Desperate Osama Bin Laden Planned Name Change for Al-Qaida

Changing a company name is most often a sign of corporate desperation. It’s expensive, time consuming and sucks up vital resources that could likely be put towards more beneficial pursuits.

Typical of an inexperienced Marketing “Hack” in a pinch, Osama Bin Laden had seriously contemplated a name change in order to gain share of mind. The Associated Press compared Osama’s approach to that of ValuJet, Philip Morris and Blackwater. They speculated what Bin Laden must have been thinking “…what al-Qaida really needed was a fresh start under a new name.” 

Regardless of Bin Laden’s writings, it’s clear that he was at odds with a common challenge of organizations as they make communications missteps. Bin Laden did not get out in front of his audience (per his own acknowledgement) and as a result the world branded him. Unhappy with how he was perceived, Bin Laden, was contemplating a major branding blunder. Outside of changing your logo, changing your name is the second easiest way to spot an organization that’s losing ground and is out of fresh ideas.

Examples of Name Changing Blunders

  • Coke-Cola to “New Coke” and “Coke Classic”
  • Ford Motor Parts Division to “Visteon”
  • Puff Daddy to “P. Diddy” to “Diddy”
  • KPMG to “Bearing Point”
  • Datsun to “Nissan”
  • Brinks to “Broadview Security”

Name Change Questions You Must Ask: 

  1. Is the company trying to shed a deserved bad reputation
  2. Is the company trying to shed an undeserved bad reputation
  3. Is there genuine confusion caused by the existing name
  4. Is there a regulatory or legal reason to change the name
  5. Is Management trying to make a name with Marketing BS

There are only a few good reasons to change your name, specifically so that your customers can relate with you better. If you can get more familiar with your customers, a name change could be of tremendous value.

Examples of Name Changing Success

  • Federal Express to “Fed Ex”
  • Jennifer Lopez to “JLo”
  • Apple Computer to “Apple”
  • America Online to “AOL”
  • Chase Manhattan Bank to “Chase” 

If you’re making it easier for folks to know who you are, then you’re on far better ground than if you’re trying to get people to forget who you were.

Great brands, small and large take vast resources to craft and establish. Unless it’s confusing, a name change is more often than not something to avoid.

Al-Qaida, is one of the most feared and well known organizations on the planet. It took years to establish the brand (and yes it’s a brand) as we know it. The fact that Bin Laden was considering changing it shows that he was not the brilliant marketer that many give him credit for.

From a Marketing perspective, Bin Laden’s branding blunder revealed the mindset of a desperate man, consumed by his inability to effectively compete in the marketplace of ideas.