Nouryon: name for autonomous specialty chemicals devision

In April 2017, AkzoNobel announced that it wanted to sell its Specialty Chemicals division to the American Carlyle Group and GIC, the Singaporean investment fund. This meant that the division needed a rebranding, including a new name.

15 focus groups of employees around the world

Usually, such a large rebranding operation is prepared in a relatively small circle, sometimes even only at top management and board level. Nevertheless, AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals’ management thought differently. They wanted to involve as many employees as possible.

A well thought-out process was developed, under the leadership of Vivi Hollertt (Chief Communications Officer) and Jasper Jansen (Head of Communications Netherlands & Germany). VIM Group was hired to assist with selecting agencies, make an impact analysis, and implement the new corporate identity. Globrands was hired for brand positioning and naming and VBAT for designing the corporate identity.

After an analysis of the positioning of competing chemical industries and a survey among employees, the basic ingredients for the new brand positioning were determined. Then, with input from 15 focus groups of employees around the world, coming from all levels of the company, a common purpose was formulated during several sessions. This purpose, your partner in essential chemistry for a sustainable future, would serve as a guideline for all communication throughout the rebranding process. It was also an important part of the briefing for name development.

Vivi Hollert:

“We really wanted the new brand to reflect the spirit of the company, with support from the entire organization. The preliminary process that we have gone through with the agencies, has helped our employees to really recognize themselves in the brand and feel proud to be part of the now independent Nouryon. They are especially proud of our history and our reputation when it comes to growth through partnerships, innovation and sustainability. We have taken all this into account to create a brand identity for Nouryon that is true to who we are and helping us to distinguish ourselves from our competitors.”


The first exploratory workshop was held at the headquarters in Amsterdam. Various naming directions were discussed with the help of what we call MoodWords. Based on the reactions and argumentation, it became clear that the company’s history was another important route for naming.

This meant that our creative team had to delve deeply into the company’s past, taking a closer look at previous company names, brand names, and prominent people. Given the worldwide use of the brand, native-speaking creatives from different countries of the Globrands network were also involved.

several hundreds of name proposals

At Globrands, the creation resulted in several hundreds of name proposals that fit the briefing. These were subjected to trademark screenings in the more than 80 countries where the company is active, checks on the availability of relevant web domains, and basic linguistic research.

Two such creation rounds took place, from which a longlist for further research was determined in consultation with the international project group.

The legal research was performed by trademark attorneys in order to find similar and possibly conflicting brand and trade names. Linguistic research consisted of pronounceability checks in all relevant languages, and checks for unwanted connotations.

past and future in one brand name

A shortlist of names remained. The name Nouryon was ultimately chosen for its reference to the company’s history (Jan Nourij) as well as the future (‘on’). It is highly distinguishing in the industry and widely embraced by the employees.