Catch22: youth charity draws flak for 'puzzling' name change

The choice of Catch22 as a name for the new charity created by the merger of Rainer and Crime Concern has been defended by the agency that devised it but questioned by other branding experts.

The name, announced last week (Third Sector Online, 10 November), uses the phrase made famous by the title of Joseph Heller's Second World War novel to reflect the impossible situations the charity says many of its young beneficiaries find themselves in.

Robert Jones, consultant for branding company Wolf Olins, said: "Strategically, they're doing the right thing: mergers should be a birth rather than a marriage. But I'm puzzled what Catch22 stands for. It's fine to have a name that doesn't say what you do, but names need to communicate values. A name is only a platform. The charity's success will depend on what it does with o."

Dean Russell, director of communications agency Precedent, said the name could alienate new audiences. Chris Arnold, director of communications agency Symple, agreed, pointing to the Spastic Society's rebrand as Scope in 1994. "That was a disaster of a name - no one understood what it was, did or represented," he said.

But Simon Myers, director of Fig Tree, the agency that designed the Catch22 brand, said: "The sector is drowning in descriptive names. Names are getting lost: Action for Kids, Street Kids, Kids Company, the Children's Society - they're all too similar."

He did not reveal any of the other names considered from a list of more than 100, but said the descriptive names were "wiped out in the first round" by the charity for sounding "too wet, too passive or too much like government schemes".

Russell said the question of 'ownership' was crucial to a brand's success. "It's a great name, but very difficult for them to own," he said. "Using such a famous phrase will make it difficult for people to find them online."

Myers said search engine position could be boosted using programming code and selecting specific words for the website's text. On ownership, he said: "The name owns the issue. For example, you can't get a job without an address, but can't get an address without a job. Catch22 takes you straight to the heart of the issue."

Arnold said today's young people had not heard of Joseph Heller's book, so they would not understand the phrase. Myers said that, although most people under 30 did not know the book, many of the charity's service-users were familiar with the term Catch22.

- See At Work, Communications, page 19

THE NAME GAME

- The Catholic Children's Society is to rebrand as Cabrini in January 2009. The name refers to a nun, teacher and saint who ran an orphanage in Italy and is believed to be an attempt by the charity to avoid direct reference to religion.

- The Winged Fellowship Trust, which provided holidays for disabled people, rebranded as Vitalise in 2004, prompting its former communications director Paul Sample to liken the new name to "some sort of sweet and sickly drink".

- NCH became Action for Children this year, causing four charities to complain to the Charity Commission and Action for Kids to seek legal advice.

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