McAfee Rebranding Might Be One of 2017's Boldest Moves

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Here's a question for marketers: When rebranding your company, do you start fresh and pick a new name or do you select an established identity that's also associated with the bizarre and scandalous life of former software tycoon John McAfee?

For Allison Cerra, who was just promoted to chief marketing officer from VP-marketing at Intel Security, the company being renamed, the answer is simple: McAfee.

The move comes at an interesting time for the cyber security software provider, but time will tell if it was the right one to make. Last September, Showtime released a documentary called "Gringo: The Dangerous Life of John McAfee," about Mr. McAfee's time in Belize, where he was accused of murdering his neighbor after he suspected him of killing his dogs, among many, many other things. Last week, reported that Johnny Depp would portray Mr. McAfee in an upcoming movie based on a 2012 Wired article called "John McAfee Fled to Belize, But He Couldn't Escape Himself."

"It is something we definitely considered," Ms. Cerra said about choosing the company's newfound name. "But John McAfee has not been associated with this company for 25 years."

John McAfee speaks at Def Con 2014.
John McAfee speaks at Def Con 2014. Credit: NullSession via Wikimedia Commons/Flickr

What's known as McAfee as of today was founded 30 years ago as McAfee Associates by the company's founder, Mr. McAfee. Intel acquired the business in 2010 for $7.7 billion and later renamed it Intel Security.

Last September, Intel sold a 51% stake of its business to private investment firm TPG. Both companies decided to spin out the antivirus maker as an independent, standalone company.

"What we found is that no matter the market, no matter the segment, 'McAfee' is synonymous with cyber security because in our industry, we have a thousand competitors buying for the cyber security wallet," Ms. Cerra said. "When you are consistently well-known across multiple geographies and across multiple segments that is huge brand equity value that you can take to the bank."

According to a recent report by International Data Corporation, worldwide revenue for security-related hardware, software and services will grow to $102 billion in 2020 from $74 billion in 2016, an increase of about 38%.

The company worked with digital agency Solid Branding when deciding on its new name, logo and tagline.

The new logo ditches the familiar shield and updates it with interlocking elements to emphasize its new tagline, "Together Is Power," but keeps the throwback red color from its former name. The company is also launching a new campaign that's slated to run in publications like The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Forbes, as well as social media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn.

The company performed extensive research with consumers around the world prior to deciding its name, Ms. Cerra said, adding that it was "well-known that John McAfee is not associated with the company."

"'McAfee' is an enduring name that is synonymous with cyber security," she said.

"To be candid, our identity does not want to be anything other than a stable company or trusted provider in this space," Ms. Cerra added. "We did not aggressively seek the spotlight. That is not our motto as a company. It is with precision that we took care to research this to make sure it would not be an impediment or headwind for us as a company."

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