Last June, Los Angeles Lakers basketball star Ron Artest caused a stir in the world of sports when he legally changed his name to Metta World Peace. Evidently, his motivation was so that he could have “World Peace” on the back of his jersey (Metta, if you’re wondering, means love, happiness or kindness).
World Peace followed in the footsteps of New England Patriots wide receiver Chad Johnson, who legally changed his name to Chad Ochocinco in August 2008 while he was still with the Cincinnati Bengals. He made the change in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month (“ocho cinco” is “eight five” in Spanish and is his jersey number).
You probably don’t plan on changing your name, but you may have given some thought recently to changing your company’s logo, the colors that you use in your advertising or the tagline that defines your company. Maybe you feel that a rebranding initiative would revive lagging originations or give your mortgage company a fresh start in a changing, highly competitive marketplace.
Here’s a short list of some famous companies that have been wildly successful over the years and how they came by their current names:
►Wendy’s®: You probably know this one, but Wendy was the nickname of founder Dave Thomas’ daughter, Melinda.
►Starbucks™: Named after Starbuck, the first mate of the whaling ship Pequod in Herman Melville’s novel, “Moby-Dick.”
►LEGO®: A combination of the Danish words “leg godt” which means “to play well.”
►Adidas®: The company name was taken from its founder, Adolf Dassler, whose first name was shortened to the nickname Adi. Combined with the first three letters of his surname, it formed Adidas.
►Canon: Named after the company’s first camera, the Kwanon, which in turn is the Japanese name of the Buddhist Bodhisattva of Mercy. In 1935, Kwanon was changed to Canon in order to achieve greater worldwide acceptance.
►Saab: Shortened from Svenski Aeroplan Aktiebolaget, which means “Swedish airplane company.”
►eBay®: Originally, the site belonged to Echo Bay Technology Group, which tried to register the domain name Echobay.com. That name was already taken by Echo Bay Mines, a gold mining company, so it was shortened to eBay.com.
►Amazon.com®: Founder Jeff Bezos wanted a name that started with the letter “a” so that it would appear early in alphabetical order. He started looking through the dictionary and settled on Amazon, which is the world’s biggest river. He hoped his company would likewise be the world’s biggest.
Some of these names are simply “happy accidents,” like eBay. Others are clever combinations of descriptive words, while still others are proudly based on the names of company founders, locations or cultural icons.
Would any of these companies have been less successful than they are with different names? It seems doubtful. What really makes each of them successful is their brand distinction, a quality or way of doing things that earns them a place of prominence in the eyes of their customers.
The problem is that many companies—and their agencies — still confuse branding with brand development.
As we define it, brand development is the discovery of a brand’s unique (strategic) distinction, while branding is the tactical (visual) application of that distinction. A new logo, tagline and color pallete (and yes, even a new identity) can refresh a tired communications program, but none of these tactics are designed do anything to change the brand’s strategic distinction.
The difference is important. Branding is a marketing initiative that mainly impacts external communications. Brand development is the unearthing of a company’s evidence of distinction and communicating that distinction internally and externally to achieve its goals.
The competition in the mortgage industry is relentless. Nothing can be taken for granted. All customer contact points play as big of a role in satisfying customers and building relationships with business referrers as the vice president of marketing.
Beyond the extensive media attention they received, did anything really change for Ron Artest and Chad Johnson when they changed their names? Not really.
In 2009 Ochocinco announced that he would be legally changing his name again, this time to “Haichi Go,” which is Japanese for eight and five. That didn’t happen. Then in January of this year, he told ESPN that he planned to change his last name back to Johnson, but later changed his mind due to money issues.
Just like Chad Ochocinco, it’s easy to become enamored and excited by the tactics involved in a new branding campaign. But is this really the road that’s going to take you where you want to go? Or is it just a name game that leads nowhere?
Patrick H. Seroka is president and chief executive officer of Seroka, the only Certified Brand Strategists in North America specializing in the mortgage industry. With Seroka, you'll experience unique, second-to-none client service and benefit from compelling marketing communications. Plus, we guarantee your growth. For more information, call (262) 523-3740 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.