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.