A Hard Lesson in Branding

We hear a lot of talk about branding. If you’re anywhere around my age (happy 30th to me), the business term of “brand” elicits a fairly specific image. I can’t speak for you, but I first think of big company names, like Gif, Planters, and Microsoft. Since I stepped onto the content marketing scene, I’ve seen firsthand how branding benefits everyone – from independent entities to small and large businesses. But branding isn’t always easy, a sentiment proven all too true by an article I saw this morning on HuffPost Business.

When Branding Goes Wrong

The Huffington Post presents a story that tugs at the heartstrings of anyone who’s sunk time, blood, and sweat into branding. A salon owner in Lynchburg, Virginia has spent $10,000 to change the salon name in an effort to distance it from a bad brand.

Not very long ago, we heard the name “Isis” and immediately thought of Egyptian mythology. According to myth, Isis was of the most important goddesses in ancient Egypt. Her name meant “throne,” and she held strong links to Egyptian kingship. History most often depicts her as a beautiful woman in a sheath dress. Above her head was usually the hieroglyphic sign of the crown (or a solar disk) and a set of cow’s horns. In obscure texts, she is represented as a bird, cow, scorpion, or sow. Known for her beauty, she tends to occupy the same category as the well-known Aphrodite from Greek mythology.

Today, Isis brings an entirely different image to the minds of millions, one of terror and horror thanks to the organization identified as ISIS.

The Cost of Rebranding

Sami Harvey, the owner of Isis Spa & Salon, started her business after moving from California to Virginia. She selected the name with hopes of prospective customers associating her salon with the ancient Egyptians’ role in the origins of beauty care. Over the course of a dozen-plus years, she has spent thousands in branding, money that today feels like a waste. Harvey told The Huffington Post:

“After the media’s use of an incorrect abbreviation for a mistranslation of ‘Islamic State’ and what our current president quoted as ISIL, I changed the name. Unless you invest your personal money in a business this big, you [cannot] know the expense of signage, advertisement, rebranding, bank cards and accounts, [lawyers’] fees, license fees, taxes…I could go on.”

Although the terror organization has no known roots stemming from the mythical character, its reputation has overtaken and tainted it. Business and other entities bearing the same name are now faced with a difficult choice: to rebrand or not to rebrand.

The Hard Lesson

What’s the lesson to be had from this unfortunate story? When it comes to branding, do not associate yourself with anything because you never know how public opinion might be changed in the future.

The best policy when branding is to create something unique, something entirely you from name to tagline or slogan. It is not the easiest road to travel, but it could save a lot of hardship in the long run.


Featured Image Credit: Robert Churchill via 123RF Stock Photo

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