I was listening to the radio yesterday and I heard a name that I hadn’t heard before on the radio advertising one of the radio station’s features (their toll-free number that you can call from anywhere around the nation, world, or really anywhere). It was a company called Waterstone Bank. For a few seconds, I was confused about the name and had headed for the search box in Firefox before it hit me. This wasn’t a new bank, it was just another business which had changed its name to something that says almost nothing about what they are or where they do business. Somewhat (very tangentially) like when Phillip Morris changed its name to Altria. Uh, ok…
However, it isn’t the name that they chose to change to that gives me the shits, it’s the fact that they decided to change their name in the first place. Apparently, it isn’t good enough for a company to have the name of a particular city in their corporate image. Well, not any city (where would we be without New York Life or The Hartford or Atlanta Bread Company?) but apparently this one is taboo. What’s the name of this supposedly problematic name?
Admittedly, it’s not the "sexiest" city name out there like Chicago, Atlanta, or anything foreign-sounding. However, some bright spark in a conference or board room, probably wearing the title of "image consultant" or something equally ridiculous, said that the word "Wauwatosa" was inappropriate for branding outside of that city itself. At least that’s the reason they used when announcing this change – it was a supposedly useful change because they’d built branches which are not within the city limits of Wauwatosa, thus they’ve outgrown the city and need a new name. Thus, it was done.
Now, if you think that this is the first business to do something similar, you’d be mistaken. 11 years ago or so, there used to be a realty company known as Wauwatosa Realty. They were a successful company on their own right (even if they were based in Brookfield, which is on the other side of the county line), but they decided that they needed to have some impetus to grow even further, so they decided to change their name as well. They went with the name Shorewest – at first it seemed to be ridiculous, but if you think about it, the name fits what they serve – the shore (of Lake Michigan) and out to the west.
On a somewhat unrelated note, there used to be a bank in this area that was quite successful while maintaining their city-based name – St. Francis Bank. They only changed their name when they got gobbled up by larger banks and had name changes put on them. Now, of course, they’re a part of a much larger chain that extends out to the nation, and now have a name of National City Bank.
Why St. Francis is a more acceptable name for a business than Wauwatosa is something that is beyond me. Could it be that Wauwatosa is hard to say for an "outsider", or that it has 4 syllables?
Come to think of it, the longer the name, the less likely it is that you’ll see a national company using it. Have you heard of anything with Oconomowoc in the name? Heck, can you say Oconomowoc? 😉
I also haven’t seen any businesses using the name Wooloomooloo either… 😉