Re-rebranding the company formerly known as AIG

It’s just been announced that AIU, formerly AIG, is undergoing it’s second re-branding effort in two months.  

As you’ll remember, the name change from AIG to AIU was announced by the CEO during a Congressional hearing in mid-March. 

According to the story in the NY Times:

The renamed A.I.U. quickly began issuing new business cards to employees and printing promotional materials, particularly in Asia. But A.I.G. has now decided that the A.I.U. name does not represent enough of a change, and is in the final stages of choosing a new one, said Leslie J. Mouat, A.I.U.’s regional president for Southeast Asia.

“The advice we’ve received is A.I.U. may be a bit close to A.I.G. — we don’t want to appear as the same leopard with different spots,” Mr. Mouat said in an interview, adding that he was told only Saturday of the decision to change the name again, which has not been publicly announced.

Conventional wisdom would say that moving as far away from AIG as possible is the best strategy.

But what if conventional wisdom is wrong, again?

In this situation I would argue that conventional wisdom is off the mark.  

Changing the name and logo will cost of lot of money but will have little effect on the company’s reputation this year or next or longer.  In fact, because of sponsorships and other marketing programs the current branding will continue to be actively promoted for a year or more.

A classic example of conventional wisdom is the change of The Philip Morris Companies to Altria.  Not only was the re-branding widely mocked, it did not achieve the goal of distancing the company from Philip Morris.  

This method of rebranding might have worked in the 1970s or 1980s but not in today’s world.  Why?  Because the internet has a long memory. Removing the old brand is virtually impossible.  Or impossible in the virtual world.

My counsel to Mr. Liddy and his executive team is to not make another name change.  

Re-channel the budget into actions and activities which will change the corporate reputation instead.  You can change people’s minds about your brand and company.  It happens all the time.  It does take a coordinated and persistent effort to do so.  But the results can be tremendously rewarding.

Here’s an example.  GE.  Today GE is seen as an innovator and leader in the area of ecologically sound business.  Wind power, clean water, etc.  Not so long ago GE had the reputation of being a major industrial polluter.  For years the company spent millions on legal efforts to avoid taking responsibility for pollution done in the past.  While they may be sound legal arguments, they only perpetuated the negative image.  GE changed the narrative in both their actions and in their communications.  And in the process they changed people’s minds about the company.

1 Response to “Re-rebranding the company formerly known as AIG”

  1. 1 Bill Wallace April 30, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    What a crazy story. One site is even hosting an AIG “renaming” contest. What will AIG think of next?

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