Yell Group plc’s (LON:YELL) share price has fallen from 500p to 1.75p over five years. The Yellow Pages group’s losses exceed £2bn in that period. Turnover is down from £2bn to £1.6bn a year. Debts are £2.7bn; the stockmarket value just £40m. Changing Yell’s name may look like the only answer. But to Hibu? Sorry, hibu?
This was once a major brand. Yellow Pages was founded in 1883 and a century later entertained us top quality ads such as JR Hartley seeking his fly-fishing book. “Let your fingers do the walking,” was a catchy jingle. Now its adverts have gone downhill and fewer people advertise in its directories. But if the brand is sickly, killing it cannot be the answer.
Shareholders are to be asked to adopt the hibu name and to apply it to all new products. “What does the brand stand for?” asks Yell’s own website. “The people who help communities thrive,” it answers. And what does hibu stand for? Er, nothing.
The name has already been changed once, of course, by shortening Yellow Pages (or for the Spanish subsidiary, Paginas Amarillas) to Yell. Another transformation, to a meaningless name, looks desperate. Remember Royal Mail’s change to Consignia, British Steel’s to Corus and Price Waterhouse’s one-week flirtation with ‘Monday’. Or remember that flood of dot.com era banks such as egg, marble, IF and goldfish.
The new hibu name will have a blue dot on the ‘i’ and red and green dots on the prongs of the ‘u’. No yellow dots, you’ll notice, so keen is Yell to disown its heritage. This is designer nonsense that is lost on the dwindling band of customers.
“By using bold lower-case typography with soft edges we project a human and approachable company,” explains Yell (sorry, hibu) to anyone still listening. Er, no: you project a company that ought to stop mucking about and concentrate on cutting the debt, boosting revenues and turning in a profit.