Automotive: March 2009 Archives

gmlogo.gifGM is wisely changing the name of its asset management unit from General Motors Asset Management, or GMAM, to Promark Global Advisors in "recognition of its growing client diversification."

The Wall Street Journal reports that this is an abrupt about face for the GMAM, which had previously highlighted its association with the automaker. As a result, the General Motors Trust Bank, N.A. now becomes Promark Trust Bank, N.A., and the funds it manages with Promark Global Advisors will be renamed Promark Funds.

It is surprising that GM would use such a generic and overused term. Within financial services alone there are more than 500 Federal marks that incorporate the word "mark."

In addition, there are also 23 Federally registered Promark's in various international class codes, including Promark Sports, Inc., a licensee for the NBA, NHL, NFL, NHL, NCAA and MLB.

At least one Promark executive says that the name change "meant to forge a separate identity in marketing to external clients, rather than breaking away from GM's financial and business troubles," but I'm not buying it.

blackwater.gifPRWeek notes that ValueJet's move to AirTran, Philip Morris's move to Altria, and Anderson Consulting's move to Accenture, as well as Blackwater's change to Xe, all came after these companies faced with some form of trouble. Similarly, GM's name might now be "sullied" enough that it can't be associated with financial matters, given the state of its pension fund and its public request for government bail-out money.

Other high profile investment groups have also changed their brand names, including IndyMac Bank's change to IndyMac Federal Bank and Countrywide Home Loans shift to Bank of America Home Loans after both companies publicly hit the skids.

Our own research has shown that this disaster induced rebranding strategy is nothing new. A large percentage of companies that do change their names, do so after a publicized mistake or mishap. However, renaming a company after such an event is a sensitive and important matter that needs to be carefully managed.

The fact is, that changing a company name is a delicate process, but it is one that can ultimately help a company distance itself from failure by bringing the consumer's attention to a new brand promise and company management style.

Although in this case, GM seems to have chosen a name that doesn't allow it to differentiate itself, which hinders its ability to properly reach the consumer.

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