A Descriptive End to the Overture Name

By Burt Alper

March 9, 2005

Almost a year after acquiring Overture, the popular internet-search service, Yahoo! is scrapping the Overture brand for the more descriptive (and boring) Yahoo! Search Marketing Services. My guess is that it won’t be long before users tire of saying, “We should check out our Yahoo! Search Marketing Services stats this week,” and switch to the easier, “We should check out Yahoo! stats for the week.”

I’m reminded of another recent acquisition that scrapped the acquired brand in favor of a descriptive name. When FedEx purchased Kinko’s in February 2004, FedEx unveiled its plan to transition from Kinko’s to FedEx Kinko’s Office & Print Center. Again, I’ll wager that it won’t take long before college kids are saying, “I need to go make copies at FedEx.”

This is likely the strategy behind Yahoo! and FedEx adopting such bland and descriptive names. They expect that customers won’t take to the lengthy name, and thus will adopt the parent name. This makes sense for a couple of reasons. It’s easier to manage one brand, rather than a umbrella brand with several additional proprietary brands underneath. It’s also easier to create clarity of brand messaging and positioning under one name.

Of course, Yahoo and FedEx shouldn’t discount the power of the consumer and their ties to the Overture and Kinko’s names. It was consumers who started shortening Federal Express to FedEx, and American Online to AOL, forcing official changes to both company’s names. Names and brands that come to have special meaning to the consumer are also hard to scrap. For example, I’ll always refer to the home of the 49ers as Candlestick Park, regardless of what corporate sponsor name it currently has; ditto with the Oakland Coliseum.

It’s also important to remember the lesson the British learned while attempting to rename their postal service. The new name Consignia was developed and adopted at great cost in 2001, much to the dislike of the population. The customer backlash was so great, that Consignia was dropped in 2003 in favor of a previous name that people were comfortable with, the Royal Mail.

Maybe we’ll be seeing Overture and Kinko’s back on the map again someday.

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