Providers looking to re-brand must carefully consider those buying the products and the advisers who have to explain them
I started my working life at Hill Samuel Life Assurance Ltd. As company names go, it was not the most exciting and we were occasionally confused with H Samuel the jeweller, but at least it said who owned us and what our line of business was. The same went for the various mutuals and provident societies around at the time.
Since then, we have seen ever more barmy and obscure names come and go, all no doubt the creations of the bright young things of the advertising industry.
Royal Heritage sounded more like a TV programme on palaces than an insurance company. The company currently known as Phoenix might more appropriately be named Pac-Man given its propensity for gobbling up others. Hartford’s short-lived UK venture is now named Hawthorn (I shan’t venture any puns).
Now thankfully consigned to history by Royal London, Bright Grey was the classic contradiction in terms. On the general side, More Than is strong competition for any company vying for the title of most ridiculous name.
When I named my own company, I had a few key criteria in mind; one being that I wanted it to sound like we had been around for a long time, even though it was a brand new company.
Our target market is older people with money to invest. Such investors, along with older solicitors and accountants locally, tend to remember the old West Riding of Yorkshire, which existed pre-the 1973 reorganisation of local government.
In retrospect, I realise that a couple of aspects of the name are less than ideal. Starting with a “W” puts us near the bottom of any alphabetical listing and it is a long name to write or say in full. Generally, though, it has worked very well for us, and our domain name www.wrpfs.com is short enough to minimise mistyping while being unique enough to avoid confusion.
I do wonder what goes through the heads of those who dream up long and complicated domain names. I suppose it is one way of minimising your incoming email traffic.
So, what were the marketing people thinking of when they came up with names like Just and LV=? I could happily live with the old Just Retirement but these days when I tell clients I am recommending Just they look at me like I have suddenly lost my train of thought mid-sentence, requiring me to explain it is a daft name for an otherwise perfectly respectable company.
Recommending “Ell-Vee Equals” elicits a similar response along the lines of “Ell-Vee Equals what, Neil?” The old Liverpool Victoria might have sounded like a railway station but at least it had a wealth of history behind it.
I am not against change per se and I can absolutely empathise with the feelings of company boards who want to keep their brand fresh and relevant. But it would be good if they could spare a thought for the people who buy their products and the advisers who have to explain and sell them. Now I understand why the TV series about advertising executives in the 1960s was called Mad Men.
Neil Liversidge is managing director of West Riding Personal Financial Solutions