Choosing a new name is the perfect way of altering the public's perception of your business. As well as clarifying which goods or services are on offer, it can also give the impression you are keeping up with the times. By Jane Lewis
There is little doubt that 1999 will be remembered as a year of great flux and change on the UK corporate scene. In tandem with the new wave of entrepreneurial dot.com companies appearing, there has been a marked rise in the number of established organisations looking to re-invent themselves to tackle 21st century markets. Indeed, in some sectors - particularly those saddled with the tag "traditional" - it is no exaggeration to say that the process has become almost compulsory if organisations are to maintain any sort of market credibility. It is no longer enough to claim you are moving with the times, you have to be seen to be doing so - and the ultimate way of ramming home the point is to gamble on a completely new identity.
The reasons underlying this trend for rebirth are as varied and complex as some of the new names emerging. Much of the momentum has certainly come from an exponential growth of mergers and acquisitions. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the distillery and hospitality sector, where players have been broadening their portfolios to encompass wider leisure interests before merging. Thus at least two newly named giants have appeared on the scene - Diageo, comprising the former Grand Met and Guinness, and First Quench Retail, formed from the merger of Victoria Wine and Thresher.
"There is one primary outcome from a rebranding exercise and that is clarity," says Ted d'Cruz-Young of the Wolff Olins branding consultancy, an operation which has been kept pretty busy this year. "From an external point of view, it creates a greater degree of desire for your offering. Internally it creates a greater degree of drive around the corporate purpose. If you combine those two outcomes, the fundamental result is a higher level of profitability." Or so the theory goes.
"Much of this activity has been prompted by the movement towards globalisation," adds Simon Knox, professor of brand marketing at Cranfield School of Management. "It can be seen as an attempt to develop a common culture and set of values - changing names is a signal or an artefact of that change." For many UK players, especially those trading under n