SUMMARY: The author proposes that major corporations need not be the sole beneficiaries of image makeovers via name and logo changes. George Bush is just one example.
In 1987 close to 2,000 American corporations changed their names and/or company logos, an increase of nearly 30 percent from the year before.
There are several reasons that a company changes its name:
To elude its creditors.
To achieve greater (or lesser) name recognition from the public.
To change a widely held public perception (or misperception) of what a certain company represents.
A myriad of multimillion-dollar corporate consultations have proved these truths to be self-evident: ``brand new'' is superior to ``established''; ``high-tech'' is more significant to the consumer than ``reliability''; any word used by an astrophysicist, the letter ``X,'' and the color black are intrinsically good things.
Companies have decided that it is more important to project a positive image than it is to convey to the public exactly what it is that a company does. I used to know what the American Can Company did; but what does a ``Primerica'' do? Primericate? And where's the ``Navistar''? In between the Big Dipper and the aurora borealis? Isn't ``Unisys'' a charity box you fill up on Halloween? I still don't know what ``Allegis'' or ``NYNEX'' is.
Still, these marketing managers can't all be wrong, and if major corporations can benefit from name reupholstering, why can't I?
Which is why I'm changing my name to Intex Syntax. ``Intex'' implies both intelligence and technology, while ``Syntax'' will emphasize to prospective buyers of my writings that - if nothing else - at least I am a good superintendent of the Queen's English. With Intex Syntax I also get to have two strong x's in my name, and as mentioned earlier: The more x's, the merrier.
Using this same impervious methodology, I can also see how numerous organizations, geographical locations, and even leading politicians - all with perceived image problems - might solve all of their public relations woes with one simple operation - name surgery.
Why are George Bush's campaign managers spending so much time and money on ``anti-wimp'' photo opportunities, when simply rebaptizing him George Butch would be so much easier?
Like Harry Truman's ``S.,'' the vice-president might even choose to adopt an ``X.'' for added strength and emphasis: ``George X. Butch.'' Alternatively, he could drop the ``George'' (which is a little too avuncular), and substitute both ``Tex'' and ``S.'' to form ``Tex S. Butch,'' which becomes not only as macho as a pro-wrestler, but also dispels any lingering confusion about the vice-president's roots.
If the Bush people don't like ``Butch,'' they should try renting some old Sylvester Stallone movies. The name Lincoln Hawk from the box office dud ``Over the Top'' may be the only salvageable element of that screen gem.
Lloyd Bentsen could also benefit from a monicker makeover. To assuage fears that he's too conservative and also to solidify the ``ethnic ticket,'' why doesn't he just become ``Lloyd Bensonhurst''? This could be further modified to ``Bentsen-Hearst,'' if and when he's stumping the upper classes.
Similarly, once major metropolitan areas catch the merger-raider mania - and start annexing one another just as Minneapolis annexed St. Paul and Dallas annexed Fort Worth - perhaps growing Atlanta will buy out Southern competitor Miami to become a name that's easy to digest: ``Milanta - the Power of 2.''
Also, ``the US Army'' sounds a little too severe: How about ``Military Emphasys'' instead? or the ancient and overburdened United States Postal Service could become ``Mailstrom,'' which sounds much more powerful.
And instead of ``OPEC,'' how about the friendlier ``Petroleums-R-Us''? In lieu of the Ku Klux Klan, why not the ``National Association for the Aggressive Advancement of Caucasian People''?
Good-bye, PLO; hello, ``OPL - the Organization for Peace Through Liberation.'' And a few abbreviating capital letters convert Mafia into MAFIA - ``the Milano-American Financial Incentive Association,'' which sounds much more respectable and a lot more like the FDIC.
As far as companies with image problems are concerned, Philip Morris could become the ``Smokers' Rights Coalition.'' Or how about ``AUDI - Acceleration U Don't need to Initiate'' - kind of makes it sound like an added bonus.
In the end, however, there is no substitute for a good product or service. Real change beats image change every time.
Some companies have changed names and logos as frequently as Chicago's White Sox have changed uniform designs. But these companies - and they know who they are - would be wise to recall: The White Sox haven't won a World Series since 1917.
Les Firestein is a screenwriter and satire columnist in New York who has worked in the field of consulting, but only when he had to.