Standard Life Aberdeen is to change its name to Abrdn, a step the fund manager insisted would create “a highly differentiated brand” after several difficult years following its 2017 merger.
The new name, pronounced Aberdeen, will create a “modern, agile, digitally enabled brand”, the company said.
The dotted “a” logo represents the transition from an abacus to fibre optic cables and was created by Wolff Olins, the agency that devised the branding for the 2012 London Olympic Games.
Abrdn’s chief executive Stephen Bird declined to disclose how much Wolff Olins was paid for its work.
“A brand needs to cut through to customers,” said Bird. “Every pound spent on advertising will now go further as the money will not be spread across five separate brands.”
The name change was widely mocked online, with more than 400 comments posted on the Financial Times website, many ridiculing the rebranding. Several asked if the Abrdn name was a late April Fool joke. Another suggested the company would now be known as “A burden”. Twitter users also poured scorn on the new name, with one asking: “Is Abrdn the most preposterous rebrand ever? Not if you remember Royal Mail becoming Consignia.”
Royal Mail spent £2m in 2001 on a botched attempt to change the name of the Post Office to Consignia. John Roberts, the group’s chief executive at the time, said Consignia “[described] the full scope of what the Post Office does in a way that the words ‘post’ and ‘office’ cannot.” Within two years, Roberts retired and the rebrand was dropped.
Big Four audit firms PwC and EY, and dieting company WW, are also among the companies that have chosen to abbreviate their names in recent years. WW’s rebrand from Weight Watchers was mocked for doubling the number of syllables in the name, despite cutting characters, and was followed by an exodus of subscribers and a fall in profits.
The change to Abrdn is arguably the most eye-catching yet from Bird, who in September took the reins of a company that has failed to deliver on the promises made when it was formed through Aberdeen Asset Management’s acquisition of rival Standard Life.
The group last month cut its dividend by a third after full-year, pre-tax profits fell almost 17 per cent, as investors yanked money from its funds.
In a short press release announcing the new name, Bird, a former senior executive at Citigroup, said the new brand “builds on our heritage and is modern, dynamic and, most importantly, engaging for all of our client and customer channels”.
Speaking to the FT, Bird added that creating a clearer unified identity was one of his first priorities as chief executive because the company had previously employed five brands and “people did not know what to call us”.
The brand Aberdeen Standard Investments was used to describe the company’s asset management business after the 2017 merger that led to the creation of the unwieldy name Standard Life Aberdeen for the enlarged group. The Standard Life brand was sold this year to Phoenix, the insurance group, as part of a 10-year strategic partnership between the two companies.
The new Abrdn brand will appear on sponsorship materials accompanying the Scottish Open golf championship in July. Advertisements of the new brand will also appear on city billboards, trains and bus stations. A short video highlighting the name change has been posted on the company’s website.Standard Life Aberdeen’s share price has tumbled 31 per cent since the merger was struck in the spring of 2017. The stock edged up almost 1 per cent in early trading on Monday.