Preposterous 'Abrdn' rebrand is at risk of not sticking

Simon Read

Simon Read

It is always great to welcome a new month. It can represent a new beginning, new hope and new opportunities.

But as we arrive in May, there is a small feeling of let-down. Let’s face it, 'may' is not the most positive of words. And the month itself is a little uninspiring, being simply a bridge between the excitement of April’s celebration of spring and just before the longest day of the year in June.

What is clearly needed is a rebrand and refresh to give the month an extra bit of oomph. After consulting an expensive brand agency, I have come up with the perfect answer. ‘May’ will be rebranded as ‘My’ – putting you and your hopes at the centre of the month.

Convinced? Of course you are not. It is a preposterous idea. But not the most preposterous rebrand I have heard about recently.

That honour goes to Standard Life Aberdeen, which has hilariously rebranded as Abrdn. I have no idea how long the business mulled over the idea or what other names they considered. I can only guess they did not bother to give it any thought at all.

Boss Stephen Bird explained the move: “Abrdn builds on our heritage and is modern, dynamic and, most importantly, engaging.” He added: “Our new name reflects the clarity of focus that the leadership team are bringing to the business.”

Let’s consider that clarity of focus. Have they come up with a clever name that reflects the company’s rich history? After all, Standard Life was established back in 1825, almost 200 years ago. Surely a new brand would be poised to make capital out of the 2025 anniversary?

Seemingly, that is unimportant – or maybe it has deliberately been cast aside. Maybe they have been taking inspiration from playwright George Bernard Shaw’s quote: “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”

The quote is often thrown at people who are perceived as fuddy-duddies, still stuck in the past when there is a future to look forward to. But it ignores the fact that progress can only be made by building on past achievements.

I guess the real problem the company had is that they licensed the Standard Life name to Phoenix, and so had already created confusion among consumers. And that is the last thing they wanted to do, hence the new Abrdn brand.

But let’s look in full at what they actually did to create the new brand: they took all the ‘E’s out of the word Aberdeen, and that was it.

Pleasingly, the Financial Times caught up with Aberdeen-based 90s techno band The Shamen to ask their view. As you will recall, the band hit number one in 1992 with the single "Ebeneezer Goode", which the BBC initially banned because of its “E's are good” chorus.