It's the Corporate Naming Dust-Up of the Decade
© Steve Rivkin 1988
The telecommunications world trembled when WorldCom bought MCI Communications. A $37 billion deal.
While financial mavens were counting the digits on the biggest takeover in history, marketing folks were already arguing over the name of the new colossus. The tentative name, that is, since nothing final has been announced.
For now, MCI WorldCom is the moniker for the merged beast. (Even though WorldCom is buying MCI, the acquirer's name appears last.)
Which created one giant flap in naming circles.
"It's the same old dumb solution of slapping one name in front of another," one observer told a national newspaper. It's a "Frankenstein structure that reflects nothing more than the deal itself."
The chorus joined in: "As a name, it's flat." "It's a marketing blunder." "It's cumbersome, it's dumb."
Philip Purcell is the chairman of one of those merged entities with a pileup name: Morgan Stanley, Dean Witter, Discover & Company. He joked in a speech about the rancher who merged 10 smaller spreads into the Triangle X Circle Winding Creek Golden Horseshoe Bent Arrow Triple T Ranch. The punchline: He wound up with very few cattle, because "not many of 'em survived the branding."
So, why not keep things simple at MCI WorldCom? Why not pick just one name?
Ah, but there's the rub. Which name to pick?
Bottom line: Strip away all the egos, and the answer is commonsensical. WorldCom is the far better name. MCI is a clumsy set of meaningless initials, little known outside the U.S., and a perennial runner-up in terms of image and reputation.
WorldCom has scope, clout, descriptiveness and simplicity.
Will the obvious answer prevail?
STEVE RIVKIN President, Rivkin & Associates, Inc; Editor, The Naming Newsletter, a quarterly report on the strategies and tactics of naming. Steve is a much sought-after speaker and has provided naming counsel and training workshops for such clients as Ameritech, BlueCross BlueShield, First Data Corp., Kraft Foods, Monsanto, Nynex, Outboard Marine Corp., Pharmaco, Sierra Instruments and Wendy's. Training workshop details, contact RAYMA Management Consultants Wendy Song at tel: (03) 7044-666, fax: (03) 7044-484 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org