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A Strange Brand Naming Trend

A Strange Brand Naming Trend

Creating words without vowels is not new. Dropping vowels make a company sound cool and stand out to the world. The usual vowel that gets taken out during a naming process is the letter “E.” So, why do companies take out a vowel?

As reported by Wall Street Journal on April 26th, 2021 by Julie Steinberg.

Who Nds th Lttr E? Scottish Fund Manager Aberdeen Tries Abrdn Instead

Crtain vowls just arn’t arning thir kp anymor. On Monday, a Scottish asst managr said it would nix a fw of th troublmakrs.

Specifically, and perhaps more comprehensibly, it was Standard Life Aberdeen PLC that said it would eliminate the Es, and change its name to “Abrdn.”

The company, with roots that stretch back to 1825, said the move is meant to standardize branding among its multiple businesses and form part of its efforts to be modern and agile. Pronunciation will remain the same—Aberdeen.

Among the problems it was trying to solve stem from trademark law, which put off limits the generic Aberdeen, the Scottish city where one arm of the company was founded in 1983. Another was a more modern conundrum, which was how to get the firm to appear more prominently in search results.

The firm’s website ranks in 35th position for the keyword “Aberdeen’’ in the U.K., which might scarcely exist as far as Google is concerned. It competes with the port city in Scotland, known as the oil capital of Europe, the University of Aberdeen, the soccer club, the local government website, the Visit Scotland website and the airport.

Abrdn follows Scotland’s iconic, highly caffeinated carbonated beverage, Irn-Bru, which shrugged off the “o” and “e” in Iron Brew, its original name, in 1946. The U.K. was on a truth-in-labeling kick, and the drink didn’t have much iron in it, nor was it brewed.

R&B-pop star Abel Tesfaye, known as The Weeknd, originally wanted the stage name “The Weekend” when he was starting out, he said in a Reddit Q&A in 2013. He axed the “e” to avoid copyright issues with a Canadian band who had it first, he said. (A representative for The Weeknd declined to commnt.)

Corporate name changes are often about capturing attention or signaling a new start. The auto company that makes Jeep, Dodge, Alfa Romeo and Maserati is now called Stellantis. Websites and apps including Flickr, Tumblr and Grindr never had the letter E. Some companies have swapped out consonants, substituting the letter Z in product names, for the letter S.

Minuts aftr the Abrdn announcmnt, commntrs wighd in on social mdia.

Without the vowel cues, the name sounded like “a burden.” Some thought it was a belated April Fools joke, like when Volkswagen AG’s U.S. subsidiary said the company would rebrand itself as Voltswagen of America and then clumsily clarified it was kidding.

Stephen Bird, chief executive of soon-to-be Abrdn, said the new name reflects “clarity of focus.” In a television interview on Monday, he said the name had been conjured up with brand consultancy Wolff Olins, and that it hadn’t cost a lot of money “to develop the identity.”

Hedging its bets, the company said the name won’t come into official use until the summer.

“Abrdn is a name that works digitally and is sufficiently unique that it can be attributed exclusively to the company, as opposed to the wider connotations of the long-form ‘Aberdeen,’ ” a spokeswoman said

Nancy Friedman, a name developer and brand consultant in the San Francisco Bay Area, said it is unusual to see a financial company dispense with vowels, and that it looked “a little lightweight.”

“If they really wanted to rebrand they could have come up with something that’s fresh and meaningful and also legible,” she said.

On the other hand, “people get used to all sorts of things. Google sounded ridiculous at first,” she added.

The Weeknd performed during halftime of the NFL Super Bowl on Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla.

The asset manager soon to be known as Abrdn, which oversees assets of £535 billion, equivalent to $743.6 billion, said earlier it would sell the Standard Life brand to its partner Phoenix Group over the course of this year. It is a product of a 2017 merger between Standard Life PLC and Aberdeen Asset Management PLC.

Performance since then has been rocky; shares are off 34% since the merger. Whether from excitement or bemusement, investors sent shares of the company up 2% on Monday.

“From a practical perspective, as an asset manager I’d want to have a relatively easy-to-spell name,” said Mike Werner, an analyst covering asset managers at Swiss bank UBS Group AG . “I don’t know if this is. I don’t know if people will remember to eliminate the ‘e’s. Your ability to find those specific funds may be hampered if the spelling is…unique.”

Martin Gilbert co-founded Aberdeen Asset Management in 1983 and served as its chief executive. He retired from the company in 2020. He likes the name change. “It comes from fintech, doesn’t it?” he said. That said, he added, the company’s products are more important than its name.

When Aberdeen dropped the E’s in their name, it grabbed the audiences’ attention. Which that attention led to discussions on social media. With that being said, do you think that taking away a vowel in a name is a good branding strategy?

Additional Branding Resources

Brand Strategy 101 (HubSpot)

5 Keys to Brand Building (Ideas BIG)

What’s in a startup’s name? Why the trend for misspelled words and -ly won’t go away (TNW)

 

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