Slogan Doctor and Words-Worth: columns for
Management Today

Zurich: "Because change happenz"

Insurance companies are in a difficult position. They know they are there for the bad things in life, but if they are too explicit about those they are likely to frighten us away. "Because change happenz", a slogan developed with Publicis and rolled out around the world since 2005, is no more than a softer, less alarming variant of an old saying: "accidents will happen". The fatalism is the same.

As Zurich explains on its corporate website, the slogan "reflects the fact that change is an unavoidable reality..." Grammatically, "Because change happenz" is a sentence fragment, a subordinate clause crying out for a main clause to tell us what to do about it. Zurich relies upon us supplying our own answer: we should take out insurance.

To round things off, there's the ingenious spelling of the last word. "Because change happenz" is sufficiently irritating to ensure that the letter Z, for Zurich, embeds itself in the customer's mind. It's a trick first used by Heinz, whose "Beanz Meanz Heinz" first saw the light of day in 1967; annoying, but undeniably one of the most memorable slogans of the last century. No doubt Zurich knowz that.

Stakeholder

Gone are the days when a manager could safely assume that a "stakeholder" was a minor character in a Dracula movie. These days it means someone who may not own a company but has an interest in its fortunes and hence has to be taken into consideration: employees, customers and neighbours.

A "stake" has long had two meanings. From Anglo-Saxon times it meant a length of wood, used, for instance, in burning heretics or dealing harshly with the undead. Since the 16th century it has also meant a sum of money put up to be taken by the winner of a race or a gamble. A "stakeholder", first recorded in 1815, was a trusted third party who held the stake until the contest was decided.

"Stakeholder" in our sense, often used in contrast to "stockholder" or"shareholder", was coined in the 1960s but is most associated with R.Edward Freeman, author of a 1984 book called Strategic Management: A Stakeholder Approach. Freeman is an expert in business ethics, as indeed, most managers are learning to become. "Stakeholder" is one idea that is not going to lie down in its coffin and stay there.