Service of Name Changes, Deliberate & Not

November 16th, 2017

Categories: Brand Loyalty, Branding, Name

A recent weekly conference call began with many admitting that they were often called by other names, Roberta for Ramona; Maxine for Francine and for me, a mispronunciation: Gee-Anne for gene. I’ve previously written that some call my husband Homer, Horace.

But some change their names on purpose–my aunt, for example. She had been known as Lili until she was in her 70s when out of the blue she insisted on Elisabeth, also a nice name, but hard for friends and family to get used to. I never learned why the change.

Maybe the itch has grown up as 70 seems to be the magic number. Coach, at 76, is Tapestry now. Execs at the company that began as a high end handbag manufacturer [vintage bag at right] said it wanted to change its corporate image to reflect the luxury brands it had acquired–Stuart Weitzman and Kate Spade.

According to a Reuters feature I read in the New York Post, Coach chief exec Victor Luis responded to criticism of the change and choice of name on social media by saying: “At the end of the day some of the social media reaction is misplaced because people think we are changing the name of the Coach brand, which we are not doing. It’s really about creating a new corporate identity for Coach as a house of brands.”

The Reuters article continued: “Coach, however, lost some shine in recent years in part due to the financial recession and increased online shopping. The company is trying to regain its former glory by buying new brands, keeping a tight lid on discounting and pulling back from department stores.”

As for that tight lid on discounters, I just bought a classic pair of Coach-brand loafers at T.J. Maxx at a very comfortable price.

I kept thinking of the $millions spent over decades to make the Coach brand familiar and admired by many. It, Spade and Weitzman will still appear on shoes and fashion as Tapestry is the corporate umbrella. Wise minds in the C-suite had clearly lost faith in the power of the Coach name. Some reporters covering the Coach story reminded their audiences that Google’s new corporate name is Alphabet. Have you heard anyone call it that?

Reminds me of some of the bridges around NYC—I think “59th Street” and “Triborough” not “Koch” or “Kennedy.” I adapted well to the Met Life Building taking over for what once was the Pan Am building, no doubt because of the Met Life’s Snoopy dog connection. [That they deep sixed the spokesdog is another matter.] Met Life no longer owns the building but is a major tenant so its name remains.

What do you do when people call you by the wrong name? Do you know adults who have changed their names [and I don’t mean through marriage]. Do you think a venerable name in fashion should change its corporate name—does it show lack of faith in the brand—or that it doesn’t matter as the public’s memory is short? How long will it take for New Yorkers to remember the changed names of buildings and bridges?

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14 Responses to “Service of Name Changes, Deliberate & Not”

  1. ASK Said:

    Ditto calling them the 59th Street and Triborough Bridges. I still refer to the East River Drive…And it has nothing to do with politics.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    You just reminded me that 50,000 Westchester residents signed a petition to stop the name change of the Tappan Zee Bridge. Governor Cuomo said it was to take on his father’s name. I liked the first Gov. Cuomo but I agree with the residents: Why change a venerable name that’s known by millions? Unfortunately, a lot of the signatures were driven to participate for partisan reasons. Like you, that has nothing to do with my wish that we leave well enough alone.

  3. Lucrezia Said:

    Everyone has a right to his name along with its pronunciation as he sees it. To correct is unforgivingly rude. That goes for name changes as well. While there may be as many reasons for a name change as there are people, the “why” is no one’s business. Criminals are known to do this as frequently as they may change hats/beards/wigs/mustaches!

    I like my name, and respond to NO nicknames with all but a rapidly diminishing few who started to call me “Liz” faster than I could correct — so after 60+ years, there’s no reason not to let it stick!

  4. Lucrezia Said:

    PS As to bridges, who remembers to call them by any other name than the original? I loved Mayor Koch, but it’s still the Queensboro. Note that Cape Kennedy has been slowly reverting back to Canaveral. I have nothing against the Late Mario Cuomo, but find Tappan Zee a much more interesting name and will continue to call it that no matter what happens. As an aside, others have an even stronger reaction — a petition, allegedly signed by thousands, is circulating in defense of keeping the original name.

