Feb 10

When good names go bad

Was this really necessary?

Congratulations to Comcast on taking the #1 position in Time’s “Top 10 Worst Corporate Name Changes.”

Unlike those who seem to have been made physically ill by the name Xfinity, I actually don’t have a problem with it — even if it does sound like a Hugh Hefner production. Lots of successful companies have names that get scorched in their fledgling state. My problem is the basic idea of it. The obvious question being: why bother? It’s a massive, costly effort for no apparent reason. The kind of thing shareholders get very nasty about.

Instead of investing their money to polish a brand with instant name recognition, Comcast will now squander untold millions to re-educate customers by advertising, repainting countless vans, and revamping systems and materials across the organization. It’s such an odd decision, you start wondering if there’s some deep, dark secret we don’t know about. On the circumstantial evidence, we’ll have to find Comcast guilty of brand-squandering in the first degree.

Another item on Time‘s list is a personal favorite. Last fall, Sci-Fi Channel changed its name to Syfy.

Ah, this changes everything

Unlike Comcast, these guys were facing a real marketing issue. Their audience growth rate had hit a ceiling. They needed to extend their programming beyond conventional sci-fi to attract a more varied audience — but the name Sci-Fi Channel was a turn-off to the non-dweeb crowd. They needed an idea.

That brilliant idea was a new name that’s pronounced exactly like the old name — just spelled differently. I can only imagine the conversations that result. “You gotta see this great new show tonight — it’s on Syfy Channel,” followed by, “Nah, I hate sci-fi.” Even when you see a promo on TV, you still pronounce it “sci-fi” in your head. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall when someone pitched this idea.

Other interesting tales on Time’s Top 10 Worst Corporate Name Changes pages.

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  • Ric Carter

    Maybe comcast is changing because it is so despised by its customers. They’re hoping that the customer will forget who they are doing business with.

  • brand identity shmidentity …

  • like Phillip Morris became Altria so they could kill you under a kinder, gentler name?

  • Iain

    I’ve become a bit a cynic lately, and the first thing I say is, “Follow the Money”. Obviously, a huge number of designers, marketers, ‘image consultants’, ‘branding consultants’ and the like were involved in the decision and will be involved in the name-change process.

    This is a massive make-work project where the end result will have a net result of zero.

  • may

    When I had cable, majority of ads were from Comcast.
    It was just amazing that they couldn’t sell other company’s ads so you just get bombarded by those comcastic commercials.

  • John Naitove

    Can you say “Cingular?”

  • John Naitove

    Or is it “Singulair”? Oh well.