Brands named Isis face tough choice

For companies seeking to launch a new brand, classical mythology is often a tried-and-true source for picking evocative trade names.

Unfortunately for those brands that settled on Isis -- an ancient Egyptian goddess -- the name now comes with a distasteful second meaning after the emergence of the terrorist group ISIS, which stands for Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. That's driving some brands to drop the name all together.

In West Palm Beach, Florida, a condominium development quietly dropped its original name, ISIS Downtown, in favor of a less potentially incendiary name, 3 Thirty Three Downtown, according to the Palm Beach Post. The condo development picked its original name to reflect its modern, sleek design, but backed off after the emergence of ISIS, which recently murdered journalist James Foley and released a video showing his beheading earlier this month.

Rebranding isn't easy, nor is it cheap. Simply redesigning a logo -- something that major companies from Apple (AAPL) to Coca-Cola (KO) undertake every few years -- can cost millions of dollars, given the requirement for new packaging, signs, stationary and other design elements. Rebranding is even more involved, given the effort it requires to alert customers and consumers about the change and sidestep confusion.

"The brand is an emotional thing," said Lida Citroën, the principal of branding firm LIDA360, told CBS MoneyWatch. "When companies choose their names, they do so because we want that consumer to feel something." She added, "When something like this potentially could be damaging, it has to be considered."

Another company that's backing away from the tainted name is Isis Wallet, a service that allows consumers to pay for purchases with their mobile phones. Chief executive Michael Abbott wrote in a blog post last month that while not easy, it is "the right decision."

"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," Abbott wrote. He added that the company was "actively working on a new brand."

Still, some brands are sticking with the name, such as a Fordham University-affililated feminist group called ISIS, which is an acronym for "In Strength I Stand," notes New York Magazine.

"People know who we are. Nobody thinks we are in any way an Islamic terror nationalist group. So I really don't see a need to change it because of that," Wallis Monday, the group's president, told the publication.

Isis Pharmaceuticals (ISIS) also said it isn't planning to change its name, the company told the publication.

  • Aimee Picchi

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