Google+ The Marketing Survivalist: AIG – What Would You Do?

AIG – What Would You Do?

Last week a poll was running on LinkedIn in which the question is asked, “Would you rebrand AIG?”

I responded to the question and then checked the current results. Frankly, I was amazed to see an even split between those who favored rebranding and those who didn’t. At the time I checked, it was 43% for each with a few “I don’t knows” tossed in to round it out.

My immediate reaction to this poll question was much more black and white. At first blush I couldn’t possibly imagine that rebranding AIG could be the right answer.

For the sake of this discussion, let’s put aside the history of how AIG got to where it is and whether or not the public reaction to AIG’s woes (and other companies like them) is justified or not. As all marketers know, perception is reality. This wouldn’t be the first company to be sacrificed, or at least wounded, at the altar of public opinion.

Anyway, what good would rebranding the company do? Did 43% of the people think that the public was stupid enough to be fooled by a new name and logo?

But later that evening I started thinking about my reaction. A company’s “brand” is not necessarily the same as their logo and name. Certainly that is one aspect of it, but it’s more about what that logo and name represent.

As one branding expert once explained to me, branding is all about a “promise of experience.” What do those that interact with AIG either as customers or shareholders expect to experience? (Should we include taxpayer’s in this?)

McDonald’s is the classic branding example used when I was back in school. The McDonald’s promise of experience is pretty much the same from Hong Kong to Hawaii. Yes, there is some variation in the menu based on local cultural tastes, but not much. Whether or not YOU care for the McDonald’s experience is irrelevant. This experience appeals to their core target market and it is the reason they have been successful for decades.

So back to AIG. Whether or not they need to rebrand depends on whether their promise of experience appeals to their target market. I’m not qualified to answer that since I’m not privy to their marketing strategy, but I can speculate that the brand has taken a hit with their core lately.

So, on second thought, I think they do need to rebrand. But, I would keep the name and logo. To change that while you’re changing the image of the company could easily appear deceptive. It’s the image of the company that needs to change and that’s a lot harder than changing a name and logo!

So what lessons can we learn from this? I could count on two hands the number of times someone in my career someone has suggested that we change the name of the product or the logo. (for clarification, not with my current employer) I think the AIG question emphasizes how irrelevant the name and logo is, when it comes to rebranding. If you don’t have a strategy for changing whatever perceptions need to be changed, rebranding won’t do a darn thing.

All the best!

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