What's in a name? The Swissair Group, reincarnated from the ashes of SAirGroup last week, is hoping that reviving its old brand name will herald a new era. The move, announced by the chief executive, Mario Corti, has so far been well received by experts.This content was published on April 27, 2001 - 17:04
Ralph Ehinger, chief executive of Basel-based advertising company Ramstein, told swissinfo that the SAirGroup name was first introduced merely as the expression of a new strategy, followed by the company for the past five years.
"That strategy failed so the branding also failed," said Ehinger. "Now going back to the Swissair brand name is what's left for SAirGroup - Swissair is after all a pretty well-known brand."
Simon Taylor, chief executive of corporate identity specialists Siegel Gale, agreed. He told swissinfo that when a company overstretches itself - as SAirGroup has been seen to do - crucial measures have to be taken.
The switch in company name also raises other issues, such as how the change will affect non-airline component parts of the SAirGroup.
"The issue will be how do the endorsements work," said Taylor. He cited the case of the company subsidiary, Gate Gourmet, saying it would be interesting to see if a Swissair endorsement was as effective as the SAirGroup name.
"Obviously the company can go back to Swissair, but it isn't so much the name - it's what Swissair stands for," Taylor said. "Are the values of Swissair going to be expanded and become large enough to include all the component businesses in the corporate identity?"
The change of corporate name is closely linked to Corti's aim of bringing the group back to core business - the airline industry and related services.
But many analysts warn that re-branding is a tough business, dependent on different factors. "We look at the equity of the existing company - where is the good, the bad and the ugly in the existing equity of a company name," Taylor said. "Then we look at what we call the brand soul of the future, when that's identified we can look at the process of change itself."
It's also a costly business. A company going through such a transformation pays not only agencies like Ramstein or Siegel Gale, but also faces a whole range of other costs.
Among the lengthy list of things which have to be changed after a new name is agreed are signage, letterheads, bills and marketing paraphernalia.
"A list we've done for a major bank now has a 100 items on it that need to have the new name put on," Taylor said. "It's an enormous amount of work and it's an enormous amount of money."
It seems that returning to the simpler, clearer image of Swissair is being generally welcomed. However, the question posed by the image industry remains: whether the new name will carry enough weight to fulfil Corti's ambitious goals of turning the company around.
by Tom O'Brien
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