Seeing red over branding?

From Ferrari to Armani, Vespa to Versace, the Italians take their brand names seriously, so it is interesting to see where Finmeccanica bosses have taken that brand since the company began to morph from anonymous Italian industrial holding company a few years ago to one of the world’s biggest aerospace and defence giants.

Rumour has it that Finmeccanica bosses came within a whisker of ditching the brand entirely before the Paris air show – it came with a lot of baggage in Italy as a cumbersome, state-owned conglomerate with an equally cumbersome name: Società Finanziaria Meccanica or Finmeccanica for short.

Roughly translated that means Finance and Engineering Group. Word was they were going to “do a Thales” – in other words, come up with a whole new brand name for the company that shed any reference to its heritage businesses. However, instead they kept the name and brought in some Italian brand designers and came up with a vibrant bright-red corporate identity that makes Ferrari look like some sleepy, provincial engineering concern.

The new look debuted at Farnborough last year in the chrome and red, sleekly curved shape of a chalet. But this year at Paris, the company went one further and the Finmeccanica stand, a vast red and chrome arena which dominated an entire side of one of the main halls, looked like the sort of thing a Formula 1 team would erect at a motor show.

At the DSEI event in London last week, they went further again, with the Finmeccanica corporate identity on the stand of the now 100%-owned AgustaWestland (Finmeccanica previously shared ownership with the UK’s GKN).

The significance of this move should not be lost. In the 1980s the row over who should invest in the then-Westland Helicopters, to keep the UK’s defence helicopter champion afloat, led to the resignation of a Cabinet minister, Michael Heseltine. When Finmeccanica completed its 100% purchase of the Yeovil business last year, making the Italian company one of the UK’s biggest defence contractors at a stroke, it barely raised a murmur.

Now – if the DSEI stand is anything to go by – the Westland identity appears to have been completely subsumed into that of the Italian giant. Although the Westland web site still has the old logo, it cannot be long before it too catches up. And nobody in the UK is seeing red.

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