Ernst & Young rebrand keeps raising eyebrows

By Brendan Coyne | 23 July 2013
EY magazine.

Ernst & Young's rebrand has made headlines throughout this month, surfacing in Australia this morning as the Australian Financial Review picked up the story. EY, Ernst & Young's new name, also happens to be the name of a Spanish magazine featuring buff young men, EY! Magateen.

Moving to an acronym is hardly a great departure, particularly in the business segment, and advertising is full of them. But it is quite a funny story and made page three of The Fin.

Julian Martin, CEO of JMK, reckons it will be the Spanish magazine that will be the loser, not EY the accountant. "It's nonsense. Everybody has called it EY for years. Formalising an informal name is not exactly Einstein. But it is an amusing aside that gives the launch of the name a fraction more interest."

He said that local names are regularly lost in translation. One British staffer was shocked a cheese was called Coon, derogatory slang once used by racists in the UK and elsewhere, whereas Martin points out yahoo "means a lout in this country." Coon cheese was named after its creator Edward William Coon.

Then there is the evergreen Mitsubishi Pajero. The car name is said to mean "wanker" in Spanish slang.

Even Apple has faced scorn for calling the iPad iPad. Some people thought it was too much like a sanitory towel.

So what's the answer? Maybe to make words up, according to Interbrand Sydney MD Richard Curtis. Start-ups are doing it, so why not brands?

However, that too has its problems. Online data platform start-up, called Kaggle because the domain name was not already taken, found that was an issue when some customers mispronounced it "kegel". Kegels are the the pelvic-floor-strengthening exercises done by women to prevent or remedy urinary incontinence.

So brands have to run the gauntlet, pay the branding agencies, and take the free publicity when it comes along.

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