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Sam Becker at Brand New discusses the recent branding and spin-off of AIG’s property-casualty unit.  Unlike it’s namesake, the P&C unit turned a $2B profit.  The unit is being spun-off in an attempt to generate capital to help pay back the large government bailout of the parent firm.

And while the unit itself is doing well and was not responsible for the $99B in loses at AIG last year, there is the delicate issue of what to call the firm and how to position it since the AIG brand is basically toxic at this point.  The strategy seems to be: don’t stand out.

Becker goes on to describe the strategy:

The very recently risk-averse AIG is playing it safe with this one. Chartis, the name, is as inconspicuous as they come. It feels like one of those words that has been bouncing around the naming industry for some time now. It is descriptive without being specific. It is easy to pronounce and even easier to spell. As far as names go it is completely unobjectionable. So much so, that there are at least two other large, service-oriented companies that use the Chartis name and that’s probably ok. Sometimes a brand just wants to blend in. One could imagine the project brief went something like the scene from Oceans 11 where Matt Damon is coached on how to not stand out:

Don’t use seven words when four will do. Don’t shift your weight, look always at your mark but don’t stare, be specific but not memorable, be funny but don’t make him laugh. He’s got to like you then forget you the moment you’ve left his side.

Given the controversy around AIG it seems reasonable that what you may lose from abandoning the brand name that loyal customers know you by you more than make up for by leaving the Titanic that is the AIG scandal behind you.