Playing Corporation Games, Changing Corporation Names
Once upon a time, long, long ago, before the internet, computers, tablets and smart phones, we had the time to use big words, and impressive speech and writing, and businesses had imposing names. Then progress(?) brought us Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest and all the rest, and our memory and attention span got carved up into little 140 character slices like cheap sushi.
Soon, we were so busy posting pictures of the baked beans we had for lunch that everything had to be shorter, faster, sooner! The military especially, got into the business of acronyms. SNAFU to you, too. The government gave us FBI, CIA, DEA, IRS and NSA. Companies began re-inventing themselves in sound-bites, or bytes.
The American Oil Company shortly became Amoco. Standard Oil turned into Esso (S.O.). Even the Off-Broadway Awards ended up as the Obies (O.B.s).
The record I think, belongs to the City of Los Angeles, which has truncated down from its original, Spanish name of “El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles del Río de Porciúncula”, to the easily recognised L. A., a 98% reduction.
In Canada, it appeared most noticeable among the banks. It seemed the larger the company, the smaller the name became. A century ago, we had time to talk about The Canadian Imperial Bank, and The Bank of Commerce. When they merged to become The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, they soon became known simply as C.I.B.C.
The Bank of Toronto seduced The Dominion Bank of Canada, and their married name, The Toronto Dominion Bank, was soon merely T.D. When they almost went down the toilet with some American banks, they were White Knight rescued by Canada’s largest trust company, wisely named Canada Trust. Strangely, there now seems to be time to say TD/Canada Trust – except by the Americans.
The financially re-invigorated corporation has now taken over a chain of 1300 small banks, east of the Mississippi. They are known in the U.S. simply as TD Banks, so that Americans don’t think we’re stealing all their cash.
Nobody wanted to merge with poor little Bank of Montreal, and shortening its name to B.M. had unfortunate implications, so it became BMo – Bee-Moe. When banks stopped being places that just stored and lent money and paid interest, BMo spun off BMo Financial. To keep the banking separate from the gambling investment side of things, BMo Financial now owns The Bank of Montreal. When they desperately try to drum up banking business with TV ads, they speak of ‘BMo-Bank of Montreal.’ They have come full circle, and the tail is now firmly wagging the dog.
Company names used to accurately and completely describe what a company did, made or sold. You knew you were going to get greasy hash from ‘Bob’s Diner’, whereas ‘Roberto’s Food Emporium’ might be a wholesale warehouse, a grocery store or a restaurant.
I worked at Waterloo Metal Stamping, which made parts strictly for office furniture. So many people approached them to make outside parts that they changed their name to Waterloo Furniture Components.
While not making them shorter, some companies hide behind silly names with no informational value. If it hadn’t been for a class-action lawsuit, caused by allowing a Chinese company to make yoga pants so thin that the labels on panty liners were legible, I would never know what Lululemon was all about.
Likewise, what the hell does the company named Zulily do for a living??! These two look like they were named by the smoked-up losers in a scrabble game, from leftover tiles.
Is there a literary copyright© on the name Ali Baba? We have an Ali Baba Steakhouse locally. I just hope those are beef steaks, not camel. I think the company Alibaba, has a name which appears to have been formed by a rear-end collision. What do they make/sell – camel saddles, sesame rolls, flying carpets, oil lamps?? Open says me – and tell all. It would take a Genie-us to know.
I recently saw an online ad for a product called Lolo. It came complete with a questionnaire. Do you take Lolo? Are you a doctor who prescribes Lolo? Not without knowing what the Hell it is! It turns out to be a new, cutesy birth-control pill. Just what we needed. It contains a heavy dose of obfuscation.
Do any of you have any silly name stories? Don’t rush. I’ve had enough for a while. 🙄