Penguin Ireland has changed its name
‘O, damn you and your Paris fads! Buck Mulligan said. I want Sandycove milk.’
A similar desire for all things Irish has descended on Nassau St this month. Stately, plump Penguin Ireland has rebranded. The announcement came on 11 June, or, as a mind as precise as Joyce’s might have agreed, close-ish to Bloomsday. If you think 16 June would have been a better day to announce, it is worth remembering that if anyone has been more successful at publishing branding then Penguin, we are yet to hear of them.
It is, however, an unexpected change, given the weight this particular name carries. The ‘dignified but flippant’ bird is, without question, the most recognisable of publishers’ logos. According to lore, the name was first suggested to Allen Lane in 1935 by his secretary. Lore also tends to leave out her name. Her name was Joan Coles. The flightless bird was chosen and the ‘office junior’, Edward Young, was sent off to the zoo to draw some penguins.
One thing led to another and, with a little luck and decades of deft publishing, Penguin was king of the jungle. And everybody knew their name. When they merged with Random House in 2013 to create the world’s largest publisher (1 in 4 books on the global bookshelves), Random House were the bigger partner. Their ultimate owner, Bertelsmann, took 53%, with Penguin taking the remaining 47%. The CEO of the new super publisher was Markus Dohle, the Random House CEO. But the branding placed Penguin’s name first, to create Penguin Random House. Or PRH, for those of us who just don’t have time for three words. They were, after all, Penguin.
Penguin Ireland sprung into life, fully armed like Athena, in 2002. Soon after, there was Penguin Ireland, Hachette Ireland, Transworld Ireland, Doubleday Ireland and, as of just a few months ago, Harper Collins Ireland. These global publishers crashed into the pool like teenagers on a post-Leaving Cert holiday in Torremolinos. Waves were made, more publishing jobs were created, more authors were published well. The Irish publishers were forced to raise their game. Design improved, processes improved, books improved. And the Irish publishers also deserve great credit for rising to meet the challenge. A look at the Irish bestseller list for last month shows three Irish-published books: one by Penguin Ireland and two by Gill Books, who have been on a phenomenal run of late.
In branding terms, however, Penguin are still Penguin. And now Penguin Ireland is no more. It is Sandycove. The name, influenced by Joyce and his four days in the Martello Tower of the logo, is ‘Irish in origin, but global in resonance’. You will certainly notice their books, with the first of the Sandycove branded titles coming this summer. We have particularly high hopes for the September release of Patrick Freyne’s Ok, Let’s do your Stupid Idea.
And to Sandycove, welcome and the best of luck.
 ‘Lore’: something widely believe to be true which saves the author from the need to footnote.
 If you’re reading this in the future, the Leaving Cert was an exam and Torremolinos was over the stormy seas.
 Like Riverdance, or when you scream loudly enough into an empty container of Dairygold.