One of our trade papers this week asked a selection of advisers how they chose the names of their firms. There are some, shall we say, rather unusual names out there which don’t seem to have much to do with financial advising. ‘Ovation’ for example. And one of the larger firms is called ‘Progeny’; which always makes me think ‘Firestarter’ (parents etc.). Now I know many a marketing person. They do fine and vital work and many a business wouldn’t be where it is today without them. I hope that they would, however, admit that an awful lot that we hear from their world about ‘branding’ is complete guff. Nice work for them if they can get it, as big corporates pay zillions for what is ultimately a new name and logo; but doubtless involves months of meetings, discussion groups and presentations on ‘core values’ and ’stakeholder beliefs’. And then they end up with something like Standard Life’s change to Abrdn (me neither). In most cases branding comes down to common sense, and, for the vast majority of businesses, doing what you say you’ll do on the tin. I’ve always hoped, with Philip James Financial Services, to sound a bit traditional, trustworthy and bigger than I am (hence not using my surname). Clever clever names are, well, yes, clever if you’re in marketing. But for most of those trying to consume what you offer, little more than confusing. I’d say.
The ’70s were for my coming-of-age time, as they were for Stuart Maconie, author of ‘The Nanny State Made Me’. It’s when I took my 0 and A Levels, went to uni and started my first job. My view of the decade will always be rose-tinted, I’ll remember the music, discos, student grants (wouldn’t have known what a tuition fee was) and monthly inflationary pay rises negotiated by unions of which I was not a member. The strikes, high taxes and IRA bombs were background noise to me and, yes, I was the first in my family to go to university and, yes, despite everything, felt more secure with a nanny state in charge than at any time since. I’d happily pay more tax to give my kids and grandkids the same.