Will the new name do the trick, and the clouds all disappear? GDF Suez SA is changing its name to Engie, pronounced in a similar way to the Rolling Stones’ song “Angie,” in which Mick Jagger sings the famous line.
The new brand name adopts the rising sun as its logo, “symbolizing a new day in the world of energy,” France’s largest utility said on its website on Friday.
The change comes as the group built from a decade of mergers seeks to adapt to changes in energy demand in Europe. GDF Suez, the first three letters stand for Gaz de France, has shut gas plants and capped coal-fired installations as CEO Gerard Mestrallet steers the company toward renewable energies and efficiency services relying on digital technologies.
The new name, which takes letters from “energy” and “vie,” the French word for life, will replace GDF Suez, which also uses dozen of other names around the world, including Electrabel for a nuclear operator in Belgium.
GDF Suez’s current name stems from the 2008 merger between Gaz de France, the former state gas monopoly, and Suez SA, a power and water utility.
“Dropping an administrative acronym for a neologism breaks with GDF Suez’s past as a state-owned operator,” said Paris-based Cyril Gaillard, founder of branding consultant Benefik. “As utility markets open to competition, the strategy is to pick a name which appeals to people’s imagination without being constrained to a particular product.”
Several French companies born from state-owned groups have changed names in recent years, such as Veolia and Vivendi SA, descendants of water operator Compagnie Generale des Eaux, or Orange SA, which used to be called France Telecom. More recently, Gucci-owning luxury good company Kering announced its name change from PPR SA, distancing itself from the name of its founder Francois Pinault.
The re-branding to Engie coincides with a succession plan under which Isabelle Kocher was promoted to deputy CEO and put on track to succeed Mestrallet, whose tenure is set to expire in 2016.
Utilities in Europe are struggling as weak growth weighs on demand amid the expansion of solar and wind output and government policies such as in Belgium, where Engie is fighting against a nuclear tax. Mestrallet has said future generators will be more small-scale and local, featuring energy-to-waste plants that burn municipal garbage and farm refuse.
“It’s an improvement on what they had,” said Jim Prior, CEO of London branding agency Lambie-Nairn. “They’ve switched from a very meaningless name to one that can engage customers and potential customers.”