Saturday, 25 July 2009

What’s in a name (conclusion)

CORPORATE names count for a lot, es-pecially in today’s overcrowded marketing space.
Household brands like Coca-Cola, Budweiser and Marlboro have proved priceless for their corporate parents, and their reputations are being zealously guarded by their trademark owners, like the golden treasures of Fort Knox.

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And quite rightly so.

Who would, for example, not recognize the name Coca-Cola? From the hinterlands of the Amazon to the foothills of the Himalayas, it would probably be difficult to find somebody who would not be able to identify the unmistakably curvy bottle that embodies the brand.

And then there is the new Coke – Microsoft. It would not be a stretch to imagine that not a soul in the whole wide world would be oblivious to the name. Just in our own country, the ubiquitous Internet café is everywhere, and even street urchins are now savvy enough to create their own Friendster and Facebook accounts on Microsoft-operated PCs.

With the age of globalization, of course, comes the age of the global brands. Spread by the increasing reach of mass media and, of course, the all-conquering worldwide web, the powerful advertising messages of these global brands have become almost impossible for anyone to escape.
The other trend that has fuelled the rise of brand empires is the advent of mega sports franchises like Manchester United and Real Madrid. With an audience estimated in the billions, and a passionate following circling the world many times over, the brands that the shirts of these teams carry is guaranteed instant name recognition.

This is what AIG experienced when in 2007, it sponsored the Manchester United name, and had its brand emblazoned across the chest of sporting gods like Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand. Almost instantly, the heretofore almost anonymous AIG name became synonymous with the Red Devils, and fans all overwere mouthing the brand like a mantra, from the pubs of Manchester to the beer gardens of Bangkok.

The AIG name worked like a charm for United, too. In 2007, the team won its first Premier League title in many years, and in the next year retained the title, along with winning the Champions League for only the second time in almost a decade.

Then came September 2008, and the world changed for AIG. From a name synonymous with victory, it suddenly became an object of ridicule and loathing–exemplars of the greed that people had now come to associate with corporate America, and the genesis of the global financial crisis.
Today, the name that AIG has built so painstakingly with its business success over so many years, as well as the added Manchester United boost, is about to be consigned to history.

Its component companies —including our very own Philamlife—are scrambling to rid themselves of the AIG tag, and reinventing their images behind new brands, preferably as far away from the AIG association as possible.

And little wonder that they are. Corporate brand names may be global franchises, and they may reap golden rewards for their owners when used properly. But once tarnished, they become like lead weights that only drag their companies down, if not abandoned in time.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 25, 2009.

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