Words have power
“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” -W. Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
Well, old Will may have had a point in that arbitrary conventions such as names shouldn’t prescribe value or create artificial barrier. However, I don’t think that he’d argue with anyone about the fact that words, and by extension, words that are used to create identities, do have power.
Verizon, who have had multiple opportunities to walk away from their purchase of Yahoo, but chose not to do so, announced yesterday that they’re combining Yahoo and AOL into a new entity once the deal closes, designed to harness the best pieces of each for a new customer experience. Its name?
It certainly looks that way, especially after AOL CEO Tim Armstrong tweeted, “Billion+ Consumers, 20+ Brands, Unstoppable Team, #Take the Oath. Summer 2017.”
#Take the Oath? Oh, my.
That hashtag almost lends itself to comedy, given the rocky recent history of Yahoo’s numerous security breaches. Well that, plus AOL’s consistent efforts to rebrand after their ubiquitousness of providing more CD-ROM’s in the mail in the 1990’s than anyone thought possible.
“You’ve got mail?” More like, you’ve got a problem, Verizon.
Jokes on you
One can almost hear the pundits now, especially if the brand launches to less than stellar results:
“Even though Marissa Meyer is gone, they kept the name Oath around to commemorate all of them that she had to swear before testifying in front of Congress.”
“I swear that I didn’t know that AOL was still a thing!”
The New York Times take on the possible re-branding was equally damning.
Writing on their Facebook site, “Oath? Oof.”
While neither Yahoo or AOL chose to confirm or deny the rumors of the new name, and AOL spokesman, speaking to Business Insider, did comment that, “ [i]n the summer of 2017, you can bet we will be launching one of the most disruptive brand companies in digital.”
And disruptive it may well be.
But people make associations about who you are, what you do, and the service you provide based on multiple touch points in a first impression.
That’s why branding isn’t a subject to be taken lightly.
Perhaps Verizon had reams of data from focus groups indicating that the name Oath lent itself to a certain type of gravitas for the customer, that it presented images of stability and security, of a brand that people could trust and enjoy. Or, perhaps not, and it was made without the benefit of much external input from potential customers or advertisers.
How long did they spend on this?
If that’s the case, it would be a pity, indeed, to have arrived at what appears to be less than an appealing name for such a merger, one already fraught with intrigue and trouble at every step of the way, without understanding that many users saw the name Oath as an unwieldy punchline.