What’s in a Name?

Hold the presses! The artist once known as Sean Combs has delivered an earth shattering bolt of news! Combs, who has also been known variously as Puffy, Puff Daddy and P. Diddy, has announced that, henceforth, he is to be known as Diddy. "I felt like the ‘P’ was getting between me and my fans, and now we’re closer," he told Katie Couric.

The removal of a consonant may make no difference to Puff…er, I mean, Diddy…and his legions of non-fans, but his action recalls two other name changes and their results. One is AirTran, the low-fare carrier that, along with Southwest and JetBlue, is remaking the airline industry. You may not remember AirTran’s previous incarnation as ValuJet, and that’s the point. After a series of accidents, such as the May 1996 crash in the Florida Everglades that killed 110 and caused its temporary grounding, ValuJet reinvented itself in November 1997 as AirTran. The new airline then began a turnaround that stunned industry observers and passengers alike…helped, in large part, by management talent recruited from the ranks of defunct airlines such as Eastern.

Contrast that with Altria. You know what that is. Despite its efforts to diversify beyond tobacco, the company is still called Philip Morris. The 2002 name change fooled nobody. In fact, one could argue that Altria will always be known as a tobacco company whose CEO consistently denied any link between smoking and disease.

So what’s in a name? Less than what meets the eye. With apologies to the old Zenith TV ads, the quality has to go in or the name means nothing.

3 thoughts on “What’s in a Name?

  1. Tarnished brands may be able to hide behind a name change (Worldcom to MCI is a great example), but unless companies are willing to correct the issues that gave them a bad name in the first place, any benefit from a name change will be short-lived.

  2. You are right, repman. Unfortunately, it appears that the majority of Americans either don’t pay attention to the happenings in the business world, or have very short memories. It allows companies to hide behind these name changes and succeed in a type of corporate witness protection program.

  3. How about WorldCom’s change back to MCI? A valiant attempt to put the Bernard Ebbers fiasco behind it, no doubt, but talk about lipstick on a pig.