Beware Facebook, corporate name changes are risky. Remember Qwikster?
[hotlink]Facebook likes to think of itself as a trailblazer. But if it carries through with plans to change its name, the tech giant would be merely following the corporate crowd.
Over the years, many big businesses have rebranded—some better than others. Ostensibly, Facebook’s name change is intended to reflect its expanding ambitions into something called the metaverse, an interactive virtual world. But it would also come after a barrage of unflattering news about the proliferation of hate speech on Faceebook, as well as the mental harm teenage girls face by using Facebook-owned Instagram.
Here’s a look at how some of the biggest corporate name changes turned out.
Lucky Goldstar/ LG
The South Korean producer of inexpensive appliances and home electronics rebranded to LG in 1995. The new name, along with its tag line “Life’s Good,” using the same initials, helped propel the brand in international markets. The Lucky Goldstar name, which was adopted in 1983, was seen as too long for international customers. After conducting a survey of employees and domestic and overseas customers, the company settled on LG. A new logo was also presented that looks like a red winking face, inspired by the “Smile of Silla” an artifact of ancient Korea’s Silla Dynasty. It’s meant to represent “world, future, youth, humanity, and technology,” according to LG.
Dunkin’ Donuts/ Dunkin’
The well-known doughnut and coffee chain dropped the “Donuts” from its name in 2018. Dunkin’ had long been associated with doughnuts, but ultimately Dunkin’ Brands CEO Dustin Hoffmann said the name change was to give the company broader appeal. At the time, Hoffmann told Business Insider that the company would emphasize beverages, which provide a higher profit margin than doughnuts. The new name is also simpler and shorter, i.e. easier to remember.
Andersen Consulting entered 2001 with a shiny new name—Accenture. The consulting giant, formed in 1989, was always a separate legal entity from Arthur Andersen, the accounting company, but it shared a similar name. Ten months after Accenture took on its new name, Arthur Andersen was found to have been involved in the Enron scandal of 2001. In hindsight, the timing for the name change was perfect.
The cable channel known for its science fiction and fantastical programming rebranded in 2009 to better own its name. The channel was originally called Sci Fi, which proved to be hard to trademark. Although the channel was home to Battlestar Galactica and the Twilight Zone, it also featured horror and fantasy shows. Apart from being easier to trademark SyFy, pronounced the same way, it was easier to distinguish from the programming genre.
For much of the 20th century Phillip Morris was intrinsically linked with tobacco. Its Marlboro brand was and remains among the world’s most popular cigarettes. Yet, in 2003 the company rebranded to Altria, a play on the Latin word “altus”, which means “high.” Phillip Morris was closely tied with tobacco, but the many lawsuits and negative attention it brought was affecting the company’s other businesses such as Kraft Foods. In recent years, Altria has said its name change signals that it’s “Moving Beyond Smoking,” but people still associate the name with tobacco, and now electronic cigarettes. The company took a 35% stake in e-cigarette company Juul in 2018.
Weight Watchers/ WW
In 2018, Weight Watchers rebranded as WW in a bid to distance itself from dieting, its core business. As dieting and weight loss were increasingly framed in popular culture as both mentally and physically unhealthy in recent years, the move seemed to make sense. The newly-named company focused more on wellness and exercise but still required customers to undergo a periodic weigh-in for its programs. Although the company claims WW doesn’t stand for anything, many still associate it with the old “Weight Watchers” name.
After only two years under the name tronc, with a deliberately lowercase “t,” the company originally known as Tribune Publishing reverted back to its original name in 2018. The publisher, which at the time of the name change owned brands such as the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, traded its 150-year-old moniker for tronc, a shorter version of Tribune Online Content. The name change was widely ridiculed online and by late night T.V. hosts, and the company reverted back to its old name after it sold the Los Angeles Times to billionaire Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong in 2018.
Many people forget that Netflix was synonymous with physical DVD delivery by mail in the early 2000s. In 2011, as movie streaming was becoming big business for the company, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings announced it would split its DVD delivery arm and its streaming arm under two names; Netflix became the streaming business and Qwikster focused on DVDs. The move was widely criticized, partly because prices for customers who wanted to keep both services would increase as much as 60% in the process. After a month, and after its share price dropped more than $100, Netflix backed away from the proposal.
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