Wednesday 5 April 2006

Professor Cocohunk NFG

Of all the many ways of turning old rope into folding money, none strikes me as more perfect than becoming an image and branding consultant.

I’m sure I’ll make a big impact as I stride into presentations wearing chaps and a Stetson hat, holding a red-hot iron with the mark of the Lazy C.

But once we’re over that inevitable joke, and assuming security don’t physically toss me out of the building, what next?

From the 1960s through to the early 1990s, acronyms were the way forward. Remember BTR (the former Birmingham Tyre & Rubber) and its ilk? Unless your firm’s real name was something like British United Molasses, it gave you a short and snappy title that had the advantage of being completely meaningless, and allowed you to diversify to your heart’s content.

I remember that Northern Foods toyed with the idea, but a man with Chris Haskins’s impeccable liberal credentials couldn’t stand the thought of being confused with the National Front. I suggested that one way round it would be to add ‘Group’ into the title, then remembered that the N and G of NFG might also be taken to stand for No Good.

The only snag with this approach was that journalists would keep insisting on adding in brackets what the initials stood for. Over the years I’ve taken countless calls asking for the real meaning of DFS. To which the honest answer is that no-one really knows, as it was a business acquired along the way by a company that actually started life as Northern Upholstery.

Fast forward to the dawn of the 21st century, and us top image and branding consultants really came into our own with the invention of the totally meaningless but ‘exciting’ new name – e.g. Accenture, Arriva, Aviva. Just think of the possibilities that will open up when we work out that there are actually 25 more letters in the alphabet!

Does ‘Aviva’ say ‘insurance’ to you? It sounds to me more like something a Mexican might shout after dropping a heavy object on his foot. Though the risks of that are presumably quite small when one spends all day snoozing under a tree with a sombrero tipped over the eyes.

My first project is me. I want something that sounds strong, manly, witty, intelligent and irresistibly attractive. Keith it ain’t. What do you think of Professor Cocohunk?

Keith Hann is a PR consultant with a monosyllabic name and pretensions.

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

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