The Rebranding of Arthur Andersen

After 88 years, Arthur Andersen has been laid off--at least his name has. As of January 1, Andersen Consulting left behind its descriptive name for the cyber-coinage Accenture. In March, Arthur Andersen, the accountancy and professional services provider, became, its Web site says, "simply Andersen."

Why isn't Arthur Andersen good enough for the new millennium?

Mostly, he's too old. In these frantic days, when every company wants to drive its "brand" deep into the collective consciousness, an accountant who died in 1947 is not the right front man. The Arthur Andersen name, according to Suzanne Gylfe, manager of brand development for Andersen in Chicago, has positive associations such as "integrity, thoroughness and quality," but today those values are also "limiting," she says.

Last August, an arbitrator allowed Andersen Consulting to break from Arthur Andersen by giving up $1 billion and its name. Jim Wadia, then worldwide managing partner at Arthur Andersen, said the ruling gave it "a hugely valuable intangible asset-our name." Now, holding onto half of that intangible, the company plans to further boost its consulting arm.

Accenture's name change moves us farther toward the rebranded new economy. In 1999, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office experienced a 32 percent increase in new trademark applications. At the time that was the largest one-year increase in history, according to Anthony Shore, senior associate director at Landor Associates in San Francisco, which consulted on creating the Accenture name. The increase was even greater for the first half of 2000, he adds.

This frenzy makes it ever more difficult to come up with a new name that has buzz (not to mention finding an unused URL). Pacific Bell doesn't want people to remember that its wireless services are still the phone company, so it invents Cingular, which certainly is what it says. Similarly, the name Accenture suggests "accent on the future," says Teresa Poggenpohl, partner and director of global advertising and research for Accenture in Chicago-instead of Arthur's association with the accountant's eyeshade and sleeve garters. Despite the fees paid to Landor, the winning name (from among 2,500) was actually suggested by an Andersen Consulting employee in Norway.

Since the split, Accenture has gone into venture capital and launched an e-learning company with the even odder name Indeliq. In April, its partners voted to go ahead with an initial public offering. That event should produce an indirect referendum on the new brand.

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