A fox in the snow

Hywel Thomas /

July 14, 2020

Corporate Name Changes that Suck

A lesson in how intelligent people can mess up too

Take a product or company that's existed for years and change its name. Why?

For various reasons companies have decided that it was time for a change and effectively destroyed years of brand and corporate loyalty. Here's a few moronic changes that make the point:

1. Microsoft bought Hotmail in 1997 and changed its name to Windows Live Hotmail. In 2012 they changed the name again to Outlook.com - a strange decision as they already had a well known program - an email reader - called Outlook. Tech support companies all over the world now had to ask clients - 'do you mean the program or the online system?'

2. Google makes its billions from a system they invented called Adwords. Invented in 2000, the name stood the test of time until, bizarrely, in 2018 they renamed it 'Ads'. Now, ironically, it is harder to distinguish the new word from all other instances of 'ads' on the internet. Google are now trying to make a generic word their own. It's chaotic. (On a similar subject, finding a bunch of Google products is getting harder as the company removes the word 'Google' from a search for its own product - search for 'Google Fonts' - and it's replaced with 'fonts' which you don't want...)

3.  It's not just US management who can't stop themselves from attempting to stamp their authority on an old brand, take the UK's Royal Mail. Formed nearly 400 years ago, the company even had the royal crown as part of its logo and yet, in 2001, they decided to rename it Consignia. The backlash was palpable and extreme, the name was changed back the following year.

4. Heard of Qwikster? No? You're in good company. Netflix provides film services online but they also send out DVDs by post - like LoveFilm used to - but they decided the two operations should have different names, hence Qwikster. The name change and subsequent price changes between the two system lost 800k subscribers in the US alone - and a substantial stock price fall. The CEO apologised.

5. Of course, the biggest corporate blunder took place in 1985 when the Coca-Cola company decided to change the product sold successfully since 1886 to...er...New Coke. This wasn't just a name change, this was a reformulation; the product would taste different. Again, after a massive public backlash, they changed their mind and a mere three months after the original announcement, things went back to the way they were.

6. The Marmite v Vegemite debate has been raging for decades and Vegemite did themselves no favours in 2009 by renaming their traditional spread to iSnack 2.0. In a record for reconsidering a daft change, they gave up the idea within a mere 5 days.

7. Take a name that explains exactly what you do and change it to one that doesn't; ladies and gentlemen, I give you WW. If you haven't got a clue what I am talking about, then I have made my point. In 2018, Weight Watchers made the move. After 70 years of providing just what it says on the tin, it now doesn't and, so far, in 2020 it's still there.

8. In another example of taking a descriptive name everyone knows to one that doesn't, how about Pizza hut to The Hut? You'll be pleased to hear that sensible voices persuaded them to can it and they did. Phew.

9. My wife asked me to get her some Blisteze the other day, the problem is, it doesn't exist any more, but there is a similar product called Blistex on the shelf. Type Blisteze into a search engine and you are met with results like 'Blistex - formally known as Blisteze.' Why??

10. Finally, a list of daftness to finish things off:
a. Tribune Publishing to Tronc
b. Jif to Cif
c. Marathon to Snickers.
d. Dixons to Currys
e. Radio 2 to 2FM
f. Puff Daddy to P Diddy to Diddy
g. Calvin Broadus to Snoop Dogg to Snoop Doggy Dogg to Snoop Lion
h. Motorola to Moto by Lenovo to Motorola
i. Opal Fruits to Starburst
j. BT Cellnet to O2
k. Dime Bar to Daim Bar
l. Oil to Ulay to Oil of Olay
m. Radio Shack to The Shack
n. Andersen Consulting to Accenture
o. Comcast to Xfinity
p. AOL to 'Aol.'
q. British Gas to Centrica
r. Coco Pops to Choco Krispies
s. National Express to One

Hywel Thomas web designer

Author: Hywel Thomas
Web Design and Google Ads person
Email: hi@zigger.co.uk
Tel: 07875 096483