PwC’s Terrible Naming Strategy&

Many years ago, I was in the waiting room at a doctor’s office, sorting through expired magazines in search of something actually worth reading (this was before smartphones, when everything was so. boring. all the time). A patient at the front desk was making a bit of a ruckus about getting his contact information updated, and I decided the impropriety of listening into a conversation was less offensive to my sensibilities than having to read about a year-old celebrity breakup.

The college-aged student had become agitated that the office couldn’t reconcile his records with his new, recently changed name. After a bit of a tussle, the woman at the desk finally found some back door into the patient database.

“Okay, so what’s your new name?” the woman finally asked, ready to type.

“Buddy Blue.”

There was a bit of a pause as the woman glanced at the kid’s small frame and dark hair. To her credit, she didn’t laugh. I didn’t either, but only because I thought it was a terrible joke. A confirmation and a driver’s license later, it turned out it was no joke. Or if there was one, it was certainly on him.

Does this come to mind to anyone else when you hear "Buddy Blue"?

Does this come to mind for anyone else when you hear “Buddy Blue”?

I bring up this story only to accentuate that PwC isn’t the only group that has terrible taste in names. PwC recently purchased Booz & Company, a consulting firm that does projects completely unrelated to audit and tax work. Based on the terms of the sale, PwC had to change the name of Booz & Company. The only character they kept from the old name was the ampersand.

Now, all those dignified former Booz & Company employees are happily employed at ‘Strategy&’.

Yes, Strategy Ampersand is their name (lovingly cleared up by PwC to be pronounced Strategy AND).

Strategy And. . .

So now PwC and Strategy And will become an even more dominate player in the consulting world (read that sentence out loud to hear how bad that name is. Reversing it to “Strategy And and PwC” doesn’t help much).

Apparently Strategy& wasn’t a typo, but chosen for the good Google search possibilities, and because “” was available. But not “strategy&.com”, since ampersands are not valid characters in web names.

And, the inevitable question that every Strategy& employee will get when asked where they work will be “Strategy and what?”

They’ll have to lightly wave it off. “No, just Strategy And. And yes, Buddy Blue is my real name.”

Though I'm considering changing it to Buddy& Blue&

Though I’m considering changing it to Buddy Blue&

Though the dark, nefarious side of this transaction is that there might just be a AND in the whole purchase. For those business history buffs, part of the whole blow up with Enron, and the ensuing legislation, was that accounting company Arther Anderson and Enron were a little two entangled. Arther Anderson, along with providing auditing services, sold Enron all kinds of consulting services. It was a conflict of interest (or an independence issue to us accounting types), especially since the consulting side made more money than the audit side.

Arther Anderson had a huge incentive to turn a blind eye to questionable practices in their audit, as long as the consulting money kept flowing in like oil trucks pouring gold coins into Scrooge McDuck’s mansion.

After the Enron blow up, basically all the remaining accounting firms jettisoned their consulting practice to avoid potential independence issues. And now, here’s PwC, picking up a consulting practice (no, they are not the first).

Maybe it should be renamed “Strategy & Independence Issues.” Or maybe “PwC: Day’s of Future Past.” Might better fit what’s coming. Even if they insist that it’s not a concern.


Picture by Ethan Kan and David Hoogland.