Anti-publicity: the low or non-existent profile

Ever had one of those days where you just want to disappear? So do corporations. A little sleight-of-brand is all it takes to dodge the unwanted spotlight. From Brand Perspectives and Bob Ponce, a few thoughts on achieving invisibility (which, of all the superpowers, is the one I desire most, even more than flight or the ability to scale skyscrapers like a beetle):

What's in a name? Some companies just don't want you to know.

Full article after the jump.

What's in a Name? You'd be Surprised. Some Companies Just Don't Want You to Know...
December 30, 2005
"The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist". Verbal, The Usual Suspects

In public relations, there is a little-know segment of practitioners whose jobs are essentially to keep their clients names (and deeds) out of the light of public scrutiny. These men and women are almost never quoted or noted, yet they are powerful enough to pull feats worthy of David Copperfield by causing major negative events to literally disappear in plain sight.

And every so often in the branding world, a similar feat occurs. What do you do when your brand goal is to be invisible, or you need to remove traces or connections of a brand to negative events?

Take for instance MCI, the formerly known as WorldCom.
After the demise of Bernie Ebbers and his band of merry men, the new management wisely dusted off the MCI brand and left the WorldCom moniker to sink back into the swamp from which it came. This move was sound; the MCI brand was better known and more respected than WorldCom. It was lucky that they had a world-class brand to retreat to - undoubtedly (and thankfully for MCI) - many consumers have never made the connection between MCI and WorldCom.

An even more impressive feat: Altria Group, formerly known as Philip Morris.
This company's innocuous logo and unassuming name tells you nothing about who they are or what they do. There's a reason for this: the once-respected Philip Morris brand (the biggest member of the Big Tobacco club) needed to duck under cover. Under a constant barrage of media scrutiny and legal attacks. Unlike their competitor Lorillard Corp. which lives safely under the cloak of Loews Corp. where no one notices it (witness the recent death of Robert Tisch and the fact that the word tobacco never appeared in any of his obituaries), Philip Morris spent years building its brand around cigarettes and beer ("the companies of your pleasures").

Reinventing its brand as a brand representing "nothing" was a Seinfeld-esque, bold stroke of genius. As Altria, the company is now able to fully express its altruistic side, because non-profit organizations that had previously distanced themselves from Philip Morris were only too happy to accept grants from Altria. And best of all, the Philip Morris name wasn't gone entirely; it could be trotted out to take the blame for all corporate sins and then retired to the closet (much like Viacom's CBS blaming sister division MTV for the Janet Jackson fiasco).

An unfortunate (though extremely impressive) example of marketing smarts trumping morals, as the biggest name in tobacco literally disappeared in a puff of smoke.