GE—or the General Electric Company—has long been a household name. Since 1892, GE’s ingenuity and business acumen have given us modern lighting, the X-ray machine, and the silicone rubber for the boots that left the first footprints on the moon. For many of us, GE is the poster child for old school corporation and warm fuzzy taglines (“We bring good things to life” was used from 1979 to 2003).
Now, GE is separating into three public companies. GE HealthCare will, logically, focus on healthcare, GE Aerospace on aerospace, and GE Vernova on renewable energy.
It’s easy to see where two of these names came from, but one of these things is definitely not like the others. GE Vernova, which will encompass all of GE’s renewable energy, power, digital, and energy financial services, boasts a much less obvious moniker. Why go suggestive instead of descriptive for name number three?
First, let’s discuss why GE veered away from the obvious choice. Why not GE Energy? To cut a long corporate history short, GE Energy has been used before for its energy subsidiary and comes with a legacy GE may want to forget about (such as epically bad decisions including betting big on natural gas and underestimating the speed of the clean energy transition).
The name clearly suggests the brand is something new and different. That’s entirely intentional, as announced on the company site: “Our new name sounds different, because it is.” With this name, the company can distance itself from the past and signal that it’s now focused on bold, forward-looking action to address the climate change crisis. To quote the site again: “If we want our energy future to be different … we must be different.”
To GE or not to GE?
In the face of all this newness, it might seem odd that the name retains GE.
Those in favor argue GE offers 100+ years of brand equity you just can’t walk away from. Critics of the choice note that if the company is really trying to start something new, it should drop GE entirely.
And of course, losing that part of the name may be the plan, or at least an important option for the future. Most informal references to the brand will use Vernova on its own regardless, at least once the company has been around for a few years.
And of the three new brands, GE Vernova is best suited to divest itself completely of its GE history, both given its message of innovation and its desire that we all forget about GE’s troubling choices around energy. (The other two are hardly going to style themselves HealthCare and Aerospace, and they don’t need to. These divisions’ GE ties are comparatively unicorns and rainbows.)
OK. So including the GE is a good call. Now let’s dig deep into the meat of the name.
The company states the name is “a combination of ver, derived from verde and verdant to signal the greens and blues of the Earth, and nova, from the Latin novus, or ‘new,’ reflecting a new and innovative era of lower carbon energy that GE Vernova will help deliver.”
Our first take on the first part of the name was actually the Latin root ver meaning “true” (verus) or “truth” (veritas), as found in many English words (veracity, verify, verdict, verity, veritable, aver).
Ver does also tie to the Latin for “green” (viridis), but in its English applications that root has a d or t at the end (verdant, verdure, virid, vert). The direct Latin translation for ver is actually more compelling: “spring.” Since spring is a time of greening and renewal, those who know their Latin (and most likely Italian and Spanish speakers and many others) will have no trouble making the connection to a green and better new life. But English speakers might need to include the n at the end to get it (as in vernal). Fortunately, the n of nova can do double duty!
Nova—the feminine form of the Latin for “new” and a common root with that meaning (as in innovation and novel)—is intuitive for English speakers.
So all together, the name connotes true, green, spring, and new. Not a bad word bank for a renewable energy brand focused on creating a greener future through innovation.
Construction & tone
GE Vernova is easy to say and spell. Its Latin base elevates it and makes it internationally accessible. With its voiced consonants and final “ah” sound, the name is smooth, warm, and flowing.
Ver and nov are familiar word parts for corporate names. The Fortune 1000, Global 500, and Top Workplaces lists alone include Verizon, Verisk Analytics, Veritiv, Vertiv Holdings, Novo Nordisk, Synovus Financial, and Cenovus Energy. GE HealthCare even has a family of ultrasound products called Versana (ver + sana, a form of the Latin word for “healthy”).
The contrast of an expected name construction with the “new” message may have been intentional (and if not, a very happy coincidence). It says, “We’re thinking about energy in an all new way, but don’t be scared. The way we do business is just what you’re used to.”
The verdict on GE Vernova
The name GE Vernova balances legacy while treading new ground—no easy feat! And an accomplishment made even more impressive given the challenges of international trademark and all the other hurdles this name had to overcome. The name communicates newness and sustainability while signaling that the company will play by familiar rules. We think they might have gotten there with something a bit fresher, which is the only reason we give it an A- and not an A. Well done!