. Of course, we all know the real truth: Catchword is better than either firm, but that is for another blog entry …

However … and this is a really big “but” … the new identity certainly suffers from a few major execution problems. Consider the following issues that any good naming consultant would have pointed out:

1)Which is it, “THE Brand Union” or just “Brand Union”? The logo says “Brand Union” (at least I think so, it’s awfully hard to read — another ding against the execution) while the URL is “thebrandunion.com”. It looks as though “brandunion.com” is for sale — I’m shocked they haven’t tried to procure the easier and more intuitive domain. Regardless, it seems silly to launch BOTH names at the same time. Pick one and run with it. Changing names is confusing enough with out clouding the waters this way.

2) While I laud their effort to join the competitive set by using the word “brand” in their name, I would have expected something more from a firm of this stature. When we named our company, we explicitly ruled out names that included the word “brand” because the term was so cluttered and downright overused. The name development team at EIG/TBU could have placed the company in the right competitive set while still being more distinctive. The old name was generic, irrelevant and awkward. The new name is just generic. I guess two out of three ain’t bad.

3) If you’re going to use “brand”, at least pair it with something exciting. Union sounds so … Jimmy Hoffa. Not exactly a cutting edge creative association. Very blue collar. Very “soon to be on the missing persons list”. I wouldn’t even know where to start digging.

4) I’m not from New York, but even I’ve heard of Grand Union. Quite the retail hot spot in the Big Apple. Not a trademark issue, but certainly a mindshare issue. Maybe they don’t have any customers in New York. Riiiiight.

All in all, I’d give them a B+ on strategy and a C- on execution. Not exactly the best testimonial for the kind of work they are likely to provide their clients. But you didn’t hear it from me.

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