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AIG: Brand Rebirth Post Catastrophe

By Kristy Gulsvig

Over the last three years, AIG has served as the classic story of a rebranding effort brought about by crisis. When the major insurer was bailed out with TARP funds from the U.S. government, the company faced serious public backlash. To distance itself from that negative image, AIG quietly renamed its property & casualty insurance branch, calling it Chartis. For the next three years, Chartis began to brand itself as its own entity. But over the past couple of months, you may have noticed a new story emerging: AIG is back, and it has a new message for the American people:

This commercial is a proud “Thank You” to the American people for the TARP bailout funds. It informs us that not only has AIG repaid that money, but they’ve included a multi-billion-dollar profit. The overarching message is that AIG has persevered over its troubled past and is ready to contribute to society.

The rebranding back to AIG doesn’t replicate the old company –- it is a complete reboot of the old AIG image. The new brand message, “Bring on tomorrow” is accompanied by a much more modern look and feel, a new logo with a bright blue sans-serif font, and a dynamic website. Why the confident backpedal to AIG’s original name? According to the CEO, the name –- and the optimistic new positioning –- announces the repayment of TARP funds and represents “a significant achievement for our company.”

Prior to the Chartis rebrand, AIG had a long history and strong brand equity associated with it. By reclaiming the original name, AIG also hopes to reclaim that equity and build a refreshed, stronger brand on top of it. The primary message through all these visual and verbal communications is easy to see: AIG is back from the dead, but it’s different. Almost as though it has a new lease on life.

Ironically, the AIG Board of Directors met on Jan. 9th to discuss whether or not to participate in a lawsuit against the U.S. government in regards to the TARP funds they have repaid. Although they chose not to join that lawsuit, the company already was beginning to see some public anger around the issue which would have made their “Bring on tomorrow” tagline seem a lot more aggressive.

Was the move back to AIG a good choice or should they have stuck with Chartis? Please share your thoughts.