Varcoe: Fine art of the name-change game as Crescent Point to become Veren

‘We’ve completely transformed the organization into a different business. It’s time for a new name.’

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Remember the name Encana? How about IPL Energy or TransCanada?

Once well-established businesses in Alberta, these companies decided to rebrand, becoming Ovintiv, Enbridge and TC Energy.

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Add Crescent Point Energy to the mix of Calgary-based businesses about to get a different corporate handle: Veren Inc.

See ya later, Crescent Point.

“There’s nothing wrong with the name. It was a great name and a great company and had a good history. For us, we’ve completely transformed the organization into a different business,” Crescent Point CEO Craig Bryksa said in an interview.

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“It’s time for a new name.”

At the company’s investor day meeting in Calgary this week, Bryksa announced the move and explained Veren combines the Latin word “veritas,” meaning truth, with energy.

If approved by shareholders in May, the business will also adopt a new ticker symbol and a new logo — a circle with three colourful “bursts” inside that form the letter ‘V.’

“You go through a series of different names and what fits and what doesn’t,” he added.

“So that’s where truth and energy (came from), for what we built. We really like the name.”

Crescent Point Energy CEO Craig Bryksa
Crescent Point Energy CEO Craig Bryksa. Supplied

One of the country’s largest petroleum producers, Crescent Point has been busy remaking itself since Bryksa took over from co-founder and longtime CEO Scott Saxberg in 2018.

On social media, it didn’t take long for people to weigh in about the name change.

Some hearkened back to the high-profile rebranding of Encana. Once the largest public company in Canada by market capitalization, it adopted the Ovintiv moniker in 2019.

“The Crescent Point name change to Veren is giving me serious Ovintiv vibes,” William Lacey, an industry veteran and former analyst, wrote on X.

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“These names, people tend to try to be clever about them. And I don’t think anything was particularly wrong with Crescent Point,” Lacey said in an interview.

“What is a Veren? It’s not like it spells it out for you.”

However, before it was formed more than two decades ago, what did Crescent Point represent?

In an interview, Saxberg said the name was tied to the road leading to his grandfather’s cabin, which was built in the early 1900s northwest of Thunder Bay, Ont.

Now the head of private energy firm Cache Island Corp., Saxberg isn’t surprised that Crescent Point is taking a new name, “only that they didn’t do it sooner” to highlight the next phase of its evolution.

“It’s our tradition in the oil industry to create names that have a meaning for the company and the staff,” he said.

“It’s important to build that culture in the company and put your stamp on it, and have everybody rally around it.”

Yet, it can be complicated to effectively swap the name of a well-established business with a new one, say marketing experts.

The new handle should be unique and not easily confused with other groups, said Dan Bergeron, marketing partner of Everbrave, a Calgary firm that works on rebranding and renaming.

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It should also embody the company’s values.

The word Veren is a little abstract, but “has a few points on what a good name should be — short and relatively memorable,” said Bergeron.

“This is a very drastic move to rename businesses of this size. It’s not an easy thing to do and to carry through the marketplace. So, it has to be done for very strategic reasons.”

Picking abstract names is often done by organizations to be distinctive, said AnneMarie Dorland, an assistant professor who teaches marketing and branding at Mount Royal University.

“If you have to explain the name, it can be a bit of a heavy lift for the audience,” she said.

“There’s a lot of research that goes into making a name sticky, what makes it stick to our minds and our memories.”

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Former IPL Energy CEO Brian MacNeill is familiar with the challenge. He remembers the tremendous preparation needed to turn the company into Enbridge in 1998.

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It made the switch to reflect its expansion beyond the pipeline business, and to avoid confusion with a similarly named firm in Quebec.

“You have to come up with a name nobody else is using, to start with. And from foreign (languages), you have to make sure it doesn’t say something quite different when it is translated,” MacNeill said Friday.

“Probably the hardest part was getting some consensus on a name . . . We determined Enbridge made the most sense — it was the ‘energy-bridge.’ ”

In recent years, Crescent Point has become a “radically different company” through a series of strategic moves designed to give it longer-life assets and improve its prospects, said Eric Nuttall, a senior portfolio manager at Ninepoint Partners, one of the company’s largest shareholders.

Under Bryksa, it moved to pay down debt, and later shifted into new operating areas, buying properties in the Montney formation from Spartan Delta last spring, and later acquiring Hammerhead Energy.

“The name change signals their desire to stand on their own feet, so to speak,” said Nuttall.

“But it’s cosmetic — the real change has been on the asset level.”

For Bryksa, the journey began several years ago with a new direction.

Now, it’s about to adopt a new name: Veren.

“We didn’t want to lead with changing the name of the company. We wanted to finish with changing the name of the company as we did the transformation,” he said.

“It’s a good time to give it a new brand.”

Chris Varcoe is a Calgary Herald columnist.

[email protected]

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