Imagine discovering an Islamic militant group ravaging Iraq and Syria shared your brand name (ouch!). What would you do? Abandon your name? Or hold onto the equity you’ve built and risk negative brand associations by keeping your newly controversial name?
These are the questions Isis, a mobile wallet company, faced when ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) started hitting headlines for links to sectarian violence against government forces and civilians.
Isis launched their brand four years ago. “We wanted a name that brought to life our company and our values. Above all, we wanted a brand that captured the simplicity of our mobile wallet experience. We chose Isis,” said CEO Michael Abbott in a statement released on the company’s website.
“However coincidental, we have no interest in sharing a name with a group whose name has become synonymous with violence, and our hearts go out to those who are suffering. As a company, we have made the decision to rebrand,” said Abbott.
While their reasons likely differ, Credit Union and Bank executive teams are gathered in boardrooms right now, wrestling with the decision to change their name. They are discussing whether a new name will better position them for long-term sustainable growth. They’re asking important questions: How will my members react to a new name? Will customers assume we are merging and leave? How is our current name helping or limiting growth today? What is the ROI if we do change?
These are valid and challenging discussions to take on. It’s both strategic—and for many—an emotional decision to change a name. Even Abbot stated under his company’s extreme set of circumstances that, “Changing a brand is never easy, but we know this is the right decision—for our company, our partners and our customers.”
Isis made a strategic decision to choose a new name in order to protect the core of the brand—their reputation, image, perceptions and future growth potential. The easy decision would have been do nothing, see what happens, and hope the impact won’t be that severe. Instead, they made a courageous decision to change. Part of sustaining a great brand is remaining responsive to the cultural landscape. Sometimes, change is good.