What the WaMu Brand Could Have Done Differently

By October 3, 2008Blog

Only two years ago, the Seattle Times reported that Washington Mutual had re-branded to become WaMu. A spokesperson for the bank said, “WaMu is simply easier to remember and has a friendlier, more approachable sound than Washington Mutual.”

Not the best reason to re-brand. We have all learned in recent weeks that overall credibility trumps friendliness when it comes to finances.

In the same article, Ann Jensen Warman of BrandUnity suggested that a company changes its name when “It is trying to reinvent itself or trying to escape a negative image.” Nice try, WaMu, but no dice.

What’s worse is that the WaMu re-brand wasn’t a concentrated effort. “New logos and signs will go up when branches are remodeled or new ones are opened… Checks will begin carrying the abbreviated name when the current supply runs out.” How can a healthy brand be born out of a process that reflects lack of clear leadership or direction?

Just last week, AdAge.com reported, “Now that JPMorgan Chase has shelled out $1.9 billion for beleaguered Washington Mutual, the deal will ultimately shelve the Washington Mutual name in favor of the Chase bank brand.”

This new branding endeavor is no drop in the bucket. “Some of the changes will include branches being re-named Chase and the re-issuing of new debit cards with the Chase name, as well as the Chase name beginning to appear on statements, online and new credit cards as they come up for re-issue.”

What a waste of time, resources and money that original re-brand was.

Re-branding is an expensive undertaking that has to stem from solid research and sound reasoning. A re-brand must happen within a succinct timeframe with clear milestones and deadlines. It must work in conjunction with business plan updates, corporate communication overhauls, leadership changes – whatever it takes to correct the course.

A simple name change just won’t cut it. In fact, sometimes, no change is better than any change at all.