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C. Paul Luongo's Published Columns

Friday, September 08, 2006

J. Walter Thompson Drops Its Name, Reputation

J. Walter Thompson Drops Its Name, Reputation

What’s going on out there? Established names in business are changing names to stay in tune. I ask, in tune for what? And why fix it if it ain’t broke? What does this change of name solve? J. Walter Thomson, legendary Madison Avenue Advertising Agency established in 1878 recently announced a change in the name to JWT. Is this going to make the agency better? No. But the agency reports that “James Walter Thomson is so far in the past, he doesn’t buy us anything anymore.” What? The agency wouldn’t be in business today without Mr. Thomson.
Agencies seeking to reinvent themselves are shifting focus to permission-based marketing tactics that get consumers to receive ad messages. Mr. Jeffrey, CEO, admits the name change likely won’t be enough by itself to turn around the massive entity of 315 offices, but they’re doing it anyway.
Would you buy more cars from GENERAL MOTORS if the name is changed to GM? FORD to FM? CHARLES SCHWAB to CS?
It’s Crazy.
When I first started in the Public Relations business I couldn’t wait to be 5 or 10 years old. Now after 41 years it’s working against me. People ask, “What, you’ve been in business 41 years?” With some sort of negative connotation.
I ask you, if you went to see a doctor who had been in business 41 years wouldn’t that mean something to you as opposed to a young intern who’s been practicing for only a few years?

If you hear of a baked bean company in business for 100 years you think they must know something about baking beans, and that seems to be important somehow. And it’s true it should mean that they know about baking beans. Just as someone in the Advertising, Public Relations, or Marketing business.
A while ago a restaurateur on Boylston Street changed its name for the third time in 10 years. I asked why despite the fact the business was profitable. He said, “Show me a restaurant on the street that has kept its name for 10 years.
Who’s dictating these rules and why? Are kids responsible for this? And if so, what do they know?
Established names are an important anchor to our economic system. If names are changing constantly, their history or economic well-being are not being served.
Should McDonald’s now be just BIG MAC? And if so, wouldn’t you want to know who’s behind BIG MAC? Do you accept a name without challenge just because it’s a new name?
Should the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA now be known only as USA? Should the POPE now be known as Mr. P?
Maybe P. Diddy and Lil’ Kim know something we don’t.

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