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Vero emerges after a costly, nerve-wracking rebranding

By John Drinnan

Friday 5th September 2003

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Vero, the new name for the Royal & SunAlliance general insurance business, was launched this week and should make its Auckland skyline debut in mid-October with new neon signage atop the city's tallest office tower.

Helicopters will lower new 4m-high letters atop the Royal & SunAlliance building, renamed the Vero Centre.

Vero New Zealand chief executive Roger Bell jokes that signage for the truncated name should be cheaper than the elongated old one. But there is no getting away from the fact that rebranding, especially a new name, can be an expensive and nerve-wracking business.

The Vero name emerged after the May 2003 float for Royal and SunAlliance's Australian and New Zealand operations to form a cross-Tasman company, Promina.

"Vero" handles the general insurance and the much smaller Asteron handling life.

Mr Bell says it is a significant change. Royal & SunAlliance in its various permutations has been operating in New Zealand for 125 years, while in the UK the roots for the brand legacy stretch back 300 years.

"It conveyed history, which we valued, but Vero is a strong vehicle for innovation.

Naming rights were an important part of the company's branding strategy as Royal & SunAlliance and will continue to be so as Vero.

Vero has to provide new signs at 19 locations and has naming rights for five buildings nationwide. But Mr Bell is confident the new name will be a success.

"We perceived the market as being cluttered with names so ours had to be unique. Vero comes from the latin word for truth, veritas, and had to be a brief name so it could not be shortened as have a lot of our competitors, ­ NZI, QBE, IAG, AIG. As Royal and SunAlliance we were known as RSA and we wanted a name that could not be shortened and we felt that initials did not carry brand values."

The new-look Vero logo, including art-deco-esque shafts of light, extends to a new colour scheme with the red and silver.

It is a clear break from the traditional blue used in the majority of corporate financial services brand and Mr Bell hopes it will provide more cut-through.

One of the biggest problems in rebranding companies is finding a new name that has not already been taken. With most words in the English language copyrighted for use in company names or websites, new and rebranded companies nearly always have to create a new word for their name.

John Allert, the Melbourne-based chief executive of the Interbrand agency, which created the Fonterra, Prozac and Viagra brands, agrees, saying there is always a settling in period for a new brand.

"It is a question of habit and what you get used to. All new names are going to seem awkward and irrelevant at the start.

"It was the same with Fonterra when it started ­ everyone thought it was bizarre. But now it is just part of the landscape."

Vero, I think, gets a tick for being a name it is hard to lampoon but you'd have to look at it in two years to see whether it was a good choice.

Mr Allert says one of the big issues is checking the cultural context. Famously, he says, there was Mitsubishi's branding of its four-wheel drive Pajero, a name that meant "wanker" in Spanish.

In Sweden there was a brand of toilet paper called Krappe and you could buy an aftershave in Japan under the curiously prosaic name Kevin.

In Auckland an Englishman and his Filipino partner run a restaurant Pompino ­ an amalgamation of Pom and Filipino, apparently unaware the word was Italian slang for a sexual act.

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