Not-So-Mellow Yellow

Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Yellow Roadway Corp., the American trucking and logistics company, is going to change its name (subscription required) to YRC Worldwide "to avoid negative connotations" as it begins a major expansion into China. I must admit I was confused for a moment—until I realized that they were talking about the un-p.c. use of the word "yellow" as a derogatory term for Asians. So basically what the company is doing is giving up on years of history, and a well-developed brand, in hopes of not offending the Chinese market. I'm no China scholar, so I don't know whether the purportedly offensive term even translates into an equally offensive term in Chinese. I certainly think most people, even at home, think of a primary color when they think of yellow. But I do wonder whether the decision will harm the company's identity here at home, where the company does most of its business.

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6 Comments

  • carolyn

    In this case I think its splitting Hairs.Im ''Black''err ''Afoamerican''this Generation'' a politically correct Generation''Which I most Definately Never been. since Slavery.I can barely keep up what to call my fellow Brothers and sisters(kidding)but if you tackled my Race mannnn..would have a lot to change from the Black hole to the Black arts...Phew!

  • mike mayer

    Difficult to believe the "Yellow" would be offensive in China or in the U.S. By going politically correct, Yellow Freight gives up its significant brand identity.

    Brand is powerful. I am involved with logistics and when I think of LTL or full load traffic I immediately think of Yellow Freight, just as many people conjure up images of FedEx when looking for overnight.

    I feel like screaming out the line from the Seinfeld show "Who was the marketing genius who thought this up?!".

    Never give up the brand if the brand identity is strong and positive.

  • Alex

    Changing the in order to "potentially" avoid offending anyone in Asia is a smart move. Considering the cross-polination of the two cultures over the past decade, capitalism may not be the only learned knowledge. Plastering "Yellow" all over China could impact the image. But what I don't understand is why can't they just open a subsidiary under a different, locally-sensitive name? For some businesses China is still a "virgin" market and it is not uncommon for companies to re-invent themselves there.

  • ed

    i work for yellow they are a great company have been employed there for25 years they always seem to make the right business decisions

  • Greg

    Good point above, about fear. It's rarely a driver towards success. But even if this fear has basis, why change the name on operations here in the US? That's where the decades of brand equity will be lost with a name change that's meaningless here. But this is the same company who puts YELLOW in large print across their trucks ... in orange.

  • Dabitch

    Yellow? I thought that was only slang for "scared". Which is kinda apropos here.