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Enough of this Vulgo business

By Payam Azadi,

head of marketing,

United Packagers’ AssociationIn 2003, an advertising company called Design Conspiracy set up a prank website to mock the trend for what they perceived as “nonsense” brand and company names, after a spate of such transformations as the Royal Mail turning into Consignia, and Philip Morris into Altria.

The website asked users to enter their name and select from a menu of core values they believed to be inherent in their company, such as “passionate”, and a main goal the firm wished to achieve, such as “client focus”. After this, the website would return a brand name that the people at Design Conspiracy had simply concocted off of the top of their heads, such as Accumulo or Vulgo.

The website was designed to give the agency more publicity, but also satirise the trend for rebranding, with these fabricated names. But not everyone got the joke, as more than 20 of the made up company names, including Libero, Ualeo, Bivio and Integriti, were subsequently registered with Companies House, with firms convinced that these brand names had their company’s core values attached. Even one member of the financial services industry took up one of the generated names and is operating successfully today.

It is a testament to the difficult, refined and sometimes pointless nature of rebranding that this site would be able to offer more than 20 companies a new name from a list of suggestions a couple of people had thrown up one rainy afternoon. And nowhere is the rebranding phenomenon more widespread than in our industry of late.

Taking a look at the evolution of the mortgage industry, so many labels have been applied to firms, projects and products that its often difficult to keep up to date with their precise meaning. We have ‘mortgage creators’, ‘network packagers’, ‘mortgage aggregators’, ‘IFA networks’, ‘mortgage networks’. Even ‘mortgage distributor’ is relatively new term in the industry. Satellite packaging has grown greatly over the past few years, and this branding suggests that one firm is reliant upon the other. Because of this and the fact that it is a partnership situation, where firms can suffer bruised egos wondering why they have to be seen as reliant on another – often smaller – firm, the term ‘mortgage distributor’ was born.

The term ‘packager’ used to be considered a dirty word prior to regulation in our industry. Now everyone wants a piece of the packager pie, with 2006 being another suc” ‘Packager’ used to be considered a dirty word prior to regulation in our industry. Now everyone wants a piece of the packager pie”cessful year in the progression of mortgage packaging. But I read with interest in January’s edition of Mortgage Distributor comments by Eddie Smith, operations manager of the Alliance of Mortgage Packagers and Distributors, that distributors must “get a life online” if they are to survive and grow, and that losing the “packager” branding might be the answer, as it might be misleading and “brings to mind the paper-shuffling role of the original packagers”.

As the industry progresses with the adoption of technology, another change in the name of outsourcing administration is sure to take place, and I wonder who will be the trendsetter to spark this transition.

It is not about what a company calls itself, but more about how it conducts its business. The media also fuels the desire to make a firm stand out from the crowd and pigeonholes companies by creating new slants on old angles, with buzzwords and over-hyped terminology. With the increasing number of mortgage publications available to those in the industry, the potential for creating new and more-confusing-than-necessary terminology is larger than ever.

The intermediary mortgage market is a highly specialised industry, with journalists often knowing more than many representatives of the firms they might be interviewing. I remember a time when there was no such thing as a weekly mortgage publication. Now we have a host of weekly and monthly magazines which have become ever more specialised with the expansion of the market. It is only in recent years that the industry has become so media-driven, and many firms have perhaps abused this situation.

With so many newly rebranded terms bandied around in the mortgage industry, it is important that intermediaries choosing a proposition do not get caught up in the foggy haze that this new marketing impetus has brought to many aspects of our industry.

In such a hugely competitive sector it is often impossible to differentiate between financial products and services, and recognition and trust in a brand is a vitally important issue. But often this can serve to sway attention away from the real issue of a valuable proposition and support network. The constant rebranding of many factors of our industry can only dilute this trust, so I hope a little calm is injected into proceedings and a faith in marketing can be maintained.

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