Jun 17, 2016

Tarnished by Association? The Importance of Perception in a Name

Everybody has heard of 'ISIS' (otherwise known as the Islamic State or IS) a jihadist militant group that follows a fundamentalist doctrine of Sunni Islam which is very rarely out of the news. Islamic State, whose aim is to establish an Islamic Caliphate, controls territory across Iraq and Syria and is also active in other Middle Eastern countries including Egypt. There have also been terrorist atrocities in the Western world which have been inspired by the Islamic State.

The word ISIS is now synonymous with Islamic State but a lot of people do not know the history of the word ISIS or realise that many businesses have been operating under this name long before the rise of Islamic State. The problem for these, many long established, businesses is that their brand may now be tainted given its association with Islamic State. There are historical precedents for words or symbols having their true meaning hijacked and being forever tainted by association, the most obvious example being the Swastika. The Swastika was originally a symbol meaning 'good fortune' before it was adopted by the Nazis.

ISIS was originally the name of an Ancient Egyptian goddess and is also the name given to the River Thames within the boundaries of the city of Oxford. The association with Oxford has made the word especially popular with businesses in that area looking to highlight their links to the ancient university city.

One such business 'Isis Business Brokers' which sells businesses has decided to keep the name despite having some problems with money transfer as they believe the positives to the name outweigh the negatives. They also say that they have received praise for not changing their name. Conversely Isis Education changed its name in 2015 to the Oxford International Education Group. Many of its students come from overseas and it was worried about the international perceptions of the name as well as the search engine results that might originate from a search for its name.

Branding, including the name of a business, is one of the most important aspects of a business's marketing strategy and it is vital to get it right. For any new business, regardless of their location or sector, the name ISIS is surely too toxic to even consider as a name. For existing businesses which predate the rise of Islamic State the situation is rather more complex. However, unless a business has generated substantial goodwill under the ISIS name it is likely that it would be worth considering a change of name to guard against any negative association.

If this story raises any questions for you for your firm concerning your branding strategy please do not hesitate to contact the team at McDaniel and Co. on 0191 281 4000 or by email to legal@mcdanielslaw.com.

in: News, Trade Marks

Share this page