AOL RIP?: Legendary brand might ditch its name

AOL’s name might be disconnected for good.

Less than a year after Verizon purchased the sprawling company, the brand is mulling a name change because people still associate its legacy image with email addresses and dial-up Internet, rather than a robust tech and media company it’s trying to morph into.

Allie Kline, AOL’s chief marketing officer, said in an interview with Business Insider that her company has an image problem, saying that people don’t know that it owns popular publications, like Huffington Post and TechCrunch, or operates ad-tech platforms. The America Online name has been in use since 1991.

“Is AOL the right brand? If it is, let’s invest in it,” Kline told BI. “And if it isn’t, let’s figure out what is. But either way, not investing in the brand is not an option.”

She said that investment will be in its mobile and video, but eliminating the name hasn’t yet officially been decided on. “Who knows? ‘Expect the unexpected’ is the motto,” Kline said. “Yeah. Maybe!”

Under Verizon’s purview, AOL is transitioning itself away from a company that’s a popular homepage in middle America to a fully fledged tech and media company where it sits in third place behind Alphabet and Facebook. For example, AOL recently said it’s forming an advertising pact with Verizon and Microsoft to offer companies data from 500 million people. It’s also expanding its footprint in the U.K.

With AOL embarking on modern endeavors like programmatic advertising, perhaps using a 25-year-old identity that’s tied to a former product isn’t the ideal way to diversify its image.

“It becomes challenging for a name to represent so many different things—an email service, an online advertising platform, a media holding company, etc.,” Fell Gray, Interbrand North America’s executive director of verbal identity, told Digiday.  “It’s likely that AOL does need a new name, but it’s essential to set the vision first. Too often companies try to solve positioning through naming.”