Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Prudence is a virtue that isn’t prized too highly these days. After the 60’s it’s all been about “daring” and “risk-taking” and “out of the box” and “radical” and “cool.” But prudence is still prized in industries where lots of money is taken and spent. And with what happened recently in Wall Street, I’m pretty sure prudence and fiscal conservatism is winning over a lot of people again. “High-risk high-return” isn’t as appealing as “steady and stable.”

“Prudential” is a term that isn’t used a lot in casual conversation, having been co-opted by dozens of insurance firms. In the Philippines alone there are at least three players with “prudential” in their trade names. Any book on entrepreneurship will advise you to find a name that is unique, but what can you do if your choice of acceptable adjectives is limited?

Philippine Prudential Life is a Filipino insurance company that has been around since 1963. Prudentialife Plans is a pre-need company that was established in 1978. While technically they are in different industries,* to the ordinary person they are companies that take your money regularly and give you something in return when something happens (like an accident, or college).

Filipinos, who are used to “brand extension” companies owned by the same people entering a different business, would assume that the two companies with “prudential” in their names are connected -- Philam Life and Philam Plans come to mind.

Which is fine until something bad happens to one of the companies.

The Legacy mess affected Prudentialife Plans and, because of the name, hit Philippine Prudential too. Now the latter is fielding calls and taking out ads and talking to the media reassuring everyone that they have absolutely nothing to do with the former.

Which could have been avoided had both companies dealt with the branding issue from the start. Given that the name of the pre-need had already been approved, Philippine Prudential should have taken steps to differentiate their brand.

It would’ve been the prudent thing to do.

*“Pre-need” is a weird animal invented here that isn’t supervised by the Insurance Commission. They actually sell securities.

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