What's in a Name? Plenty, if It's the NYSE

Two-plus months into the war waged over the New York Stock Exchange and the participants are gearing up for a key battle: what to call it.

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The NYSE Euronext camp tapped consulting firm Interbrand to figure out the new name, according to an industry source.

Like the fight for ownership, the debate has ballooned into one of national pride.

Nasdaq is betting nationalism will trump antitrust issues to help it win the day. Which is why mounting the effort against the Deutsche Borse offer was dubbed “Project Captain America,” before being replaced with the less egregiously chauvinistic “Project River.”

The Germans have given the task a more ambiguous code name: Project Gamma. It’s unclear whether that’s an attempt at transatlantic diplomacy or an emblem for the fraternity forged by Duncan Niederauer, the NYSE Euronext CEO, and his Deutsche Borse brethren.

The New York Stock Exchange has a history of competition with the Nasdaq when it comes to branding. Nearly a decade ago, the Big Board added the current blue-chip logo in order to signify its commitment to digitization.

The problem: Everyone wanted to trade on the hip, digitized Nasdaq exchange, and Nasdaq was eating the NYSE’s lunch, according to Hayes Roth, chief marketing officer at Landor, who worked on the effort.

Experts lay out three options for the new name.

The first is a mash-up of all the words, or the PriceWaterhouseCoopers approach. That would look something like “NYSE-DB Worldwide.”

The second would be choosing a new name in hopes that neutrality allays the uproar from either side.

The risk is that the market doesn’t buy your story, as in the case of Philip Morris becoming Altria. The name change was an attempt by Philip Morris to disassociate the brand from tobacco and create a connection with “altruism.”

"It didn't really do what it was supposed to do," according to Laurel Sutton, principal at Catchword Branding. "It was seen by most people as a shoddy and transparent marketing ploy."

The last naming option would be simply to leave the name alone, the approach favored now by the Nasdaq camp.