Brett Morris. Picture: Supplied
Brett Morris. Picture: Supplied

Often a corporate name change is simply a lick of paint and a new logo.

In the case of FCB, one of SA’s biggest brand communications groups, it’s rooted in a bold new strategic direction. It encompasses the organisation’s belief that it has a responsibility to help rebuild the country and steer the nation in a positive direction through compelling advertising.

This week the 40-year-old 700-strong group changes its name to Nahana Communications.

FCB was formed out of the Lindsay Smithers agency that opened its doors in 1926 with the Goodyear Tyre & Rubber Co as its first client. FCB is part of the US-headquartered Interpublic group of companies. Locally it counts blue-chip brands like Toyota, Coca-Cola and Cell C on its client list.

Brett Morris: This is one of our most important and enduring relationships. Picture: JEREMY GLYN
Brett Morris: This is one of our most important and enduring relationships. Picture: JEREMY GLYN

It consists of a cluster of expert self-standing agencies that include digital specialist Hellocomputer; media agencies The MediaShop and Meta Media; content creator FuelContent; public relations consultancy Weber Shandwick; and full-service agencies McCann1886, HelloFCB+ and FCB Joburg; as well as a socioeconomic development arm, the Nahana Foundation.

Group CEO Brett Morris says nahana is a Sesotho word that means "to think" or "to imagine", and conveys the rationale for the group’s composition. "We believe that by using the power of creative thinking and imagination we are able to help our people and our clients achieve extraordinary things, and more than they ever thought possible."

In many ways some might say it’s the impossible that the organisation is chasing.

Morris believes the group has a moral responsibility to play a leading role in SA’s democracy journey. "It has long been in our DNA to be the best learning and development business in the industry, and using those skills we help build brands, which in turn plays a key role in growing the country’s economy."

Within the Nahana group, all operating companies will maintain their own executive boards and, it is hoped, culture; but they will also be part of an "open architecture" strategy in which cross-discipline teams can work together. As Morris puts it: "Doing the best for the brand "

Morris also likes a second, more colloquial meaning to the group’s new name.

"Sometimes nahana is used to express a sense of disbelief, as if to say: ‘I’ll believe it when I see it’, or, ironically, ‘Can you imagine that?’ We like that, because there will always be people who doubt the power of creative thinking and we love proving them wrong."

The rebranding exercise has been six months in the planning, and a long-standing transformation strategy will continue to be accelerated.

"Our ambition is to become a model for transformation by using all our resources and creativity to help build a sustainable economy for all South Africans. By being representative of the demographics of the country and creating an environment that is intentionally and deliberately inclusive, every single one of us will be able to contribute to work that truly resonates with all South Africans meaningfully and authentically."