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AOL ponders rebrand

News, 19 January 2016

NEW YORK: Online giant AOL could be ready to take a leaf out of Google's book, with a top executive indicating that an overhaul of the brand and its corporate structure may take place in coming months.

Chief marketing officer Allie Kline told Business Insider that current thinking on the issue was divided, with internal branding research more or less evenly split.

"If you ask me today, I could say, 'I feel very strongly about the AOL brand. It has a lot of legacy and meaning, and we shouldn't move away from it!'" she said.

"But if we met tomorrow, I could be like, 'Yes! We need a new name!' It's a very hard needle to thread for us."

The sprawling AOL empire encompasses publications such as the Huffington Post and ad platforms such as One, although for many people the name remains primarily associated with the provision of an online mail service. And given that AOL itself was acquired by Verizon last year, the time appears right for a reassessment of the brand and its various parts.

Last October, Google solved a similar problem by creating Alphabet as a holding company within which sits a collection of the various companies of which Google itself is the largest.

At the time, Larry Page said the intention was to make the company "cleaner and more accountable".

The advice from an executive at the design consultancy that undertook AOL's 2009 rebrand, was to scrap the AOL name, at least in relation to its ad products.

"They could give the brand that talks to Wall Street and big ad buyers a new name — that would sit proudly next to the Googles, Facebooks and other big ad players of the world – and that feels like the 21st century content and media powerhouse they aspire to be," said Sam Wilson, global principal at consultancy Wolff Olins.

Kline wasn't giving anything away beyond the need to make a decision. "Is AOL the right brand? If it is, let's invest in it," she said. "And if it isn't, let's figure out what is. But either way, not investing in the brand is not an option."

Data sourced from Business Insider; additional content by Warc staff