When Branding Turns Negative

negative branding

negative branding

I made a call this morning to the International Special Events Society and a pleasant voice answered “ISES”. Now, I’m sure no one out there is going to associate an event organization with a terrorist group that beheads journalists, but still, it must suck to have your brand hijacked by a negative situation.

Apparently ISES isn’t the only organization having to deal with this. The ISIS mobile app is changing its name to avoid any association with the terror group. Again, I don’t think people would confuse a mobile app with a terrorist group, but as a brand owner myself I can see where it would probably leave a bad taste in your mouth when branding turns negative.

Steve Gause bought a security company in Texas two years ago with the unfortunate name of ISIS. He could argue that the terror group actually infringed on his good name, which has been an upstanding company for many years. But I don’t think you would be successful in getting a group of jihadists into a courtroom over trademark infringement. 

So, Gause had to back down and change the name of his company to Raving Fan Technologies. It boils down to what a company is comfortable with. And with so many of Gause’s customers feeling uncomfortable about the name, he made the decision to change it.

I didn’t realize there were so many companies out there that had chosen the name of an Egyptian goddess as their brand. The goddess ISIS stands for integrity and compassion, which couldn’t be any further from the ISIS terror group.

Rebranding midstream isn’t easy, but it’s done all the time. I rebranded my product name just as it was taking off, so I didn’t lose too much momentum. But a company like the pharmaceutical company ISIS has been around for 25 years and don’t have any plans to change their name. At least not yet.

This just shows it’s impossible to predict what challenges your brand could face in the future, even with the most innocent name, like the goddess of nature and magic.

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