The rebrand of Standard Life Aberdeen as Abrdn is another example of companies not proud of their base: Mark Casci Yorkshire News

The annals of corporate history are riddled with failure. The very essence of capitalism is to encourage competition and as such there will always be winners and losers.

Many of those who fell by the wayside could attribute their failure to circumstances that they ignored or did not solve, and innovation will always pose a problem for industries and companies that do not keep up with the times.

But the bitterest defeats in business often come when they are self-inflicted.

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We all know the infamous story of how, some 20 years ago, video rental giant Blockbuster, with its thousands of outlets across the country, literally laughed at Netflix bosses from their offices when they offered to run their complaints online for them. Today one of them is nominated for an Oscars while the other is a footnote in history.

Consider also how Kodak, once a titan of the camera market and first patenting a digital camera in the 1970s, failed to bring its technology to market fast enough and quickly lost ground to its competitors.

No one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes, but as I write, social media is positively lit up with ridicule and ridicule of the recent rebranding of Standard Life Aberdeen, which appears to have a personal grievance with a particular vowel.

The asset manager, which has been through a steamy time since its merger in 2017, will be known as ‘Abrdn’.

The rebrand is expected to be complete by the time it publishes its interim results in August, a time when I imagine it will be no less unpronounceable.


I almost spit out my tea when I read the comments of its CEO, Stephen Bird, when making the announcement.

The new brand, he stated without any hint of irony, “would build on our heritage” and went on to say that the Abrdn name was “modern, dynamic and, most importantly, attractive to all of our customers and customer channels”.

It’s not obvious how a brand that, when you try to say it out loud, puts you on the verge of having a coughing fit, will achieve all of these goals.

The strategy has not been made internally. The artist formally known as Standard Life Aberdeen hired Wolff Olins to do the work for them, an agency that is no stranger to controversy.

Yorkshire Bank has changed its name.

He came up with the brand for the 2012 London Olympics, something that was not popular with the man on the street at the time, but has since been forgotten after the event’s huge success both on and off the track.

The mockery aside, I found the news unpleasant on a more fundamental level.

Going down in letters to acronyms is understandable. I would say that PwC and EY suffered few ill effects by removing Price Waterhouse Cooper and Ernst & Young as their brand.

HSBC sounds louder than Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation. It is more agile and modern.

But the gradual disappearance of the place of company brands is accelerating, and with it the loss of identity in Britain’s corporate ecosystem.

Judging from the countless letters and emails I received on this front, I can only judge that this measure was not popular with consumers. Some even told me that they were closing their accounts and going elsewhere.

Many large firms in the region have the location of their headquarters in their name. I am thinking of our strong mutual sector in Yorkshire, with the Skipton, Leeds and Yorkshire construction companies proudly bearing his name.

Similarly, Halifax still appears across the country as the name of the bank that drives Lloyds’ performance so well.

However, it is increasingly common to dismiss the location.

And in an age where trust is so highly valued, what do you say about your business if you’re not proud of where you come from?

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This notice was published: 2021-04-26 14:40:24