Soon, the 90,000 employees affected by the change will no longer say they work for “IBM” — perhaps one of the more classic, unambiguous corporate names ever — but instead for “Kyndryl,” a portmanteau whose meaning and pronunciation aren’t immediately clear.
Somehow, explaining it just makes it worse. We can deduce that the pronunciation, based on IBM’s stated logic, is “KIN-drill,” but the seemingly arbitrary use of Ys as vowels opens the door to long-I interpretation: KINE-drile?
It certainly seems like another corporate name that will join the pantheon of failed, or at least widely mocked, brands. But an expert in the field says we shouldn’t laugh too hard.
“It’s not easy to come up with new names,” said Bernd Schmitt, a professor of marketing at Columbia University and the faculty director of the Center on Global Brand Leadership. “Many good names are already taken and protected by law.”
Still, the history of Corporate America is lousy with questionable branding decisions — many of them instant flops — that have left customers scratching their heads. Here are just a few favorite doozies compiled by CNN Business:
Then there are corporate names that have survived, even if they’re probably still not as well known as the company names they replaced:
“Google has become part of the language,” Schmitt said. “It is so established, it’s understandable why people would still use that name.”
In the end, the success or failure of a corporate name depends greatly on the success or failure of the company itself, Schmitt said. Google didn’t crush Bing because Google was so much better a name than Bing. The actual product won in the marketplace.
“It’s the product that ultimately decides the success of the brand,” he said. “The name is almost decoration. If Google had failed, we’d be making fun of that name.”