‘A good name is better than precious ointment,” according to the Bible. These days, that can mean more than just a good reputation, especially in business. It can mean a snappy title, too: something that will both stick in people’s minds and make them smile.
When the bigwigs at PricewaterhouseCoopers’ consulting arm sat down with branding advisers recently to think of a “good name” ahead of their separation from the giant accounting firm, they probably had both things in mind. On the one hand, in the wake of the Enron scandal it couldn’t hurt their reputation to delink themselves verbally from their parent accounting body. PricewaterhouseCoopers had nothing to do with Enron — that was Arthur Andersen — but accountants in general have been under a cloud ever since. Why carry the freight if you aren’t even in the accounting business?
On the other hand, they needed a new name anyway. PwC Consulting, as they are known now, just doesn’t cut it in this age of zippy one-word monikers. Pharmaceutical makers Hoechst and Rhone-Poulenc merged three years ago to form Aventis. Scottish Telecom has for some reason become Thus (our favorite). Even Arthur Andersen’s consulting arm presciently took on a new identity in 2000 as Accenture (they are still being confused with a fashion house, but that’s better than being confused with Arthur Andersen). It is clear which way the trend is going, and PwC wasn’t on board. At the very least, it needed to sort out its ideas about upper-case and lower-case letters before gearing up for a planned $1 billion public offering this summer.
So, what was the new name it unveiled last week? Monday.
No, they didn’t unveil it on Monday. Monday is the name. Monday as in the day of the week, the object of sighs and nightmares, the synonym for blue, blah, rat-race, depressing and unwelcome. Monday as in the joke about the PwC board calling their creative advisers on a Friday to ask, “Have you come up with a name yet?” only to be told, “Probably Monday.” If one criterion of a good name is to make people smile, Monday is a success already. People are rolling in the aisles.
The problem is, PwC didn’t mean to be funny. They spent serious money on this name change — $110 million, to be exact. What it bought them was two pieces of advice. First, pick a short, memorable name, but one with meaning, a real word, “concise, recognizable, global,” unlike the fake Latinisms and made-up abstractions already cluttering the business landscape: names like Verizon, Diageo, Avaya and the much-mocked Consignia (formerly Britain’s Royal Mail).
So far, so good. But the second recommendation — the name itself — was iffier. When the branding people told PwC that the word “Monday,” far from denoting back-to-work blues, suggested a fresh start, new thinking, donuts and coffee, perhaps PwC should have said “Nice try” and moved on. Instead, employees are already being exhorted to think these novel kinds of Monday thoughts: “Sharpen your pencils, iron your crispy white shirts, set the alarm clock, relish the challenge . . .”
Will Monday prove the disaster that industry watchers are predicting? Opinions differ. Employee response has ranged from embarrassment to hilarity to a sense that PwC’s senior management is hair-raisingly out of touch with ordinary workers’ feelings. After all, where did the catchphrase “Thank God it’s Friday” come from if everyone is so excited about Monday? More seriously, as one U.S. critic asked, “If this is the sum of the creative minds at PwC, would you really want to trust them with your business?”
Then again, Monday might just work brilliantly, despite its high risibility quotient. Say this for it: It has already generated a lot more buzz than PwC ever did — and as the old adage has it, there’s no such thing as bad publicity, except perhaps in the case of Enron. That’s the interesting thing about company names. Only time will tell what is going to make it in the marketplace. Consignia is expected to be, well, consigned very soon to the dustbin of nice tries. Microsoft, by contrast, is a household word worldwide. It can take a long time for a brand to find its niche and build up value — but if and when it does, that value can be staggering. Marlboro, to take a classic example, has been valued at around $43 billion. No wonder PwC took this name change seriously.
Maybe too seriously. There’s a kind of geeky earnestness behind names like Monday and Thus and Accenture that the public — that great reservoir of common sense — tends to home in on. Monday’s fate will be a timely indicator of their tolerance for it. The signs are not good, though. As one PwC employee put it last week, obviously preferring tank tops to crispy white shirts, “I might work for Monday, but I live for Friday!”
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