Lisa Merriam

ISIS Tainted Brand–When Your Brand Turns Evil

Isis-brandIsis or ISIS used to be a perfectly nice brand name–until it became synonymous with Islamic terror and beheadings. What to do with a tainted brand? ISIS trademark owners large and small are now rebranding to distance themselves from a word associated with evil.

Isis, the U.S. mobile wallet platform backed by AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon, is rebranding. “In a few weeks, Isis Wallet will become Softcard. It’s a different name for the same great way to pay,” the company notes on its homepage.

The Isis brand of women’s sportswear is also in the middle of a relaunch.

Isis Equity Partners has renamed itself Living Bridge (head scratcher of a new name, by the way).

ISIS (Internet Sexuality Information Service) is now YTH (proving acronyms are always a horrible choice for brand names).

Others, such as Isis Pharmaceuticals, Isis Electronics and ISIS Performance auto parts are standing firm, have no plans to make a change.

Rebranding is expensive. Before contemplating such investing in ditching a tainted brand, marketers need to think carefully about the cost/benefit trade-off of such a change. The two critical questions for marketers are:

  1. How much will terror dominate the word?
  2. For how long?

Already, some media outlets have started using ISIL to refer to the Islamic murderers. And perhaps they will be crushed sooner rather than later, making terror a small footnote to the word’s history. Isis is a name rich in history and meaning that possibly should not be so quickly abandoned.