Things must be in decent shape in the city of Irvine.
I know this only because leaders of the town of 273,000 have time to join the bandwagon of institutional name changing. City leaders voted to drop the county reference in the name of the Orange County Great Park within the city limits.
Stupid name changes — and that’s the vast majority of them — are a long-running pet peeve.
I’m not talking about the long-overdue review of what we call everything from ball clubs to food brands to schools and boulevards that honor folks of dubious legacies. That’s a discussion for another day.
Nor am I thinking about when your local stadium gets called whatever the highest bidder wants. Take San Francisco’s baseball facility: Today’s Oracle Park has been in two decades Pacific Bell Park, SBC Park and AT&T Park.
Rather, I’ve been long puzzled about institutions altering names for no good reason — and worse, the ridiculous explanations of the logic. Especially in the pandemic era where real-time headaches must be addressed by leadership.
Take Irvine, the city council thinks dropping “Orange County” from “Great Park” will get it more credit for the park’s development and operation. This waste of taxpayer money is also an insult to other county residents who essentially gifted an old airbase to the city.
Sadly, this is government acting like business. Too many corporate leaders think a new name or logo could accomplish everything from internally rally the troops to hide a previous company blemish to sell more stuff to otherwise convince the world something’s “new and improved.”
Instead, most name changes just confuse the public. Let’s use some recent rebrandings to try to understand the underlying premises at work.
New org chart? A minor corporate shuffling of responsibilities breeds a tweak of the name.
Like Kia Motors America is now simply Kia America. The Korean automaker with U.S. offices in Irvine says the switch “signals that Kia in the US is fully aligned with Kia Corporation’s global strategy and primed for continued success.” That from dropping one word?
Oh, and a new logo? Well, maybe I don’t understand hip design: “Narrow connections between the characters emphasize the power and energy of movement, and the wide proportions of the three vertical pillars reinforce stability and provide a confident and balanced appearance.”
It be worse: Japan’s giant Sony Corp. became Sony Group Corp.
Why bother? The holding company of various Sony units says the change allows “focusing on performing headquarters functions of the conglomerate encompassing financial services, gaming and entertainment.”
New look: The Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board has a new logo. It’s the word “Los Angeles” and a sunset.
Talk about over-thinking: “The sun motif is a highly recognizable symbol that reinforces the equity that Los Angeles owns in breathtaking sunsets. Anything under the sun can happen in Los Angeles. … Vibrant gradient colors ranging from sunburst yellow to ocean-inspired teal work in harmony, serving as both a visual representation of L.A.’s diversity and the journey of L.A.’s sunrise to sunset.”
At least, the L.A. board skipped convention in the convention business — renaming itself “Visit (insert city here)” as groups supporting California and Anaheim group did.
Branding tool: Huami Corp. — a Chinese maker of wearable technology with U.S. headquarters in Cupertino — became Zepp Health.
Zepp apparently “more clearly articulates our mission to investors, partners and customers, as we are now well-positioned to solve the biggest challenges facing the health-technology industry.”
Hey, I own one of your smart watches. But it’s branded Amazfit. Now I’m confused!
Consolidation: Yes, mergers make marketing tricky.
Orange County-bred homebuilding giant Tri Pointe is putting its six brands under one name. “Tri Pointe” will replace the likes of Pardee, Trendmaker, Maracay, Winchester, and Quadrant. Oh, and the parent company changes from TRI Pointe Group to Tri Pointe Homes. (Yes, the capitalization changed, too.)
At least it’s better what Standard Pacific Homes and Ryland Homes did after their merger: Call themselves CalAtlantic! Then somebody bought the merged entity.
Consolidation, part 2: Three sister banks in Central California — Yosemite Bank, Founders Community Bank, and Premier Valley Bank — now use just the Premier Valley brand.
I would have picked the Yosemite name. Is there a better image of rock-solid strength that bank customers crave?
It could be worse: In North Dakota, the century-old American Bank Center got “a distinct and unforgettable name” — Bravera Bank.
That’s mixing “bravery” and “truth” representing “the pioneer spirit and honest values that define the northern plains.”
Measure risk: Before making a switch, call the owners of the Columbus Crew soccer team.
Earlier this year the Ohio organization changed its 25-year-old name to Columbus SC (that’s “soccer club”). How big of a mistake? The old name returned seven days later.
Measure risk twice: Name changes involve doing homework because other folks take their institutional name very seriously.
In Montclair, the “new” Vendetta Brewing Co. is the old Revolt Brewing Co. craft beer maker. This switch was prompted by a “trademark dispute.”
New owner: Not all changes stink. Take what was Aryzta North America — L.A. bakers with the La Brea, Otis Spunkmeyer, and Oakrun brands — that’s now Aspire Bakeries.
The new monicker followed the sale of the group by Switzerland’s Aryzta AG. It was selected in an employee contest, giving it some in-house authenticity.
“What better name than Aspire to represent our desire to not only achieve our goals but exceed them,” the contest winner said.
Sadly, I’ve seen far worse.