With the news today that Time Inc. is possibly considering a name change, we have a lot of questions about media companies courting the name rebrand, like, why? And also, does it actually make a difference? And, why are most of the recent rebrand names so awful?
Before last week, the go-to example for that last question would have been the still-ridiculous sounding Tronc, but Fusion’s recently-announced decision to rebrand as Splinter provides another outstanding example in the annals of what were they thinking? If we had to guess, it had something to do with the fact that splinter is fusion’s pejorative opposite, but shouldn’t the focus have been on the fact that the only good thing to come out of that word is the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ sensei and adoptive mutant rat father?
Stand by for Turtles + Time joke:
In Time Inc.’s specific case, a Time Inc. spokesperson had this to say in a statement provided to The Wall Street Journal: “We’re excited about our business strategy and momentum, and we are in the early stages of considering a rebranding effort to reinforce the success of our transformation from a legacy publishing company to a multi-platform consumer media company.”
To which, we have another question. Who exactly is meant to be convinced by the idea that a name change is transformative in this way, or that it is necessary to evince the specific idea of itself the company is selling?
Where name changes make sense, it’s usually for more practical reasons. When PolicyMic dropped the Policy, and later the dot, from its name, it was a simplification that reflected the publication’s expansion into coverage areas beyond politics and policy. The previous name suggested editorial boundaries that no longer applied.
You can argue about whether Huffington Post turning into HuffPost was necessary, but it wasn’t a huge deal since that was already an established shorthand by which the publication was known.
Which isn’t to say shorthanding is always the way to go. A thought exercise: imagine The Washington Post changing its name to WashPost or WaPo. We certainly wouldn’t want to see that, and there’s no need for it. Its legacy name certainly didn’t preclude it from earning a reputation in recent years as “the most innovative company in the newspaper business” or of having gotten “its swagger back.”
It’s almost a given that a media company in 2017, whether legacy media or a millennial-focused digital upstart, is going to be multi-platform, and digital or mobile-first, or at least trying to get there. Time Inc. don’t need a name change to make that point, especially when its name is so rich with history. We say, focus on the innovation, keep the Luce (and Hadden) legacy.