How do you feel when a Milwaukee business changes its name?
For me, in short, it depends.
There are times when it makes sense. Take Alterra, for example. It wasn’t about selling out to "the man." It was the opposite; by taking back ownership from Mars, the coffee company had to change its name since it no longer owned "Alterra." I didn’t like the sound of "Colectivo" when I heard about it last week, but it’s growing on me already. Because I understand why it had to happen, I support it. I’m not sure how long it will take me to stop saying Alterra, mind you. Probably months, at least.
On the other end of the spectrum are names changes like Midwest Express to Midwest Airlines to Frontier. Every step took Milwaukee further out of the equation, and the name change to Frontier meant the end of Milwaukee’s hometown airline. Frontier is just another discount airline that’s up for sale. It pulled itself out of the community and lost any goodwill here.
Or Miller Brewing to Miller Coors. I get it, yes, but by taking on the Coors name and moving headquarters to Chicago, the new merged company made a statement. It’s not all about Milwaukee anymore.
Then, there are name changes that just don’t make any sense to me at all. Take P.M. Bedroom Gallery, which was a peculiar name anyway, but was strongly reinforced by that omnipresent jingle. Penny Mustard means nothing to anyone but its owners, and that moved destroyed all of the store’s brand equity in one fell swoop.
And finally, there are other name changes that just don’t mean that much. When Firstar became US Bank and moved its headquarters to Minneapolis (even though Firstar was the one doing the acquiring) I was personally unmoved. The US Bank brand was stronger, anyway, and I still like being the curmudgeon calling our skyscraper the First Wisconsin Building. I’m also the guy who still calls River Point "Brown Port."
Name changes do, of course, matter, because brand equity is huge. Except when it isn’t. People get used to things, and when done for the right reasons, they can breathe new life into a company. But they can also kill them. It’s a fine line.
What are your favorite and least favorite Milwaukee brand name changes? Let us know using the Talkback feature below.
Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.
Before launching OnMilwaukee.com in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.
Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.