The Directory of Lost Companies

Why do intelligent people do dumb things? Yesterday I received a press release from GE. It talked about a new flowmeter. It was an interesting product, and I'll be running the release. But it made me realize that unless I editorialize on the release most people won't know (especially, dammit, most end-users) who the blazes is making this product. As a consultant, I got numerous phone calls trying to locate "lost companies," which is why I started to keep the Directory. I am doing a revision of the Directory for Bela Liptak's latest volume right now. You see, the release pointed out that, "Panametrics, Druck, General Eastern, Kaye, NovaSensor, Thermometrics and Ruska are now under one name: GE Industrial Sensing. For more information, visit http://www.gesensing.com." These are all great brands. GE is a great brand. GE Industrial Sensing, or GE Sensing (they appear to use the names interchangeably, and the website URL argues for GE Sensing) is not a great brand. It is not yet a brand. GE has given up all the brand recognition from the great brands they've bought, to bet that the GE name will carry the new Industrial Sensing division. It may. But the history of actions like this shows the odds of GE being successful in any realistic time frame are small. ABB lost over half its market in the US in magnetic flowmeters when it killed the Fischer & Porter brand. ABB's new PR strategy is to "remember where we came from." They've resuscitated the old brands, to help push ABB. Costly, and necessary, but will it work? The jury is still out. Even the most well known business case, "Datsun is Nissan" ultimately was a failure. Yet companies like GE, Emerson, ThermoElectron, Danaher and others in our market continue to do this. Is it stupidity, ego, or hubris? It certainly can't be sound business thinking. What do you think? Walt