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Jewish World Review
Mergers and admonitions
AIG, the company that broke the world by selling fake insurance policies, removed their name from the front of their New York City skyscraper. How much did that cost? The letters were, like, 5 feet tall. You just can't send down Al from the mailroom with a screwdriver and a ladder and take them down. They probably had to use a few guys with cherry pickers. They took them down in the middle of the night so we're talking golden time for the crew. But is taking down the sign really going to solve any of AIG's problems?
I'm sure that as the months go on we'll learn that the million-dollar bonuses they gave to the guys who lost billions are chump change. They are probably spending your bailout money right now, on focus groups to find out if AIG should change their name to "Warm and Fuzzy Financial," "Huggy Bear Enterprises" or "Insurance 'n' Things?"
Anyone who's worked for a big corporation knows it isn't the stock-option giveaways or undeserved bonuses that kills them, but the corporate culture itself. One place I worked at changed their logo seven times in two years. It used to be Big Corp, Inc., and then it bought Colossal Brands so it became Big Colossal Brands. They hired the most expensive graphic designers in the world to come up with a logo for the new company.
The highly paid designers and the highly paid executives went on spa retreats together, they went to trust-building camps together, they went deep-sea fishing together off Cabo San Lucas. After millions of dollars and countless hours of confabbing, faxing and e-mailing, the new logo was revealed. It consisted of the letters "B" and "C" intertwined to look as if they were having some kind of kinky alphabet sex with each other. A business school triumph!
The executives who had spent so much time and money on it all agreed it was a work of genius and they were all geniuses. Then they spent millions more changing every piece of corporate stationery, every notepad, every handout baseball cap, every tote bag and every giveaway pen to the new logo. All the old stuff was thrown out. Two months later Big Colossal Brands merged with Humongous Products becoming Big, Humongous & Colossal, Inc.
The new company adopted Humongous Products' corporate motto which was "Something you ate today, we touched." It worked fine for most of the company, but I was in their magazine division and it didn't get us much business. We had our own problems. Once a year the editor would decide to redesign the whole magazine to make it "edgier."
Incredibly, the magazine-buying public didn't seem to appreciate the significance of our font change from Times New Roman to Courier, that we'd spent millions going from a three-column format to two columns, that the "edgy" new art director (we had to buy out the old one) did not like to read the stories he was designing.
On the headline for a piece about adoption, the letters looked like shards of broken glass. For the article about the top ten beach vacations, the pictures were of rotting fish and evil-looking pop-tops half-buried in the sand. The new format won an "Edgy" Award. Sales tanked. Some other magazine stole our new art director. They went out of business, too. They won an "Edgy" posthumously.
Of course all the stationery, baseball hats, etc., had to be tossed out once more. This time, the "B" and the "C" performed their kinky sex game inside a large "H." Changing the logo did not improve the bottom line as expected. I never once heard anyone say, "Hey, nice new logo. I'm giving you all my business."
While the executives were busy picking logos and mottos, the stock price of BHC steadily dropped. A Wall Street raider bought the whole company for a song, fired all the high-priced executives and resold the company a year later for a gazillion-dollar profit. Members of the logo team were all quickly hired by other big corporations, and are now busy spreading their management magic to other lucky offices. If we all chipped in and paid them a bonus to leave, we'd all be better off.
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Jim Mullen is the author of "It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life" and "Baby's First Tattoo."
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