Yell name change to hibu is the kind of makeover that makes you want to scream

Yellow Pages owner Yell has just changed its name to hibu, to the corporate fanfare of a £1.4bn annual loss.

If you want to draw attention to the fact that you are a loser, this is the way to do it in style. Don’t just disappoint your shareholders, really get their hackles up by spending yet more of their money on a makeover that will involve changing everything down to the last dot on letterheads and corporate literature.

It’s the kind of thing that gives rebranding a really bad name. The corporate equivalent of a crooked car dealer pushing a cut-and-shut write-off through the body-shop, in the belief that some mug out there will buy the flashy new paint job.

So why do it? Mike Pocock, Yell’s chief executive, claims to have a cunning plan. He’s actually proud  of the fact that hibu (unlike its predecessor, Yell) is a meaningless word. Yes, readers, unironically he spells it out for us: “high-boo”. As opposed to “low-boo.” Now you know.

Apparently, trendily ungrammatical hibu (lower case ‘h’, with some meaningless umlauts thrown in) is going to “connect” with under-25 year olds for whom telephone directories are relics. And while we’re there, let’s not forget “digitally-enabled housewives under 45 who have money to spend”. No, really. Must be the Sid and Doris Bonkers market that satirical magazine Private Eye has made its own.

By way of explanation, Pocock says nonsense words are now very much in vogue: “If you go back 15 to 20 years, Google and Yahoo! didn’t mean anything. It’s how you support the brands.”

You couldn’t make it up, could you? Please, Mike, stop digging and throw the spade away.  Google and Yahoo may have been nonsense words, but they represented thriving new businesses that earned the right to use a neologism. Not so tired old Yell, shackled to its Yellow Pages print platform. The best place for nonsense words is in the poetry of Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll.

WPP’s Landor, who dreamt up “hibu”, must be laughing all the way to the bank. Now comes the expensive advertising campaign to let Sid and Doris know they are being targeted.


7 Responses to Yell name change to hibu is the kind of makeover that makes you want to scream

  1. kenci59 says:

    Great article Stuart. I think its important to remember that both Yahoo and Google were unique offerings in their time. I like your comments about Landor, who must have also persuaded the CEO that nonsense words are in fashion. It will get lost in all the other nonsense words around. Unless I am from another planet I would probably think about using rather than for booking train tickets for example.

  2. From a Yank (and a California-based Yank at that), can I just say how much I enjoy your posts. Always well informed and well written, with a nice dose of cynical humor to boot.

  3. Luis Forero says:

    Hey, Smith, do you really think that the new name of yell is for selling directories? Are you crazy or are you stupid?

  4. Alejandro says:

    I agree, a company full of poor quality executives, specially in Spain and Latam, dreamers…

  5. Disgruntled Shareholder says:

    Well, they say any publicity is good publicity!

  6. Selina Meehleib says:

    Obviously, you missed the whole point of the rebranding. Yell owns companies like Znode and Moonfruit. Both names really mean nothing, but are leading digital companies. The purpose of rebranding is to allow “brand permission” in the digital market. Many companies have had to change and grow in order to survive and thrive. In order to continue for another 100 years, Yell is going to need to do the same.

  7. JoMama says:

    You really have missed the boat on this one. Obtuse, to say the least.

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