13 Mar 2009 7:31 am   //   Filed under: Labeling

What you talkin’ bout, Willis?

Item: Chicago’s Sears Tower is going to be renamed the Willis Tower, after the insurance company.

An insurance company should know better than to pull a stunt like this: Renaming a building is a terrible risk!

Here in New York, we’re proud of our old buildings and their names.

The Woolworth Building is still the Woolworth building. The Chrysler Building will be called that long after the last Chrysler rolls off the assembly line. All sorts of office buildings (including the former Wanamaker’s building I work in, and the Starrett-Lehigh building I used to work in) proudly summon the ghosts of defunct business. Even the Met Life Building, which is branded with a giant electric sign, still triggers in some people’s minds the sign that used to hang there: PAN AM.

My entire life, the Sears Tower has been the tallest building in America. We learned this in school. You can’t just pull out the wires and undo that kind of life-long branding. Now we’re supposed to start calling it Willis? Ugh, I don’t like it.