When changing your name, make sure

Summary : When changing your name, make sure the new one and logo reflect the company’s history into the future

Changing your name is one of the most difficult tasks in business.  Done wrong and the customer will forget you.  Now most people don’t get too excited about new logos and they fear new names because it is something new to remember.  When Agilent spun off of its semiconductor test group to create Verigy, the provided a good example in how to do right. 


Many marketing hacks think logos are a waste of money for which the only benefit is social – it keeps graphic artists off the street.  But when it comes to a new name, it’s the logo that burns the name into the memory.  The dropped e in Intel caught your eye.  The multicolored Google screams fun . . . and the name sounds technical, while harkening back to childhood games.  The fact that they let artists play with it around each holiday makes it even more fun.  It’s all about taking the dry boring business of searching and turning into something of exploration.  A logo is the first part of the customer experience. 

Logos are important because they appeal to the primitive part of the brain.  It’s the part that causes your hands to sweat in a fearful situation long before your cognitive mind picks up the danger.  Brain scientists have found that your animal brain senses danger or pleasure long before it is readily apparent to your conscious and the animal brain is crucial to decision making.  People who have damaged the primitive part of their brain become extremely logical and analytical, but can’t make decisions.  That’s because it is basic need that drives the decision making process.  That’s why names and logos are so important.  If a person has years of comforting experiences with a product, they are far more likely to choose it over others they don’t know.  Brand value translates into consistent profits – just look at Starbucks and Star Wars, as well as Intel.  You can better understand the complexity of creating a logo by looking at the example of Hewlett-Packard, Agilent and its spinoff, VERIGY.

In spinning VERIGY out of Agilent, they had a huge problem.  It only seemed like yesterday that they were spun out of HP and the expense of establishing a new brand is huge.  The name Agilent had little relation to HP and worse, it rhymed with flatulent – something the comedic robot at ITC in 2000 had loads of fun with to the delight of their competitors.  This is why so much had to be spent on building brand recognition.  Now they could have named the new spinoff HP Test, but it is doubtful they would have allowed it since even they are not just a simple HP.  They are HP Invent, which is another bad name because it sounds like they are an R&D company.  What are they trying to invent after all?  Do they have any finished products?  A simple HP would have been fine.  This mess was all part of the Fiorina-Heloise & Abelard* tragedy.  It is obvious that with VERIGY the more rational side of the organization that wound up at Agilent have moved away from this nonsense now that they are in control.

It’s easy to figure out that VERIGY is a compounding of verify and energy.  Since they are in test, verify is a great start and since the idea with Agilent was that they moved fast, the use of energy is a great way to hint to your subconscious of where VERIGY comes from.  But subtlety of the name is deeper than this: the middle of V ERIG Y reverses the middle of A gile nt, dropping an l for an R.  The R is a distorted n from Agile n t.  That leaves the hard ending of the t, which is replaced with a light sound of e from the y.  Probably most important is the beginning, where V is an inverted A without the middle bar.  Instead, the middle bar of the A is taken and the l broken in two to form the fire in the torch made from the V.  It also echoes the upper part of Agilent’s star.  Like Eskimos, they have wasted nothing from the original name.  Then, as if to leaving no stone unturned, they remind you of how smart they are with the logo with the tagline, “the brilliance of innovation.”  This also harkens back to the innovation of HP, while the word brilliance resonates with the torch, the word energy – and the fact that test is all about shedding light on the value of what you have produced.  Test doesn’t add value; it verifies it – summing a great job of logo engineering in Verigy.

* Heloise was the code name Ms. Fiorina cynically chose for the merger with Compaq.  You really have to know your literary history to know the 12th century French love story of Heloise and Abelard (Fiorina was a medieval studies major and it was my wife, Jan, who minored in humanities that pointed it out to me when it was all going on).  It is a Romeo & Juliet theme in which the hero, Abelard, is castrated.  It’s amazing that someone in such power and position would risk it all just to one-up someone, but she did get away with it.  Michael Capellas – then CEO of Compaq – never figured it out, nor did Compaq, nor did anyone in the media at the time.  Ironically, the heroine, Heloise winds up in a convent living to an old age with her love unfulfilled.  So the choice could be said to have haunted what proved to be a tragic period in HP’s history, as well as for the senior executives involved.  It shows how life can really imitate art and how the animal brain rules over decisions in amazing ways.

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