Building a brand appears to be tricky business. This is being proven with the 36-year-old, 110-story black Sears Tower skyscraper now renamed after the London-based insurance broker Willis Group Holdings.
Willis is the new owner and a tenant in what’s currently known best as the tallest building in America. But, like watching a major ball field such as Chicago’s Comisky Park change its name to Cellular One Field, or Milwaukee County Stadium being named Miller Park, branding and rebranding often suffers from fits, starts and confusion. This was the case yesterday when news reports surfaced citing a lack of acceptance by the general public over the Sears Tower’s new name.
Asked about the public’s negative perception related to Willis name and resultant confusion tied to the Sears Tower’s transformation, Willis CEO Joseph Plumeri said, “Call it the Big Willy if you want.”
More than 90,000 people have joined the group "People Against the Sears Tower Name Change," on the social networking Web site Facebook. Although the group gathered more than 34,000 signatures on an online petition against the name change, a renaming ceremony took center stage yesterday, as Chicago’s Mayor Richard Daley and Plumeri pulled back the drapes to reveal the words “Willis Tower.”
Recent reports from the general press, however, point to Willis receiving exposure that may keep the carrier’s brand front and center.
"This name change is absurd," one Facebook member wrote. "Would Paris change the name of the Eiffel Tower? Or London change Buckingham Palace? Or New York, the Statue of Liberty? I believe the Illinois Congress needs to proclaim the Sears Tower a recognizable landmark that is known all over the world by people who have traveled to Chicago.”
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