Home Columns Anantha Narayan Namasutra: Mirthful mergers

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    Have you heard of the 2.5 billion dollar blooper? It was committed recently by Gazprom, the largest natural gas extractor in the world. It all happened when the Russian giant signed a joint venture with Nigerian state enterprise NNPC. The new company was called ‘Nigaz’ – a seemingly harmless portmanteau crafted from Nigeria and Gazprom.

    Now, anyone with some sense will tell you that Nigaz sounds suspiciously close to the racist pejorative ‘Niggas’. Somehow Gazprom never saw it coming. The result was severe embarrassment. The Guardian billed it as the ‘branding disaster of all time’.

    If super rich conglomerates can act super stupid, I wouldn’t put it past mid-sized enterprises to commit bigger goof-ups. Anyways, Gazprom’s costly mistake has put the spotlight back on hilarious merger names. Old jokes are now being dusted up and packaged as new. The classic, of course, is: ‘What happens when FedEx merges with UPS?’ The answer, dear Einstein, is FedUp.

    Another pearl: If Swiss Air and Cheeseborough-Ponds were to tie the knot, will the new company be christened, ‘Swiss Cheese’? The gold standard among the merger jokes is ‘What happens when Hale Business Systems, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Fuller Brush and WR Grace Co become one? You get Hale Mary Fuller Grace!’
    Instead of recycling the same stale ale, I was thinking why not pour some fresh juice into your empty glass. So here goes: Standard Chartered should consider taking over Subway Sandwiches. That way we all can munch into ‘Sub Standard’ junk food!

    The next one is not exactly family-friendly. Shut your eyes, oh Victorian prudes! Okay, what do you get when Blowplast decides to acquire Times Jobs? Yeah, it’s exactly what you thought. It’s the unpleasant euphemism for the job that sucks. Let’s get more desi. Let’s say, Sahara takes over Oyzterbay. Will the resulting outfit be named ‘Bay Sahara’? One more. If and when Richard Branson buys out Marie biscuits, will he re-launch it as ‘Virgin Marie’?

    Or for that matter, when Yahoo takes a stake in Vodafone, will they insist on renaming the brand as ‘Yodafone’? And when Blackstone buys out Sharon Plywood, will they make it sexier by calling it ‘Sharon Stone’? Whatever the mash up, make sure it doesn’t become the butt of all ridicule.

    Anantha Narayan
    Created your own funny joint venture? Share them with anantha@albertdali.com 

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