Why picking a new name can be pure merger

When two companies join forces, there needs to be careful thought about what they’re going to call themselves, as Simon Usborne finds out

For all the wordy brilliance of the super-stable of writers employed by Penguin and Random House, the execs who presided over their merging appear to have suffered an imagination failure.

Why name the world's biggest publishing company Penguin Random House (or will it be PRH, or PenRanHo?) when you could have given us Random Penguin? Even Penguin House would have been better.

Suits seeking to merge have three options, identified in a study last year by the Harvard Business Review. "Assimilation" involves one company effectively disappearing, "business as usual" means keeping both brands separately and "fusion" is a pooling of names and/or logos (or else ditch both brands and relaunch, but that's pretty rare). Choose to fuse and merger etymology can be fraught with risk: of leaving one partner feeling burned; of confusing or alienating customers; and of racking up massive stationery bills. Bertelsmann, owners of Random House, have the larger – 53 per cent – share of PRH, so why not Random House Penguin (RanHoPe)? Perhaps it just sounds better the other way round.

Sometimes fusion look clumsy. Since 2010, PricewaterhouseCoopers, a 1998 merger between Coopers & Lybrand and Price Waterhouse, has gone by the more manageable PwC, presumably saving millions in ink.

Sometimes fusion looks offensive. In 2009, Russian and Nigerian oil executives apparently not schooled in black American street slang, decided against "Gazprom EP International BV Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation", choosing instead: Nigaz.

When the merging of names is a success, few will realise they are looking at a portmanteau. Have you heard of Peter Asquith? When the Yorkshire businessman's chain of three supermarkets merged with Associated Dairies in 1965, he provided the "As" in Asda.

But back to Random Penguin. If they won't play the comedy merger name game, we will (while accepting no responsibility in the event none of the below makes you laugh).

If the Japanese Matsushita Electric Corporation joined the Mustapha Khoo accountancy firm of Kuala Lumpur, the new firm ought to be called Mustaphashita.

Or, what if an infamous Russian car marque wanted to inject some drama and chic into its brand by going into business with a leading British theatre school and a top Italian fashion house (but also wanted a name that coolly suggested they didn't care what the new company was called)? Well, obviously they'd go with LadaRadaPradaYadaYada

Finally, the barely less likely combination of easyJet and a luxury Swiss watchmaker: EasyTagHeuer (you have to say it quickly).

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