Forced facelifts

Sometimes unfortunate or unforseen circumstances arise, which means that brands, for better or for worse, need to change their names. We thought we’d look at a few examples closer to home and further afield.

Recently, a few New Zealand companies have had to change their branding because they fell into some acronym-based misfortune. A Christchurch business (image credit: Stuff), now called BC Online is one of the most recent, changing its name from ISIS Building Inspections (Independent Safety Inspection Services), Stuff reported.

BC Online Managing director Ian Petrie said the company had been getting “bad feedback” from its old logo and it made no sense to keep it. Police had also visited the company’s Auckland office last year after someone complained they were possibly a covert military organisation. Taking police advice, the owners changed its logo and letterbox details, discarding any possible references to ISIS. 

On a related note, Toyota Isis drivers are probably looking into products that could obscure the name tagged to their cars. 

Though not a brand so-to-speak (but an entity, which profits from sales nonetheless), Kiwi band Shihad changed its name to Pacifier in 2002 following the September 11 Twin Towers attacks around when they toured America. Thereafter, the band had a change of heart, restoring its old name back in September 2004. As the band put it: “The events surrounding the name change and our choice to be known as Pacifier are well documented. As much as we believed in what we were doing, and the reasons for doing it at the time – the truth is we were wrong.” 

Former American budget airline ValuJet Airlines, chose to rebrand following a series of safety issues (including 15 emergency landings in 1994, 57 in 1995, and 57 from January through May 1996) as well as the fatal crash of Flight 592 in 1993, killing all 110 people onboard. The Airline eventually merged with a smaller regional airline, AirWays Corp and operated as AirTran until it merged with Southwest Airlines in 2011.

On a related note, Malaysia Airlines announced last August that the airline will attempt to redeem its tarnished name by undergoing a dramatic restructure, which will see the airline cut 6,000 workers. The airline will come under the management of a new company as part of the $1.8 billion overhaul. A new brand and name was mooted as a way to get back in the good books, however thus far it has retained its existing brand.

Fast food giant KFC changed its name from Kentucky Fried Chicken, which it operated under from 1952 until it changed to the abbreviated version of its name in 1991. There are a few theories as to why – one reason being due to a change in people’s attitudes towards health, so the brand wanted to disassociate itself from the word “fried”, it also supposedly wanted to remove the word “chicken” due to concerns about its livestock practices.

The world’s most popular search engine, Google, launched with the bizarre name ‘BackRub’, in 1996. A year later BackRub became too large to operate on the Stanford University server which hosted the site, so they registered the domain name ‘Google’ in 1998, hence our ability to “Google” it, and thankfully not “BackRub” it.

For multinational companies, unfortunate circumstances can also arise when brand names translate into something offensive in different language. The classic example of this would in the case of the Mitsubishi Pajero, which suffered some ridicule in Latin America on account of the word ‘Pajero’ meaning ‘wanker’. Somewhat unsurprisingly, the Pajero is branded as Montero in Latin America.

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