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Technology & Innovation

The Rise of ISIS Has Companies Pondering Name Changes

What happens when your company’s name becomes associated with a murderous terrorist enterprise? Some companies operating under the “Isis” name have opted for a name change. Others have held steady.

Here’s an interesting story you may have heard recently on Marketplace:

“What do you do when your brand gets adopted by a terrorist organization? That’s the question faced by businesses with ISIS in their names — the English-language acronym for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.”

Well, that’s awkward. No one wants to be in any way associated with a murderous terrorist enterprise. Just ask the owners of the former Al-Shabaab Donut Shop*. What can these business owners do?

Stan Alcorn, the journalist who composed the Marketplace article, interviewed a number of business owners currently operating under the Isis moniker. One, the head of a mobile payment app, has already decided to change its name to Softcard. Another, the owner of an organic oils company, says she won’t make a switch:

“Isis is an Egyptian goddess and has been for thousands of years,” she says. “I am not affected at all.”

It remains to be seen whether another famous ISIS opts for a new moniker.

Not Unprecedented

Softcard (née Isis) isn’t the first and certainly won’t be the last company to cave to outside pressure. Here are some other examples of companies who have done the same (via this site):

KFC: When the company Colonel Sanders created opted to go by its initialism in 1999, the purpose had little to do with “KFC” being easier to say. The Commonwealth of Kentucky (they get mad when you call them a state) had trademarked its name and wanted licensing money. The word “Fried” (accurately) implied unhealthy food. The word “Chicken” evoked the company’s controversial livestock practices. The name change seems to have been successful in many regards, as the trisyllabic moniker doesn’t overtly bring unwanted attention to the brand.

World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE): Vince McMahon’s pro wrestling empire smelled what the World Wildlife Fund was cooking in 2000, when the latter sued the former in a UK court. Also known as the World Wide Fund for Nature, the real WWF is best known for its charming little panda logo. The former WWF is best known for chair shots, Hulkamania, and the legendary Jim Ross.

Altria: Philip Morris decided to switch its holding company’s name in 2001 to disassociate its image with cigarettes. While PM still exists as the conglomerate’s tobacco division, Altria is often thought of as the parent company to Nabisco and Kraft.

*There is no Al-Shabaab Donut Shop. But just imagine if there were…

Read more at Marketplace & Famous Name Changes

Photo credit: Radharani / Shutterstock


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