  5. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I think that the strange pronunciations and calling people by the wrong name is not malicious–people remember or hear wrong. A good friend, now deceased, told me he wanted to be called “Robert” and you couldn’t keep count of the numbers of folks who called him “Bob.” They think that they are being chummy perhaps, pretending that they know him better than others when, in fact, if you knew him, you’d realize he didn’t like “Bob.”

    I’m known by a bunch of names and I like them all: Jeanne, Jeannie, JM, Jeanne-Marie….but I didn’t always. The shorter the better so I preferred Jeanne/Jeannie and JM best for a long time.

  6. Donna Boyle Schwartz Said:

    Donna wrote on Facebook: I always have had a very good brand association with Coach, and believe they should have kept the name. And don’t even get me started on the HFD/HFN debacle! I argued vigorously against the name change (which, in a terrible bit of branding, was actually Home Furnishings Network for a time!) Sure, we weren’t a daily anymore, and hadn’t been for years…but, but, but, whatever would have been wrong with Digest? Oh, and Jeanne, I STILL call it the Pan Am building–not having grown up a native New Yorker, my mental map of the City is informed by what things WERE, not necessarily what they ARE. In another example, I still glance up and down Sixth Avenue looking for the Trade Towers to orient myself north and south…sigh.

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Donna, Speaking of….What do you think of the International Gift Show turning into NYNow?

    I well remember the HFD/HFN kerfuffle.

    When people are too close to something they can get it wrong. That, or they hire a guru for $250,000 who rubs his chin and says, “This is what you should change,” and walks away not caring about the fallout.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Re. your PS, I agree. Didn’t know about Cape Canaveral. I read 50,000 signatures backed keeping the Tappan Zee as-is. Today it’s relatively easy to change online maps, though it still costs in someone’s time to make the switch. In the old days, think of the printing involved in revising all those maps! Maybe this is a reason folks don’t think twice about changing the names of public structures.

  9. Lucan Said:

    This is a deceptively complicated subject. On one hand we should all have the right to be called by the names we wish to be called. On the other, reality is that we are going to be called by the names that others chose to call us, and there is nothing we can do about it.

    Then there is the famous case of Herostratus who destroyed the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, precisely to make sure that his name would be remembered in perpetuity. It has been, despite his contemporaries’ efforts to eradicate it from all records. What a way to get your name remembered!

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I fear I don’t remember Herostratus, may he forgive me! To anyone planning to destroy something beloved and important so as to be remembered in the long run [I don’t doubt he was known at the time and for years after], think of something else. Cure cancer maybe?

  11. Donna Boyle Schwartz Said:

    Donna replied on Facebook: Donna Boyle Schwartz No one should ever, ever mess with a good brand name. Even when a brand is embroiled in a scandal (Tylenol in Chicago comes to mind) it is still better to rehabilitate an existing, time-honored brand name than to scrap it for something new. But since when does logic get you anywhere in this business? Guess that’s why I’m not that guru making the big bucks…..

  12. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Off the subject of names but on the subject of gurus duping people but winning in the end, a client told me that an agency came up with the slogan, “Visit _________” [which was the name of the town], to generate tourist dollars, for which they were paid $75,000. They wanted more money to implement a second idea: A bicycle race.

    Back on the subject, I agree with you: Clean up the problem and keep the name.

  13. Debbie Kunen Said:

    Debbie replying to Donna Boyle Schwartz on Facebook: Pan Am Bldg for me too [old New Yawka].

  14. Kathleen Said:

    Did you know that the Tappan Zee Bridge’s official name was the Malcolm Wilson Bridge named for the former Governor.His daughter tried to keep the name but Andrew Cuomo had too much influence.
    It’s still the Tappan Zee Bridge! thanks

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