What's In A Name?
And when should you change it?
When I think of the Woolworths brand name I think of two things, general stores and supermarkets.
The former I remember fondly for the Pick and Mix stands, there were two varieties standard, or for a bit more, chocolates. Some kids had a policy of try before you buy, but I could never bring myself to do that - I blame my mother.
Years later I recall similar stores in the UK. There was a Woolworths just round the corner from where we lived on Finchley Road, with the same selection of sweets and random household goods. People there called it Woolies, I’m not sure if we did here.
The old department stores are long gone in Aotearoa, the one in Rotorua became a DEKA. Woolworths shut up shop in the UK when Woolworths went bust there at the end of 2008. The peak of the Global Financial Crisis, I guess people had to cut back on their Pick and Mix.
Similarly DEKA is also deceased. All that remains of it now is a sign/shrine in Huntly. Please note this is not an adequate reason to visit Huntly. There isn’t one. Poor old Huntly, even Dominos doesn’t want to go there so are introducing drone delivery. Hmm if you told me a new delivery service was starting out of Huntly, I wouldn’t have guessed it was selling pizza.
Woolworth supermarkets used to be common here until they changed the Foodtown and Woolworths stores to become Countdowns. So I was a tad surprised yesterday to read that Countdown are going to rename their stores here Woolworths.
Familiar household brand Countdown is set to disappear next year as part of a major rebrand that will see the supermarkets adopt the name of their parent company Woolworths.
It seems strange to change the name of a well established, very familiar brand, although of course Woolworths is well known.
Maybe survey says the old one wasn’t so popular any more? But c’mon guys if you’re changing it because the public is pissed off at high food prices and large supermarket profits, we’re still going to know it was you. You’re part of a duopoly, effectively in many areas a monopoly, we’re not going to think you’re some new player on the scene.
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Countdown didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory during the whole Covid thing. Their workers did, we loved them. But the company took the piss. There were no more specials on the shelves. For those of us who mostly buy things from Countdown if they’re on special, going to a butcher or a greengrocer for better value - there was no alternative, those were all closed, they really did have a monopoly.
So I guess being unpopular for massive price gouging during a pandemic, while running a near monopoly, could make you a tad unpopular. That would be a good reason for a name change. For more evidence we need look no further than what must be one of New Zealander’s all time most loathed companies - Telecom.
They really did have a monopoly. While there were other retailers, they all had to buy from the same wholesaler, Telecom. Yes, it would be like out supermarket duopoly, but with New World having to buy all of their products from Countdown. For many years Telecom suffocated competition as if they were Air NZ euthanising a new competitor on a domestic route.
They sold over complicated, over priced, packages of services with arcane terms, and conditions, to people who just wanted to make phone calls and access the internet.
By the end I’m not sure if Telecom could’ve become any more unpopular if they’d shown Theresa Gattung on television telling Spot, the much beloved Jack Russell, that he’d had all his food for the month and he’d just have to go hungry and learn not to scoff it all in the first week.
Please note that I don’t think Theresa would have done such a thing. I imagine she was far too busy dreaming up new ways to shaft the human customers. Although if I had to guess I’d say she was almost certainly a cat person.
And so Spark was born. I wonder who designed the logo? And whether they were inspired by high velocity road kill? Or perhaps it was bring your kid to work day and they left junior alone for two minutes with a packet of crayons and they ate them all, except the purple one.
Changing names seems to be a common practice in the Telco sector. Vodafone recently changed their name to One, which is so utterly meaningless it could’ve been something in a Christopher Luxon speech. I imagine a very swish consultancy made a packet coming up with that One.
Can you imagine the meeting? Hello Sven this is Harold he has a telecommunications company he would like you to name, what shall we call it? One. Genius.
One can only imagine what Sven would’ve called them if Harold had a pair of companies to name. By the way, if you’re curious, there is absolutely no reason for those particular names in that scenario. They were the first ones that came to mind, and I saw no reason to change them.
To be fair Vodafone is now called One New Zealand. Which either sounds like the state broadcaster or a Pauline Hanson franchise that has opened up here in Aotearoa. Speaking of franchises.
Some of you’ll remember when KFC was called Kentucky Fried Chicken, back before fried food was considered bad for us. That name was too unhealthy, and it had to go.
Don’t worry though, if you have too many secret herbs and then eat too much fried chicken you can always go to Weight Watchers, or should I say WW International.
Other names changes include Google, formerly known as BackRub - which would sound a bit different when used as a verb. Amazon was Cadabra, as in Abracadabra, until someone misread it as Cadaver. Brad’s Drink is now known as Pepsi. Coming from the word dyspepsia, meaning indigestion, as it was claimed the ‘healthy cola’ did wonders for digestion. Then there was the great rival to BackRub, sorry Google, Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web, which became Yahoo.
Even this newsletter changed it’s name. Some of you will remember The Daily Read. I still like it, but it was washy washy - as some have called Labour’s new “In it for you” slogan. Certainly a bit sudsy, but it plays to Labour’s strength of looking our for others, and provides a clear contrast making you wonder who other parties might be in it for.
What about something really Kiwi? The fruit that shares our name were of course known originally as Chinese Gooseberries. However foreign importers indicated that gooseberries weren’t very popular and to avoid the association Turners & Growers started calling their U.S.-bound Chinese gooseberries “kiwifruits” on June 15, 1959.
Name changes can be confusing. Somedays you don’t know know if you’re selling Hawaiian Pizzas in Honolulu or Chinese Gooseberries in Te Puke.
Imagine if we could change the name of something else really Kiwi. Something that also has a name which sounds like another place altogether. Something really overdue for a name change?
And rather than it be the end of the world, sending people hysterical and causing them to run about as if their hair was on fire, people just got used to it and it wasn’t a problem.
Maybe the people would decide they quite liked the sound of the new word. That it was more like “us”, and it’d become hard to imagine ever having used that other name.
You know the word I’m talking about.
Aotearoa - now there’s a name worth changing to.
Here’s a song with the same name as this newsletter, it’s quite a funny one.