& what???

Candice O'Sullivan
April 4, 2014

Following its recent takeover of Booz & Company, PwC has announced that this ‘new kind of consulting business’ will be called ‘Strategy&’.

PwC acquisition of Booz

‘And what?’, you ask?

Fair question, although PwC are probably hoping the ‘and what’ is implied rather than questionable. As I see it, the strategy here (no pun intended) is to suggest that this new firm provides everything under the sun – i.e. anything that could possibly come after ‘&’ is what this firm does. Assuming you have a reasonable understanding of the areas in which this kind of firm operates, you should be able to imagine what the unstated suffix is.

Hoping that this will convey the company’s newly acquired ‘Avengers-like’ capability is a passable rationale for the name, I suppose, but I do have a few objections:

  • PwC want me to assume that this new firm – or rather, old firm in a new skin – does everything. Is this a realistic proposition? Isn’t it a bit arrogant? And is it really what I want from a consulting company?
  • The name demands that we complete the sentence for ourselves. If you’re a cup-half-full kind of person, your version might be something along the lines of: ‘Strategy & execution & experience & unrivalled global scale & …’. Whereas if you’re a cup-half-empty type (or someone with little imagination, or someone who doesn’t know the industry well), you might just stop at ‘&’ and wonder whether the company does anything else at all. And be left thoroughly uninspired. Or so frustrated you start asking random passers-by to provide an explanation on PwC’s behalf. Who knows, really?
  • In some walks of life (editorial and designer-y walks, for the most part), the ampersand is quite a divisive little character. People either love or hate the thing. It’s made a bit of a comeback in recent times – for which we can probably blame Twitter and its 140-character limit – but there are still people who will insist that you ‘spell it out!’ at every occurrence. Such is the strength of their opinion on the subject, these people will have nothing to do with a company prepared to make such an egregious choice.

On the other hand, there are a few reasons I don’t mind this new name:

  • I like the fact that the company has retained the ‘&’ from ‘Booz & Company’, as a subtle nod to Booz’s founder and heritage. In 10 years, this will probably be too subtle. But during the brand transition period, it is a clever reminder, to those who did know Booz, of where ‘Strategy&’ came from and all the good stuff that goes along with that history.
  • We all harp on about brand awareness and memorability. Well, ‘Strategy&’ has certainly got us talking. We now know this firm exists and we’re unlikely to forget the name any time soon. So I’d say that this part of the strategy has worked.
  • The ‘&’ suggests to us that there is more to this company than meets the eye. And there is. This is a partnership between Booz and PwC. Now, when you get one, you get the other. During these early post-acquisition days, the ‘&’ cues us to the fact that this is a merger of capabilities, which implies that there are additional benefits for us, as customers.

But love it or hate it, does a brand name even matter very much? Do people – and by people, I really mean buyers – care a fig about what a firm is called? Will anyone other than people like me (brand nerds, in other words) spend more than a split-second contemplating Booz’s new name? I think we’ll leave that question for another post.

This post was contributed by Candice O’Sullivan, Director and Head of Strategy at Wellmark. You can follow her insights into professional services and #NewLaw marketing @wellmark_psf. You can also find Candice on Google+ at +Candice O’Sullivan or follow her tweets on brand strategy, content marketing and related topics @candicepill.

Further reading:

Image credit: ‘Ampersand‘ by Jeremy Keith courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons under a CC BY 2.0 attribution license.

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