End of 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 budget.
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)

Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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