Giant Accounting Firm Joined Witness Protection Program

One day in 2011, my wife was watching golf’s Players Championship on tv, and asked me about the logo of a principal sponsor: “Who is pwc?”

I had a guess in mind, but I had to go to Wikipedia to verify it, which should tell you something. It seems one of the world’s largest accounting firms decided to become forgettable and anonymous, and underwent a “major rebranding effort” to accomplish this aim. Why they decided to go into hiding was not explained, but they discarded their prominent name in order to join the ranks of firms who commit the three-initial mistake.

My usual reaction to black lipstick, mullet haircuts, or barbed-wire neck tattoos is, “They choose to look like this deliberately?” But this of course is the exact opposite: a calculated effort not to be memorably distinctive, but to be invisible. Wear beige, avoid eye contact, drive a Mercury.

They added a decoration as their trademark. Of course. It’s an assemblage of color squares that could serve as a logo only for a major accounting firm. Or a nail salon. Or, oh, any organization in the known world.

But in their defense, streamlining the name down to “pwc” got them from six syllables to five.

Comments 9

  1. Great post. Obviously their company name morphed through the merger but this is also a problem for companies who choose a name that literally describes what they do but is so long it ultimately becomes a set of initials like IBM. Of course, IBM advertised enough to overcome that disadvantage but small businesses and those who do little advertising might as well be in a witness protection program as you suggest.

  2. Change can be scary and at times change can be for a good reason. It doesn’t surprise me that these firms are looking to create a lower profile in some ways. I don’t blame them, they haven’t had the best PR lately as a category. Also, there may be other reasons that are not clear to the public. When Milliman & Robertson changed their name to Milliman it was because Robertson was no longer with the company and it was associated with the European operations which was looking to divest long-term. So as much as the three letter company can be a curse there may be some very legitimate legal reasons beyond what the public knows. I would also think their may be some global considerations and translation considerations. Just a thought. At the end of the day it just may have been time for something new. Who can fault them for wanting something new…

    Tim Ross

  3. I understand there are still some interest in the colors chosen. Definitely trying to differentiate from the other ‘big four’ and avoid the long name.

    Check out their previous logos:

    Entirely possible that because they are such a large, profitable company with a faithful client base .. they didn’t need to advertise the rebrand much.

    Side note .. have you seen the Deloitte green dot? It’s so simple but intriguing. I don’t recall them doing any rebranding either.

    Great post!! Good convo!

  4. I do not see a problem with the PWC brand. The target market for PWC is CEOs, CFOs and Board Members of public companies world-wide. They have used the following email address in the U.S. for several years: Anything is better than their 15 letter legacy name: PricewaterhouseCoopers.

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