The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Monday, June 10, 2002  

Brand Consultant Rips Off PwC Consulting

In a stunning retreat from what remains of corporate dignity these days, PwC Consulting said yesterday that the firm will rename itself “Monday” as it prepares to break away from its parent, the Big Five accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, through an initial public offering.

With this announcement, PwC joins rival Accènture, formerly known as Andersen Consulting, in an attempt to create an image differentiated from the battered -- or in the case of Arthur Andersen -- tattered, reputations of the Big Five accounting firms.

We had hoped that the age of just-too-clever corporate names went out with the crash of the Internet myth in 2000. Alas, no.

Not surprisingly, someone was paid for this latest disaster. In this case, an unknown sum was paid by PwC to “brand consultant” Wolff Olins, a London-based outfit with nearly 200 people on its payroll. Hey…Nice work if you can get it.

Corporate name changes tend to come in waves. During the 1980s it seemed every other company was in a mad rush to build a new identity around its ticker symbol. As that fad petered out, it eventually overlapped another wave of name changes during which seemingly random collections of letters were strung together to form meaningless names with no discernable connection to the firm’s business.

A few firms rode both waves. United Airlines Corp. in 1987 became Allegis Corp., after having acquired a chain of hotels and an auto rental agency, only to drop the name -- at the time widely considered ridiculous -- just a year later, when the firm changed its moniker to UAL Corp., UAL being the company’s symbol on the New York Stock Exchange.

Oddly enough, there is now another Allegis Corp. floating around out there, the name having been picked up or purchased by a privately held “e-business” consulting firm in Menlo Park, Calif. We’re wondering which “brand consultant” convinced the management team that the word Allegis captured the essence of an e-business consultant as well as it did a diversified travel company.

Such names changes can be fraught with risk. When Sperry and Boroughs -- two once legendary and then beleaguered computer makers -- merged in 1986 the new firm took the name Unisys Corp. (For “Unified Systems,” perhaps?) and barely has been heard from since.

We could be at the beginning of yet another wave.

Tricon Global Restaurants, itself the dopey corporate name taken by the parent company of Taco Bell, KFC, and Pizza Hut after the businesses were spun off by Pepsico (Tricon is derived from “three concepts,” one for each of the three restaurants), has changed its name to YUM! Brands, incorporating the firm’s too-precious ticker symbol, YUM.

And shareholders of Philip Morris Cos. in April gave the green light to changing the tobacco and food giant’s name to Altria. Something to do with reaching new heights, we think.

Law firms have joined the party, too, shelling out millions in an effort to create “brand names” for themselves. Thus, to cite just one egregious example, the venerable Philadelphia law firm Dechert, Price & Rhoads is now simply “Dechert.” We will miss the ubiquitous ampersands.

According to a report published on today, PwC believes the name is a perfect fit. Says PwC Consulting chief executive officer Greg Brenneman, “The PricewaterhouseCoopers brand has given us a great heritage. Our new name -- Monday -- is exactly what we want it to be as we create our new business: a real word, concise, recognizable, global and the right fit for a company that works hard to deliver results.”

PwC Consulting spokeswoman Sehra Eusufzai could not comment on how the company came up with “Monday,” CNNfn reports. “Our brand positioning indicates real people, real business and real experience,” Eusufzai told the cable news network. “That's a central part of what we see this name standing for. Secondly [sic], with any new name introduction, there's bound to be a wide range of reactions, and over time it will come to mean what people want it to mean.”

Oh, we get it now. Let the customer decide what the firm stands for. That’s one helluva way to run a business.

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