You say Allegis and I say Allegion

You can’t fault Lippincott for persisting with corporate names based on the word ‘allegiance’.

The Pledge of Allegiance is a daily ritual for most American school children and, in spite of its feudal etymology, the distinct overtones of patriotic loyalty resonate positively with people.

No surprise then that it’s a wildly popular base word in naming. There are, literally, hundreds of ‘Allegiance’ names and its variants for companies in every conceivable business category.

Allegion and family
Allegion and family

The latest coinage is ‘Allegion’, the new corporate name for Ingersoll Rand’s commercial and residential security business that owns unsexy lock brands such as Schlage and Legge.

Lippincott says of their handiwork: “The selected name, Allegion, conveys the close, collaborative and long-term relationships (allegiances) that the company builds with customers. It also refers to the diverse legion of experts company-wide and suggests the protection and strength that the brand’s security solutions provide.”

It makes you wonder if, in the client evaluation of Allegion, the subject of its first cousin ‘Allegis’ ever came up. It’s a story that Lippincott knows well.

Allegis CEO Richard Ferris explains his strategy
Allegis CEO Richard Ferris explains his strategy

It starts in 1979 when Richard J. Ferris became chief executive of UAL Inc., the parent company of United Airlines. He spoke with messianic zeal of his visionary concept of a one-stop fly-drive-sleep behemoth that would take care of the major needs of travelers. In a two-year span Ferris spent $2.3 billion in pursuit of his vision, acquiring Hertz Car Rental, Westin and Hilton International hotel chains.

In February 1987 he changed the name of UAL Inc. to Allegis Corp. to reflect the broadened scope of his travel enterprise.

“We are a travel company, not just a transportation company”, he said. “The name change clearly identifies us as the only corporation that can offer travelers door-to-door service.”

Wall Street hated the strategy and analysts and institutional investors focused their displeasure on the name. Donald Trump, never at a loss for a pithy remark, said Allegis “sounds like the next world-class disease.”  Wall Street wags joined in; Allegis Corp. became Egregious Corp.

Unnerved by the ridicule, Allegis directors finally bowed to pressure from dissident shareholders who threatened a proxy fight to replace the board. They forced Ferris to resign, symbolically changed the name back to UAL, and began to dismember the company.

It was Lippincott (and Margulies) who came up with the Allegis name. They explained it thus at the time:  “Allegis conveys the central corporate mission of service and guardianship … through its relation to the word allegiant, meaning loyal or faithful, and aegis, meaning protection and sponsorship.”

Now, for me, notions of guardianship, fidelity and protection sound like a much better set of attributes for a security company than a travel company. Too bad for Allegion they had already been pinned to Allegis.

Of course, there was nothing wrong with Allegis as a name. It lives on quite happily today in various corporate guises; here, here and here, for example. Leave it to Donald Trump to provide a fitting epitaph:

“The name change made me more militant as an investor and more willing to speak out against management, because I thought it was so wrong,” he said in the New York Times. ”And I think it had an important psychological role. It brought out even more anger at management and made a lot of people say they had finally had it.”

In other words – if all else fails, attack the name.

See also: Allegis, the name that died of shame.

The old, old story of a new corporate name

Keysight LogoThe only interesting thing about the new Keysight Technologies name from Agilent is the weird familiarity of the story surrounding its development.

It’s like a tired, old Agatha Christie plot recycled over and over. Only the names of the characters have changed.

A corporate spinoff is announced: they need a name, one with a message–wait, so what do we stand for? It also has to be easy to pronounce and – watch out for those tricky translation issues – it can’t mean shriveled testicles or anything rude in Japanese!

It sounds easy; it turned out to be very hard, much harder than anyone imagined.

An internal multi-regional, cross-functional team is formed just to complicate things. Once again executives rummage for candidates in the HP heritage bin – Addison Technologies anyone? Lawyers in international markets can’t agree. A private investigator is hired to track down the owner of a domain name.

It finally gets down to a shortlist of candidates…and then the CEO nixes them all on his iPhone.

He doesn’t like anything? Quick, back to the drawing board!

“It’s really hard to just take a bunch of letters and put them together, and have somebody identify with them right away,” says client breathlessly after three months of turmoil. “I would definitely describe it as a wild ride, three months of insanity.” Indeed. Insane.

A new name is finally announced. A happy ending in this case. Phew! But such an unnecessary palaver.

Read the unabridged version here.

Thanks to the EEVBlog, here are a few possible alternative name candidates:

Two Motorolas, one huge branding mistake

Motorola Inc., the maker of mobile phones and two-way radios, is targeting January for the spinoff of its handset unit, splitting the company in two.

The new company will be known as Motorola Mobility.

The remaining business, Motorola Solutions, will make bar-code scanners, walkie-talkies and other emergency-communication equipment.

Mobility, or Solutions?

Thus, there will be two Motorolas and two Motorola brands in the market next year.

In all the spinoff announcements there has been no mention of how the shared brand will be managed, which should be a concern to investors. How will each of the two Motorola brands move forward and evolve, as they will need to in order to stay relevant and competitive in their specific market categories, without undermining each other?

Motorola is treating the separation as though they it were naming two new divisions, each with vacuous appellations, in the apparent belief that the Motorola brand will magically float above the two, managing itself in the ether as it has done always. As both businesses are inherently about ‘mobility’ and ‘solutions’, how is the market supposed to understand the difference between Motorola Solutions and Motorola Mobility?

The truth is that Motorola has never understood branding and the role of the Motorola brand. Brands have always been about product.

Prediction: Only one of these businesses will survive as Motorola. The other will languish, not understanding how a commoditized industry has moved to differentiation by brand, until it is too late to save it from being acquired by a competitor. If and when this happens, what will happen to the Motorola name then?

Name origin: Motorola founder Paul Galvin came up with this name when his company (at the time, Galvin Manufacturing Company) started manufacturing radios for cars. Many audio equipment makers of the era used the “ola” ending for their products, most famously the “Victrola” phonograph made by the Victor Talking Machine Company (later JVC).  The name was meant to convey the idea of “sound” and “motion”. It became so widely recognized that the company later adopted it as the company name.