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Corporate giants take a
beating in McChina week

The media revelled in the news that McDonald's had failed in its attempt to ban McChina during a week which saw the big brands change their names, writes Jennifer Whitehead in this week's round-up of brand news.

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Doesn't the media love to see an underdog come out on top of a fight. You could feel journalists rubbing their hands in glee as it was reported that McDonald's had its attempts to prevent Frank Yuen using the name McChina thwarted in the High Court.

Yuen planned to set up a chain of oriental fast-food restaurants under the McChina name when he moved to the UK in 1991, but McDonald's had claimed that confusion could arise. However, Mr Justice Neuberger (no, that's his real name) disagreed.

Under the headline "McJustice", The Independent proclaimed the outcome was a "prawn cracker of a result for British justice".

It was not the first time McDonald's court cases have led to a media drubbing -- the brand won the infamous McLibel case in 1997, but ended up taking a pummelling in the media for its persecution of two environmental campaigners in what became England's longest-running trial.

It was a bad week all round for corporate giants. BT admitted that it had infected some of its internet customers with a new virus. Luckily it only affected "dozens" of customers, unlike last week's halt to internet services, which according to one report prevented up to a third of BT's millions of customers getting online.

Not quite sure where men's magazine GQ's brand strategy is heading, but news broke of its January cover stars... Neil and Christine Hamilton. Naked. Yes, it will generate loads of media coverage for the magazine, but will it be reflected in sales? Could you actually willingly pick up that magazine and part with cash for the honour of seeing two rather sleazy people without their clothes?

Over in the travel industry... 29 years after its birth, Airtours announced plans to rebrand as MyTravel. The firm plans to rebrand all its retail shops, its fleet of aircraft and online operations. Interestingly, despite its almost permanent fixture on consumer affairs programme Watchdog, the Airtours Holidays brand will remain.

Ryanair continues its assault on the European airline industry. The seemingly unstoppable airline, which earlier reported that it had managed to report a 39% rise in pre-tax profits while other airlines are struggling to stay afloat, hit the headlines this week with news that it is giving away 300,000 free seats. It also made the news over its advertising spat with Lufthansa, garnering plenty of free coverage for its German flights in the process.

If you want to know where Ryanair is getting all its good luck, just ask its hometown rival and Ireland's national carrier. Aer Lingus's senior management were in talks this week over the airline's very survival. It's unclear whether giving seats away will stop the national carrier going the way of the national chocolate and beer airline (aka Belgium) Sabena.

Retailer Iceland announced that it was changing its group name to The Big Food Group this week. As rival Tesco unveiled a sales increase of 12.2%, Iceland admitted its organic food strategy had been costly and that it needed to rejuvenate its brand. Analysts agreed, but wondered where the supermarket chain would find the funding for such a strategy.

Sainsbury's, which has had more success with its organic food strategy, announced it was to launch an own-label range of products in conjunction with the Fairtrade Foundation, which ensures third-world producers get a fair price for their crops.

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