Monday 9 December 2019

The Punt: Heathrow airport rebranding a step too far

Terminal 5C at London's Heathrow Airport
Terminal 5C at London's Heathrow Airport
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

THE Punt doesn't regard itself as an old-fashioned stick in the mud. We get that everyone needs to make money and that means "branding opportunities" for a lot of firms. We may not be keen on Lansdowne Road being renamed the Aviva Stadium, but we get why that needs to happen.

But sometimes these moves defy belief. For two weeks, Terminal 5 at London's Heathrow Airport has been renamed Terminal Samsung Galaxy S5.

Now, apart from having the number five in common, we can think of no other reason for this change of name to be allowed go ahead.

Unlike going to a match, where there is a very clear destination, international airports are huge, sprawling, and unless you are a seasoned traveller, confusing. When passengers need clarity, the rebranding means all they will get is confusion.

Besides, this is the type of exercise that may hurt Samsung. Does the Korean giant want to be associated with a passenger's nightmare of missing a flight at Terminal Samsung Galaxy S5?

The name is already sparking comment online. As one wag noted, the name sounds like a fatal disease. Hardly the type of promotion likely to push people to buy the phone.

Always take the meeting

RICHIE Boucher is known for a lot of things, but charisma is not one of them. The Bank of Ireland boss is often described as "unsmiling" or even "combative".

He was true to that persona last week. Speaking at a business dinner, Mr Boucher gave a potted history of how the bank has come along since the bad days of 2008, and all the hard work done to put things right.

It was grim stuff by all accounts, and the story is unfortunately all too familiar to most of us.

He did, however, include a nice anecdote or two, including how the bank attracted the investment that prevented it from being nationalised like AIB back in 2011.

Kennedy Wilson was not well known here in 2011 but it had sealed a deal to buy a small business from Bank of Ireland. Mr Boucher was not involved personally in that deal but he met the Kennedy Wilson guys as a gesture after talks had concluded. At that meeting, the KW reps offered their services and asked him to make a pitch for investment.

By the following Saturday, Mr Boucher was spending most of the day on the phone to star investors Prem Watsa and Wilbur Ross. By that night, a basic deal for outside investment was in place and BoI managed to stay out of state hands.

If there is a lesson from that tale, it has to be "always take the meeting". No matter how unattractive it seems at the time, you never know what might come out of it.

A step closer to Skynet

Does the date August 29, 1997, mean anything to you? If it does, then – unless it's your birthday – it's probably because you are a fan of 'Terminator 2', below. In the film, that was the day the computer system Skynet became "self-aware" and effectively destroyed mankind.

Now, fantastical as all that sounds, computers are having an ever larger effect on our daily lives, mostly for the better.

But not always. The Michael Lewis book 'Flashboys' has thrown a light on the algorithms that control most of the international stock markets with little or no social purpose. This has led to calls for bringing the human element back into trading. A US venture capital firm, however, is going the other way.

Deep Knowledge Ventures has given a seat on its board to a computer algorithm called Vital. The program will vote on whether to invest in a specific company or not.

There probably is an element of a stunt about this. After all, companies use computer programs all the time when deciding whether or not to invest in businesses.

Still, though, the rise of the machines continues unabated. Skynet may not be as fantastical as we once thought.

Irish Independent

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