Saturday, 7 May 2016

Never forget where you came from

In a very early post on this blog - over seven years ago, gulp! - I bemoaned the change of name from Norwich Union to Aviva. This change was accompanied by some kind of ballyhoo about 'outgrowing our name.' I note, with amusement, that Aviva still sponsors Norwich City Football Club. Maybe they will push the football club to change their name to Aviva FC.

And that's just the point. The global brands that are football clubs, from Real Madrid to Chelsea to Bayern München don't change their names. Even if they only have one player who comes from anywhere near their named city, they don't forget where they came from.

Part of the (good) reason for this is that while we may have global brands, there is no such thing as a global customer. People live in markets.

I've recently noticed a brand undergoing the reverse procedure. This really was a brand that got too big for its boots - the Royal Bank of Scotland, who at some point decided to rebrand as RBS, as the name Royal Bank of Scotland was considered 'too parochial' for a global bank. Well, after years of criticism, crisis and bail-outs, the RBS branding is to be removed from branches in England, Scotland and Wales. The England and Wales branches will operate under the name Williams & Glyn, while the Scottish branches will go back to the original name.

I'm pleased to see that this accompanies a refocus back on UK retail banking after all the high-blown global ideas. The new CMO, David Wheldon, has a great track record, so let's hope he can help to salvage what was once a trusted high street bank.

In the end, maybe the Avivas and RBS's of the world (what memorable brand names!) could learn from some of the giants in branding. Has IKEA ever forgotten its Swedish origins? Has Apple ever pretended it came from some imaginary global place?

I don't think so.

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