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Why We Should Not Ridicule Re-Branding Exercises, Yet Why Tronc Deserved It

Naming a company, any company, is not an easy task.

Branding is the first thing your audience will be exposed to, that is especially true when it comes to the name. A name you can’t re-launch like a campaign, a site or even periodically a logo. You better not change it at all. It’s like with your child; you can advise on clothes and friend choices as they hit puberty, but that name you gave them, that will stick forever. So yes, it’s very, very darn important.

Late last week I was contacted by LAist about the (by now infamous) name Tribune Publishing gave itself in a (presumably) hasty re-branding exercise, given they were in a legal battle. Below is what I shared with the reporter, and now with you:

Picture taken from MSNBC - When else have you seen a major company's name in quotation marks?

When else have you seen a major company’s name in quotation marks? (Picture via CNBC)

Here are some of the many rules I apply when crafting a company name and here is how our new f(r)iend tronc measures up:

 

#1 Short and easy to pronounce, easy to spell
Got that one right…yet many will misspell it as ‘tronk’ based on ‘trunk.’

 

#2 Available .com
I hope that’s not the look of a large publishing group, so they might still be in talks to purchase the domain. Oh, wait, it actually is the real tronc. Maybe we should move the conversation over to talk about the logo at this point? Makes me wonder, does this site work in Netscape?

 

#3 Passes the Google test
They got enough press very quickly that they dominate the first page on Google. If we do an image search we can not see the tronc for the tree trunks though.

 

#4 Tells a story
You tell me! OK, “Tribune Online Content” does not qualify as a story.

 

#5 Stands out (but not too far) from competitors
Surely stands out, but quite sure that it’s way too far.

 

Given that this re-brand came out of a lawsuit, this name is the result of a lean startup-style ‘speed-to-market’ naming exercise. As with most startups, this rush shows and backfires quickly. Sadly, a respectable company that needed to move away from its naming issues and signify very different benefits and changes to its audience, instead hit branding rock bottom.

It is of course very easy to jump on the re-branding trash talk wagon quickly, despite it never being fair not having been part of the process and understanding all the underlying reasons and restrictions. With endless trunk, junk, Tron and Trump jokes on the way, it does feel like this will be a trunk show that won’t be too exclusive, nor end anytime soon. This one surely is justified and I am whole-heartedly riding on that brand trash talk train (as it is indeed kinda fun).

Find them on Nasdaq starting 06/20 under the ticker TRNC – might as well have called it that; would have resonated with the same audience that would ‘dig’ tronc. And that audience ain’t theirs.

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