What Do You Think of Comcast's New Name: Xfinity

Last Updated Feb 17, 2010 9:03 AM EST

Let's face it. Cable companies don't have the greatest reputations with consumers. So don't discount low self-esteem as one contributing factor in Comcast last week officially changing the name of its customer-facing businesses to Xfinity.

Comcast will still be the corporate name. But as it revs up its TV, Internet and telephone services, you'll be dealing with Xfinity. It will be on the bills, on the sides of trucks, on employee badges. (Not to mention in all those ads during the Olympic Games this week -- enough, already!)

I'm always skeptical that massive, multimillion dollar name changes do much good. But I'm usually wrong. In 2001, "Accenture" was called one of the worst company renamings in history. But I bet today that fewer than half of my readers remember the original name: Andersen Consulting.

Here are some other famous hits and misses in corporate reboots:

  • Blackwater (a GREAT name for a creepy paramilitary force) became Xe.
  • ValueJet became AirTran after the tragic crash of ValueJet Flight 592 into the Florida Everglades.
  • Sears Tower became Willis Tower.
  • Philip Morris changed the name of its holding company to Altira.
  • KPMG became Bearing Point.
  • The Beaver magazine became Canada's History.
Of course, some changes have worked out famously. Who remembers Computing Tabulating Recording Corporation, Quantum Computer Services, TMP Worldwide, or BackRub? You do -- but under the names IBM, AOL, Monster, and Google.

Harvard Business School marketing professor John Deighton thinks the new brand will work, helping transition Comcast from a company known basically for providing cable TV to one playing in the much larger markets for content. "It's elevating Comcast out of the cable industry and into the communications industry," he tells the Boston Globe.

But marketing exec Larry Weber disagrees, saying the move waters down an already strong brand. "Just work harder on telling your story to your customers, instead of just changing your dress.''

What's your take on Xfinity? Vote in our poll.
(Xfinity logo courtesy Comcast)

  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.