Dear CMO:
You’re bored of your brand name, aren’t you? And if you’re bored, surely everyone else in your known world is, too, right? What we need is something fresh… something hip… something different than all that brand equity that has been built up for all those years by those other brand managers that came before you. Those other guys just didn’t have your insight. And, in any case, things have changed. Haven’t they? Right? Gives one pause, doesn’t it?
Changing your name — or even your naming convention — shows one of two things: either forces far bigger than you are in play, or you’re just bored and need to spend some time away from the office followed by some time in front of your customers.
Let me throw an example out here. If you’re anyone younger than “Generation X”, you probably don’t even know that KFC means “Kentucky Fried Chicken.” I don’t come from the inside of the chicken business, but I recall the conversation when this name change happened. There was a real need to distance the brand from “fried” and it was done at the expense of “chicken.” “Kentucky,” apparently, was just an innocent bystander.
Why is Burger King now, “BK”? Particulary when they are putting so much effort into creating a poor man’s cultural icon out of The King? Do they need to distance themselves from “burger”? I doubt it. This sounds like boredom and a revolving door at BKC, both in management and marketing.
I can almost understand why Volkswagen calls itself “VW.” This almost doesn’t qualify as a branding short-cut. When VW launched in the states in the 60’s, most Americans still associated Germany with the Second World War. And “Volkswagen” was — and still is — a bit of a mouth-full. “VW” was quick, easy, and “friendly.” Shortening it to “Vee Dub” in their advertising is more a function of their creative. Isn’t it?
The one that caught my eye (ear, actually) the other day was National Geographic. What do you think of when you hear National Geographic? The logo is burned into our brains from early childhood. What kid doesn’t want to stay up late to watch a show on Everest, or the Amazon, or the Mundaruku, or something in Africa showing lions and gazelles? National Geographic is one of those timeless brands that evokes real meaning to all of us.

So why did this cultural icon decide to dumb down to, “Nat Geo”? As a former kid who used to read every issue, this is branding heresy. Someone thinks “National Geographic” isn’t hip enough and has to go BK in order to stay relevant in this digital hip-hop IM age. And they’re wrong.

Authenticity always trumps hipness.