When Engie and EDP Renováveis christened their offshore wind joint venture Ocean Winds, you could be forgiven for assuming that it had taken about 10 seconds to come up with the name. But in the branding world, nothing is that simple.
Offshore wind uses wind from the ocean. What else could there be to it?
Well, Engie and EDPR actually commissioned a team of scientists to record the sounds of the wind on the high seas and then feed it into an algorithm that transliterated it into letters of the alphabet. Apparently, the most common letters were O and W – conveniently the first letters of the words ‘ocean’ and ‘winds’.
Of course, Ocean Winds is just the latest in a long line of brand names with convoluted and fanciful explanations. Company names often used to have a clear meaning linked to the organization’s main business or history, but that idea has fallen out of fashion as business models have become more amorphous and history is sidelined in favor of bland internationalism.
Engie itself is a prime example. You may remember it as GDF Suez, a name that harked back to its origins in national utility Gaz de France and in Suez – the company that built the Egyptian canal.
Revealing the new name in 2015, outgoing CEO Gérard Mestrallet pointed to the convenience of reducing five syllables to two. They are supposed to be pronounced “like the Rolling Stones song Angie,” which is reminiscent of the French word for energy. The renaming cost millions of euros.
If I had my own offshore wind company, I think I would name it [whalesong] as a reminder of the interconnectedness of all life on earth. I would insist that it always be written in square brackets and pronounced not as a word but as a series of ethereal underwater moans and clicks.
On second thought, maybe I’m getting out of my depth. I should probably stick to finance and leave the branding to the experts.