Blackwater's Brand Challenge Runs Deeper than a Name Change
February 22, 2009 ‐ 2 comments


If you read the paper, watch the news, or even scan the first few headlines on your iGoogle page's RSS feeds, you've heard of Blackwater; and you likely first came to know the firm amidst a firestorm of controversy surrounding its activities in Iraq.

Sorry - you actually would have heard of Blackwater Worldwide - the organization "re-branded" to that new name in 2007, after 10 years as Blackwater USA. On Valentine's day the company "re-branded" again, stretching itself further than its first effort, transforming into "Xe" (pronounced zee), and renaming all of its divisions as well (e.g. Blackwater Training Center is now "U.S. Training Center").

It's beyond our ken to comment on Blackwater's global deeds or misdeeds (surely there are some of each), and we're even going to resist weighing in on the new name (hey - if BlackBerry and GoDaddy can work, then anything can!), but we will reprise this hot potato from last September : You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig.

Changing a name is the shallowest form of re-branding. If Xe doesn't demonstrate tangibly and repeatedly that it operates differently than it did in 2007, then it won't have re-branded at all. It will simply have re-named the same tarnished brand.

And by the way, it doesn't matter whether the company and its employees were in the right or in the wrong during that fateful incident - the PR damage is already done. What Xe needs to do now is prove that such an incident will not occur again. A name change doesn't do that. In fact, it may do the opposite. "Xe" might come off as an effort to sweep the company's history under the rug.

A brand is not a name or a logo. A brand is the promise you communicate with your image, your words, and your actions – and the success with which stakeholders experience delivery on that promise. A brand is about what you do, how you do it, and institutionalizing that way of doing things throughout an organization. Only once you've defined your actions should you turn your attention to what they should be called and what their logo should look like.

Xe's work isn't complete – you can still pick up your Blackwater t-shirts, sandals, and 3/4 sleeve button downs (55% cotton!) from what is still called the Blackwater Proshop. But we'll be watching Xe to find out if their effort extends beyond swapping logos on swag to the more substantive changes that really define a brand, and determine its long-term success.

Tell your friends:
March 20, 2011 12:20 pm
HAHAHA, go figure that a private army would have to change their name. Anyone named "George Bush" is probably ashamed to have the name too, poor fellas. Hopefully this company can get back on the right track for the sake of its stakeholders. I'm sure Harvard also lost a lot of credibility when they "graduated" George Bush Jr. as well. Integrity seems to not be worth as much these days. Oh well, Fox News will always have openings :)
Trina Treadwater
September 2, 2009 2:28 pm
Boy, BrandCulture hits the nail on the head again. "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet?"... Blackwater -- as Xe -- isn't fooling anyone.

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