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What’s in a Name?

June 3, 2009
Chris Garlasco, Owner & Managing Partner - Founders Insurance Group

Chris Garlasco, Owner & Managing Partner - Founders Insurance Group

If you grew up in the city, you may have seen the “shell game.” The shell game is a game in which a small ball or “pea” is placed under one of three cups and shuffled quickly. The idea is to lure an unknowing individual to place a bet on which cup the “pea” is located under. To con men, it’s known as a “short-con” because the game is rigged against the person placing the bet.

Corporations often change or keep names in a fashion that some might consider being a bit of a shell game. Do you remember WorldCom? WorldCom’s downfall in 2002 became, at that time, the largest Chapter 11 filing in American history. WorldCom was racked by scandal as well. WorldCom’s solution to its damaged name was simply to change it. Emerging out of bankruptcy, the company called itself MCI.

Safeco was America’s twenty-third largest national insurance carrier. In 2008, the ailing Safeco was sold to Liberty Mutual. Liberty Mutual elected to maintain the Safeco name, but the Safeco that existed since 1923 no longer existed. Simply just the name remained.

Unless you have been living on a small island near Fiji, you have most likely heard about the trials and tribulations of AIG. AIG Direct, in an effort to rebrand itself away from all of the negative publicity has decided to rebrand its name to one of its subsidiaries, 21st Century Insurance. They are in fact, one and the same.

WorldCom was deserving of its terrible reputation, with its CEO sentenced to twenty five years in prison. Liberty Mutual is a company with a solid reputation and their decision was made as part of an overall marketing strategy. By all reports that I am aware of, AIG Direct’s operation was not a component of its troubles leading to the government bailout, but it appears that AIG felt that a new branding effort needed to be employed to distance itself from the bad publicity. I think that some may feel that AIG’s move to 21st Century may be a bit of a shell game. I’ll let you decide.

Thank you for taking your valuable time with me. I appreciate it!

Chris Garlasco

One Comment leave one →
  1. June 3, 2009 9:48 am


    You ask the right question. However, when a brand is as tarnished as the ones you mention, a new company name and logo are necessary. But let’s be clear–the name and the logo are not the brand. Consumers will ultimately judge a company not be those things but by their values.

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