Maybe “Gucci” didn’t work. But “Kering”: really?

March 22, 2013

By Quentin Webb

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

It sounds like caring, there’s a hint of Breton, and it comes with an owl. PPR is becoming “Kering”. Renaming the parent company will hardly deter buyers of the French group’s illustrious brands, such as Gucci or Bottega Veneta. But this latest corporate offence against language hints at worrying groupthink within PPR – sorry, Kering – HQ.

Perhaps PPR was due a rebrand. Boss Francois-Henri Pinault has focused the 22-billion-euro company on luxury and sportswear, shedding the “Printemps” and “Redoute” in an outfit whose initials used to stand for Pinault Printemps Redoute. But, still: Kering … Take a deep breath. Ker means home in Breton, reflecting PPR’s roots, while “-ing”, as a verb ending, expresses movement, we’re told. An owl on the logo bestows vision and wisdom. Of course.

There have been uglier reincarnations: think of PwC Consulting’s “Monday” or Royal Mail’s “Consignia” (both quickly scrapped) or Yell becoming “hibu” (almost an owl, in French at least). The obvious alternatives for the French luxury-and-sneakers maker, Pinault or Gucci, would have linked the listed vehicle too closely either to the controlling family or to the flagship brand.

Still, business is already ill-served by its own empty talk of “key takeaways” to adopt “going forward”, while thinking outside the box. This cloaks bad ideas. Kering is a reminder of just how readily executives also fall for the slightly cooler moonshine of branding gurus. (“We believe in Create Generously”, says Dragon Rouge, PPR’s adviser here.)

Should investors care? Numbers speak louder than words. But for this clunker to get approved suggests top brass at PPR all drink the Kool-Aid (assuming that has not also been rebranded). If that extends to financial decisions, yes, they should care.

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