The story of Kentucky Fried Chicken is a fascinating one for certain.

Imagine you manage a brand that has "fried" in the name when an entire culture deems that word to be equal to an early death. The meaning of your name has changed, right under your feet. So what do you do?

Change your name to KFC. Okay, but the "fried" seems to stick around because, well, you do fry your chicken. Hard to avoid. Then, with what seems to be enough time (to someone) you start to refer to yourself as Kitchen Fresh Chicken. Okay, smart strategy but really needed about 100 years to execute (the approximate time for the "fried" generation to expire).

Speaking of expiration dates, let’s talk about AARP. American Association of Retired Persons is a powerful and respected brand with a large audience.

But, for those of us under 40 and perhaps some over 40 it has different meaning. And, when AARP starts to market to us, it might feel like facing the stages of grief (denial, anger, acceptance, etc.). Denial being the stage this author is immersed in presently.

But, what if AARP took a page out of the KFC brand strategy handbook?

American Association of Rewired Persons. Yes, Rewired. Because who’s really retiring after this financial meltdown, really? We’ll get to an age where we decide to do what we want to do for income not what we need to do for income. Rewire our career, not retire. Think about it AARP. We’ll still need you as our advocate and friend in this next stage of life, we’ll just see it different.

Aaron Keller, Capsule

  • When I was working on Tums, an iconic brand with 75+ years of history, I was amazed at the stickiness of certain advertising and brand positioning messages over the years. In focus groups, people were quoting word for word advertisements that had not run for 20 years. So while there is some appeal to changing the meaning of brands, you must recognize the marketing inertia that keeps rolling on. It might take 10+ years to change a consumer mindset. But if it is the right thing to do, then get on with it!

  • Names are clay. You can change their meaning to anything.
    Radio Shack sells far more than radios (if they even sell radios at all these days). Did anyone even notice that one day iTunes became misdescriptive when Apple started offering movies? The communications behemoth WPP used to be called Wire and Plastic Products (they sold wastebaskets). Federal Express became FedEx and thereby lost its association with Federales. GEICO used to stand for Government Employees Insurance Company. Now it’s just GEICO. National Biscuit Company sells more than biscuits, so today it’s just Nabisco.
    Yes, you can change the meaning behind an acronym, but sometimes the best and most honest approach is just to keep the acronym, especially if (1) it has a lot of equity and (2) alternatives come across as forced or contrived.
    – Anth