N.Y. Times News Service What's in a corporate name? For many
the answer has always been simple: At Ford Motor, you find Fords;
at Coca-Cola, Cokes; at Campbell Soup. . .you guessed it.
Then a decade or so ago, many companies took a detour into a
land of strange, foreboding names like Primark, Unisys, Allegis and
alphabet-soup names filled with X's, like CSX and USX.
As they ballooned into conglomerates, companies did not want
their identities linked to a solitary product and grasped for
something universal, compact, unrecognizable.
But just as hemlines that go up must sooner or later head down
again, the name game is coming full circle, as a growing number of
consumer-product companies are seeing the names of their primary
brands as the best ones to hang on the door.
Castle & Cooke Inc., for example, was reborn last month as Dole
Food Co.; United Brands Co. has been rechristened Chiquita Brands
International and Consolidated Foods Corp. has renamed itself Sara
The latest company to join their ranks is Amstar Sugar Corp.
which earlier this week announced that effective Sept. 20, it would
be known as Domino Sugar Corp., in honor of its familiar Domino
line of sugar products.
The change "makes sense in line with how we are known to the
public," said Chris G. Gunderson Jr., the company's assistant
general counsel in New York. "Domino is our principal trademark and
has been for over 90 years."
Behind the opaque, made-up names of the '70s and '80s were
people known as corporate image consultants, the very ones now
advising clients to revert to simpler, brand-name names.
Of the made-up names, "one of the all-time great boners" was
Allegis, which was briefly used by the corporate parent of United
Airlines, said Don Casey, president and chief executive of Landor
Associates, San Francisco, an image- management consulting concern.
It "was an inward-looking name, not an outward-looking name,"
"It didn't deal with the consumer" he continued, adding that it
was "so pretentious sounding."
Amstar, the coined name being jettisoned in favor of Domino
Sugar, dates to 1970, Gunderson said, describing it as a "fanciful
name" based on letters from the company's traditional name,
American Sugar Co.: the "Am" from "American," plus the "s" and "ar"
"And in place of the `ug,' they put a `t,"' he added, chuckling.
The trend now is toward "warmth, and emotional names," said
Aubrey Balkind, president and chief executive of Frankfurt Gips
Balkind, New York, a communications agency that works on
corporate-identity projects, "and away from made-up names that
don't mean much except to people inside the company. …