REAL WORLD MARKETING

Miscellaneous observations from an educational communicator’s perspective

What’s in a name? Comcast is changing its name to Xfinity. Here I thought Xfinity was a new product Comcast was offering and would potentially increase my cable bill by $30 each month. After all, in the TV commercials, the voiceover says, “Comcast introduces Xfinity.” It wasn’t until I saw their competitor’s commercial that I understood Xfinity is a new name, not a new product. Consumers resist change (remember New Coke?) but being so subtle that the public doesn’t even know what you are talking about won’t help solidify a new image.

To clear matters up, I Googled Xfinity. Google, formerly BackRub, underwent its own name change in1998. There’s a name change of which we all probably approve. Xfinity has its own website and offers live Chat Support. Willard (and you have to wonder if that is his real name) was very helpful. I asked, “How is Xfinity different than my current Comcast service? Is this a name change for Comcast? Will my bills come from Xfinity?”

His eventual response was, “Well, Xfinity is just rebranding the Comcast package but Comcast will stay the same.”

Oh.

Why do companies change their names? Is it to clean up a tarnished image and prevent negative associations? Such was the case when Philip Morris, which owns Kraft Foods, changed its name to Altria Group. It’s easy to understand why the world’s largest tobacco company wouldn’t want us thinking about Marlboros when we bite into our Oreos.

Basically, the public will continue to use the nomenclature they prefer. When the Sears Tower in Chicago was renamed last year, local opposition was so strong, it resulted in a web site—ItsTheSearsTower.com—and a Facebook site with 97,000 followers—People Against the Sears Tower Name Change. And Sears hasn’t even occupied the building in 17 years.

Name changes work when they create a positive and clearly understood image. And a little clear warning doesn’t hurt either.

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