Zombies or old friends? When rebranding is a destructive dream…

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – 50p per weekday is not necessarily a bad investment in a still OK paper.  The Evening Standard sure has more fluff than an angora rabbit sanctuary and has so many PollyFillas future generations may see it as some kind of deep, cutting satire on chickfic and soft chattering class prejudices.  My old favourite Nick Cohen seems now to have been squeezed into a dental floss sized strip, which is depressing.

Pick through the guff and moralism though and there is always a nice nugget of journalistic goodness to be found, usually in the business section.  The other week, the always wonderful Anthony Hilton wrote one of the most perceptiveaccounts of the economic crisis I’ve yet read.  He reminds his readers that most commentators have some interest in their prognostication (or shouting) and that when it comes to economics we can only understand things long after they’ve happened or have been happening. Qui bono indeed.

Today it was the turn of Simon English to offer some wisdom. I’ve noticed a lot of billboards for Norwich Union (with whom I just renewed my car insurance because it had the best quote and a very trusted brand) listing famous name changes before announcing its becoming ‘Aviva’. Given that the bus company responsible for daily transport atrocities in my neighbourhood is called Arriva things already seemed a bit confusing. A name that is older than most standing buildings, conveying trust and depth seems discarded as casually as a Halloween mask. Why? Especially when all the messages now in consumer finance are about trustworthiness and value?  Global firms often try to make some marginal savings by rationalising their brands, but it can be a mistake.  GM has debated whether to dump Vauxhall in favour of Opel for years but each time has realised that avoiding a few plastic badge and letterhead logo differences is not worth trashing decades of brand equity.

I never noticed the slebfest Aviva adverts as I have Sky+, thus all above the line on TV is just a surreal blur for me. They are trying their best.  Simon’s analysis is hard to fault. When you consider that the whole exercise of Norwich Union becoming Aviva costs just 25% less than a recent deal to media buy all the surfaces on the New York subway for a year you have to wonder again: Qui bono?


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