E-Culture, E-Craze, Eenron… etc.
By Naseem Javed
Romance with the letter ‘E’
of the alphabet really started with the revolution
of electronics and its fusion with our daily commerce
now called e-commerce.
The popularity of attaching the letter ‘E’
to every single corporate, product or service name
excited everyone and everybody almost to the point
that no one really cared about how much electronic
was the actual part of the business in the first
place, as long as it sounded modern and electronic
to the customers or the shareholders.
That is how they came out from the gates: E-Steel,
E-Plant, E-Food, E-Brain, E-Anything, and, the only
ones that really made some impact and survived are
names like E-Bay, E-Trade etc.
So where did Enron come from? Initially it was called
something else and the directors decided to change
the name to Enron. Perhaps it sounded more like
Exxon, the ultimate powerhouse on the planet, now
ExxonMobil. Interestingly enough the logo of Enron
was tilted southbound from day one. Was it a warning?
At the peak of E-culture, in 2000, there were millions
of names around the world, which started with the
letter ‘E’ and at times, some corporations
simply promoted the letter ‘E’ as their
logo and as their ultimate branding strategy. Case
in point – like ‘E’ in a circle
for Eaton, a dynasty retail empire in Canada which
after a century of success recently died, and ‘E’
in a circle as in IBM’s E-Business. There
is nothing wrong as all depends on the size of promotional
Eventually, the consumers became completely tired,
exhausted and immune to the letter ‘E’
and screamed ‘Enough’. The E-craze died
slowly with the rest of the crazy dot.coms. These
days you run into an ‘E’ based name
now and again, like Encana, another thirty billion
energy giant of Canada.
For 2005 and beyond, we are moving to additional
new trends, for example, the letter ‘M’
for mobility, like M-Life of ATT, which fizzled
recently, or MMO2 for BT Wireless mobile phone of
England. ‘A brand identity that is modern
and universal,’ said Peter Erskin, CEO of
the mobile business unit to BBC. Now changed as
MMO2 was supposed to be the greatest creation as
it says 2002, now it’s 2005 going 2006. So
now MMO2 is changed to O2 as in Oxygen. Sure you
would need some oxygen after exhausting tens of
millions in MMO2.
It would be interesting to watch if people see mobility
in ‘M’. Just recently they entirely
missed MBANX, the on-line arm of the Bank of Montreal,
and the consumer could not see either Montreal,
money or the bank even after millions of dollars
were spent. ACER, the giant electronic manufacturer
of orient introduces BENQ which stands for ‘Better
Engineered and Network Quality’. Alas, our
human brain doesn’t have the capacity to remember
these fancy origins, however, their branding is
pushing for the letter ‘Q’, just like
the struggling letter ‘Q’ of struggling
Compaq. Now HPAQ or something like it.
Sometimes single letter branding can only give you
only single digit profits, like the letter ‘K’,
in the giant US retailer called K-Mart, recently
in Chapter 11.
Corporate naming and product naming is a very serious
exercise and requires sophisticated strategies,
rather than a simple game of the alphabet.
(Naseem Javed, author of Naming for Power and Domain
Wars, is recognized as an authority on Global Name
Identities and Domain Issues. He introduced The
Laws of Corporate Naming in the 80's and also founded
ABC Namebank, a consultancy established in New York
and Toronto a quarter century ago. Naseem also conducts
executive workshops and conferences on global image
and name identities issues www.azna.com/ceo.htm)