This is the actual name of the IT services unit that IBM is creating for its core business.
Soon, the 90,000 employees affected by the change won’t say they work for IBM–perhaps one of the most classic and unambiguous corporate names ever–but instead for Kendrill, a carrier whose meaning and pronunciation is not immediately clear.
Somehow, explaining it just makes it worse. We can conclude that the pronunciation, based on IBM’s stated logic, is “KIN-drill”, but the arbitrary use of Ys as vowels opens the door to a long interpretation I: KINE-drile?
Googling does not find many alternative uses, although there is a scary character from “World of Warcraft” with that name.
It certainly looks like another company name that will join the group of failed, or at least widely mocked, brands. But an expert in the field says we shouldn’t laugh too much.
“It’s not easy to come up with new names,” said Bernd Schmidt, professor of marketing at Columbia University and faculty director of the Center for Global Brand Leadership. “Many good names are already taken and protected by law.”
Over time, he said, even a name that might seem strange to consumers can be accepted and embraced. He points out that Häagen-Dazs are completely made-up words that mean nothing. And Verizon (VZ) — the name given to the company formed through the 2000 merger of Bell Atlantic and GTE — is a make-up that initially raised eyebrows, but has become a well-established brand that many today don’t think twice.
However, US corporate history is poor with questionable brand decisions – many of which are floundering fast – leaving customers confused. Here are a few of my favorite swirls compiled by CNN Business:
BoxTribune Publishing, the name given to Tribune Publishing in 2016, was an effort by the traditional media company to present itself as a “content curation and monetization company”. The name didn’t last much longer than those buzzwords, and Tribune made a comeback in 2018.
Vinator Group, the name it took to the proud Woolworth Corp. in 1998, as it tried to move away from its discount-fighting business to the sportswear retail business. That name was dropped in favor of Foot Locker, which was their biggest chain at the time, in 2001.
swear, the name of the Verizon subsidiary created in 2017 to hold the assets of Yahoo (which it had just acquired) and assets of AOL (which it already owns.) The name was dropped in 2019 in favor of Verizon Media.
quibi, a name that came and went in just six months, not because the name was so bad but because the streaming service failed so quickly.
Then there are the names of the companies that survived, even if they are likely as unknown as the names of the companies that replaced them:
Altria (MO)And The name adopted by tobacco giant Philip Morris in 2002 as it sought to become more diversified.
Mondelez International (MDLZ), the name given to its snack division launched by Kraft Foods in 2012. Rather than using the name of any of its well-known brands such as Oreos, Ritz or Cadbury, Kraft cited Latin as the reason behind the innovative word, saying that the word “monde” was derived From the Latin word meaning “world,” and “delez” was meant to be a fancy expression for the word “delicious.”
ball, the name given to what was left of Yahoo after selling various parts in 2017.
academy, the second attempt at rebranding by controversial military contractor Blackwater, which was expelled from Iraq in 2007. It initially tried the name Xe in 2009, before switching to Academy in 2011.
Stilants, a newcomer to the list, is the company formed by the merger earlier this year of Fiat Chrysler and French automaker PSA (itself a relatively new name for the company that built Peugeot). The word fake isn’t as well known as any of the brands in its portfolio, but it does avoid the inevitable political battles that would have come from choosing a brand name on either side.
Some other names seem to be half too smart, like News Corp (NWSA) news aggregator website treasures, or strategy&, the name given by accounting and consulting giant PwC to Booz & Co. When it bought that strategic consulting business in 2014. The ampersand in the name is distinctive, but it was also widely derided at the time.
Still other companies admit their mistakes and go back to their roots. US Steel changed its name to USX When it acquired Marathon Oil, then returned to US Steel (X) After that it was divided into two companies again.
Federal Express was the original name of the delivery company that changed its name to its stock symbol, FDX, where she tried to expand her offerings, then reverted to her popular moniker, FedEx (FDX).
Maybe that’s what will happen in the end the alphabet (Google). Google changed the name of its holding company to Alphabet in 2015 to reflect that it had become more of a more recognizable brand. But even though Alphabet is a real word, its popular adoption is made more difficult by how popular the word Google actually is.
“Google has become part of the language,” Schmidt said. “It was established, and it is understandable why people still use that name.”
Ultimately, the success or failure of a company’s name largely depends on the success or failure of the company itself, Schmidt said. Google didn’t squash Bing because the name Google was so much better than Bing. The actual product is a profit in the market.
“It is the product that ultimately decides the success of the brand,” he said. “The name is almost an embellishment. If Google fails, we’ll mock that name.”