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Tuesday, 13 August, 2002, 12:26 GMT 13:26 UK
Hunt is on for world's worst rebranding
Jif, Cellnet, Opal Fruits, the Post Office... all have felt the cold blade of rebranding between their shoulders. After one notorious new name - Monday - is dropped, the hunt is on for the world's worst rebranding.
The fact that "D'oh!" is part of our everyday lexicon is proof of the constantly changing nature of language.

While this exclamation that Homer Simpson constantly utters is embraced with some affection, the same probably could not be said for a word like "droxies", which is not the name of some toxic substance but is, in fact, an American biscuit.

It's names like "droxies" that inspired, or perhaps incited, the setting up of the Shinola Awards.

They're the brainchild of Danny Altman, a man well qualified to comment on the monikers that assault us everyday.

Steve Manning, Danny Altman
Shinolas team members Steve Manning, Danny Altman
The naming and shaming of Consignia

Jan 2001: Royal Mail announces its new name, based on the word "consign".
Critics say it sounded like a Spanish left luggage office

Feb 2002: As company runs into trouble its new boss says it should change its name back

May 2002: Consignia announces its name will disappear within two years. New name likely to be Royal Mail.

Danny is the creative director of A Hundred Monkeys, a consultancy which is in the business of helping people name things from cars to magazines and from companies to cans of soup.

"It was an idea I was sitting on for a long time. Every industry has its own awards but there has never been any for naming."

One of Danny's cohorts in the Shinolas is his business partner Steve Manning who says part of what they are doing is a reaction to some of the names coming out over the last couple of years.

"We started the Shinolas to talk about the effect of all these names on the language because we're forced to use them.

"We wanted to address how these corporations were making these decisions and putting words in our mouths and how it was changing the language and the way we think about things.

"I mean suddenly you are forced to say things like 'Consignia', and they have taken away the Royal Mail and I think that is a very interesting point."

Screengrab of Shinola Awards site
The website catalogues rebrandings from round the world
The company's editorial director, Jay Jurisich, who is also the gatekeeper to the Shinolas, maintains an ever-evolving top 10 of horrors on topics ranging from toys to magazines; sports utility vehicles to junk food.

New upcoming categories will include water and mystery ingredients.

"So often what happens is that names that have no meaning get pushed through by large committees.

"That's why you end up with companies called Mirant and Agilent. The most recent example of that was Deloitte Touche Consulting changing to Braxton and putting out a 10-point list of justifications about the name.

"So basically we wanted to point that out and moreover try to get people to have a conversation within our culture rather than just sitting back and having to take it."

Steve has dubbed this bugbear "morpheme addiction" and the Shinolas include such names as "Achieva" (an Oldsmobile car) "Cruex" (a cream to soothe itching).

"The problem today is focus groups and the easiest way to get consensus is to take part of a word from Greek and part of a word from Latin and modify it and say to the boardroom oh this part represents power and the other part means cutting edge.

Are we gonna have conversations like: 'Honey? Did you order anything from a company called 6o#LRft?'
'That depends. Is the question mark at the end of your sentence or part of the name?'

Doug Byrnes, Shinolas
"That's why names like Enron or Prius have no meaning because if they did someone would object."

When it comes to the old Shakespearean question of "what's in a name", the title of these offbeat awards is also something that should be held up to scrutiny. It was chosen by Danny.

"There was a shoe polish called Shinola and during World War II there was an expression among American servicemen that 'you don't know s..t from shinola'. In other words, 'you don't know your ass from your elbow'.

"So basically it's being able to sort out what's good and what's not good and that's why we picked the name.

"It had a lot of colour, a story and it was spot on in terms of what we are trying to do to sort out names that have some sense, some intelligence from all of the other names which pretty much follow the herd."

While Danny, Steve and Jay may be seen to have something of a vested interest in commenting on the whole naming issue they have roped in a diverse panel of judges to ensure the award of a Shinola is fair and above board.

Consignia headquarters in London
The judges include Ben Cohen, one half of Ben & Jerry's ice cream, Jerry Harrison, co-founder of the Talking Heads, Bob Camp, co-creator of Ren & Stimpy, and Penny Arcade a performance artist.

Alas the efforts of this illustrious group is rarely welcomed by Shinola winners. Jay says while they don't actually have any statuettes to hand out, they do sometimes contact companies to let them know about their award.

"The reaction tends to be a letter months later saying something like 'Thank you for contacting Bloggs's foods. We have forwarded your interesting comments onto the appropriate people who will ignore it for perpetuity.'"

You can add your views to the debate using the form below.

To me, it's still a "Marathon" chocolate bar, the bag of sweets in the car glovebox is still "Opal Fruits", my mobile is still on the "One-2-One" network, my home phone is still provided by "British Telecom" and my current account is still with the "Midland Bank". Rebranding - pah!
Andy Massey, England

Sometimes renaming is a good thing: before being called Enron, the company was briefly named Enteron which I believe is a medical term for the bowels. They changed it after a couple of days for some reason. Maybe the most adept "Shinola" should be awarded to Nestles who managed to keep the same name but change the pronunciation. The masters of reinvention.
Ed, England

Of course, some brands get rebranded by customers, for instance One2One was comonly called One-2-no-One, or one2None by disgruntled customers, hence its rebranding to T-Mobile
Jez, UK

My favorite rebranding: Philip Morris will rename themselves Altria Group, Inc. This way, no one will know that they're supporting a tobacco company when they buy Boca burgers (vegetarian), Kraft cheese, or Breakstones sour cream, just to name a few of the thousands of products owned by the tobacco giant.
Patti M., Stow, Massachusetts, US

Having worked for a so-called "Brand Identity Consultancy" I have actually taken part in naming brainstorms. Anything that comes into your head is studiously written down and examined from every angle. If it sounds good, it'll be on the shortlist; if the .com URL is still available it's a dead cert. Until the ridiculous practice of insisting on a .com web address ceases, we can expect to see company names becoming ever more obscure and unpronouncable.
Dan Thurgood, UK

We used to have a small sandwich shop next door to us called Arrans, simple enough name and we could all pop down to 'Arrans' for a snadwich or whatever. Now its been taken over and called 'Paninoceta'. No a single person pronounces it the same, so now we all pop to Boots for a sandwich instead.
Paul , UK

Is this a belated April Fool stunt ? Awards for dodgy company names from an outfit called 'A Hundred Monkeys' ?! Give me strength !
Steven Dodds, UK

Perhaps your readers may be interested in our "unbranding" service. Similar to rebranding, we advise on the process of ditching the silly new name and going back to the old one. Talking of new words - how about "consignify": to accelerate the decline of an organisation by wasting time and money on a futile rebranding exercise.
Tom, UK

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10 Jun 02 | Business
07 Oct 02 | Business
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