Why ESCs have become business schools

In an increasingly competitive national and international market, branding has become a key issue for French business schools. A study by the bureau Noir sur Blanc, published on Monday, November 23, 2015, shows that 80% of the 35 French business and management schools, members of the CGE Chapter network and of the UGEI (Union of Independent Grandes Ecoles), have changed or changed their name during their existence. Almost half of them made this switch between 2000 and 2010, and 42% over the past five years.

ESC: an acronym that is difficult to export

In most cases (64%), companies were content to add the term “business school” or “management school” to the existing brand, abandoning the acronym ESC, which is difficult to export. Their goal? Clarify their mission through a concrete reference to “management” or “business” and gain visibility on the world stage.

The examples are legion to the point of creating a new standardization, as in the days of the ESC. In 2004, ESC Normandie became EM Normandie, ESC Rennes “ESC Rennes School of Business”, in 2007… In 1997, ESC Lyon exchanged its Franco-French acronym for the acronym EM, more international, before becoming EMLYON business school ten years ago , in a nutshell.

In a third of the remaining cases (36%), the schools changed names. For a quarter of the analyzed companies, the adoption of a new brand happened after a merger. A pioneer, ESCEM was born in 1998 from the alliance of ESC of Tours and Poitiers. More recently, EM Strasbourg emerged from the marriage of IECS and IAE Strasbourg in 2007.

New significant names

These past years, schools seem to have abandoned acronyms in favor of “original names that carry meaning and values“. This is the case in 2009 for the ESCs of Lille and Nice, who named the new behemoth born from their union Skema BS, from the Greek “skêma”, “schema or scheme” and acronym for School of Knowledge Economy and Management.

In the same genre, BEM and Euromed have chosen Kedge, which in English denotes a type of “anchor”, for a name that unites the idea of ​​”a new course” and the need to “be anchored in its two territories, one of which is maritime, ” said the study.

For 11% of schools, the choice of a new name does not coincide with a merger, but with the need to stand out in the market or clarify its identity. In 2000, the Nantes-Atlantique Business School (ESCNA) bet on differentiation by adopting a neologism: Audencia, a mix of two Latin words, “audientia” (listen) and “audacia” (audacity).

In a desire to strengthen its international position by taking advantage of its location in Paris, ESG-MS chose PSB (Paris School of Business) as its new identity last year.


Regardless of the context, a name change is a delicate task that sometimes requires a multi-step strategy. In 1999, after their merger, chilled by the “categorical rejection” of candidates, ESCP and EAP had given up on adopting the new label, “Imep”, proposed by a cabinet. In 2009, ESCP-EAP consulted its 35,000 alumni before renaming itself “ESCP Europe”.

And last year it was again under pressure from students and alumni that they Groupe Inseec abandoned the idea of ​​renaming its Grande Ecole program, Inseec BS to Insignis BS, Groupe Inseec. A turn that illustrates the need to take all communities into account when developing your brand.

The five reflexes in the event of a “rebranding”
In order to avoid losing the trust of various target groups, especially companies and recruiters, when changing the name of a company, the authors of the study list five important points that should not be overlooked:

1. Ensure the legal registration of the name as a trademark and domain names
2. Consider linking the name change to a new logo
3. Invest in an “impactful” communication campaign
4. Don’t neglect the quality of the “product” (ie the training)
5. Know how to impose your new brand

The FBS case
In 2013, the merger of ESC Bretagne Brest, Clermont, Amiens and ESCEM marked the emergence of a new establishment and a new brand: France Business School (FBS). Its dissolution in early 2015 forced schools to rethink their identity.

While ESCEM and ESC Amiens have chosen to return to their former name, ESC Brest has become “Brest Business School”. The authors of the study see it as a desire “not to completely break with the brand equity and celebrity acquired in recent years during the FBS project”.

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