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AIG to Chartis and Back Again

Posted on Apr 22, 2013 by Sergio Ulloa ()

As of April 1st, the insurance company known as Chartis is no more. Which is to say, there is no longer an insurer named Chartis. Chartis has now reverted back to the name that is was under in 2008, AIG. In 2009, under some duress caused by AIG's near collapse and subsequent return to form thanks to the intervention of the United States government, the decision was made to rebrand AIG's property and casualty unit in order to save face, as the AIG brand itself had taken a bit of a beating at the time and was synonymous with government bailouts in the mind of the public. However, with the government loans repaid and AIG's dire situation quickly becoming a mere memory, the constraints on the company have loosened.


Now, Chartis is back to being called AIG, which leads one to question, "Why the change?" The rebranding was only in place for a few years. Did being called Chartis cripple the business somehow? The real impetus for reverting back to the previous company name apparently came from the top level of Chartis, who were "begging... to rebrand as AIG." Chartis brass believed that the property and casualty unit was showing no signs of negative effects stemming from its affiliation with AIG and should be branded under the umbrella of AIG, which was an idea that ran counter to the original idea that AIG needed to shield the effective unit from any possible backlash. If anything, the new brand name may have been hurting the business in the Chartis officials' eyes.

So is this unusual move a good thing or a bad thing overall? There is a lot that goes into changing the name of a company the size of Chartis/AIG. For example, when Anderson Consulting changed their name to Accenture, it cost them US$100 million to carry out the rebranding. However, even with such large expenditure the change was regarded as one of the biggest rebranding blunders in corporate history. For AIG, two such changes in a period of only five years could show some instability in both brands to stockholders, but this is only true for those that don't know the full story.

What is AIG hoping to get out of the rebranding? As a publicly traded company the main impetus for any major move such as this is, of course, the bottom line. Public perception is a powerful factor in the success of any company or product. Having a pedigree and a heritage that people know and trust is one important aspect of a successful brand It's important to consumers that they are doing business with a trusted insurer and AIG has shown its improvement by leaps and bounds. Let's face it, everyone loves an underdog, and the company's tale of redemption has put it back into the spotlight as an example of how the economy and the industry are getting better.
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