The decision by JVL Ventures LLC to rename its Isis mobile-payments company may have been the easy part. Actually scrapping the brand and replacing it with a new name and logo will be much more challenging, experts say. “It’s a huge rebranding exercise,” says Nick Holland, who follows mobile payments as a senior analyst at Javelin Strategy & Payments, Pleasanton, Calif.
The “exercise” will involve not only conceiving of a replacement, but also scrubbing the Isis name and logo from all print and digital media and on countless handsets sold in the stores operated by the three carriers that run Isis—AT&T Inc., Verizon, and T-Mobile USA. “I was in an AT&T store the other day and there was as Isis logo on almost every single phone in there,” notes Holland. “Multiply that by all the AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile stores.”
This is to say nothing of the loss of any brand equity Isis has managed to accrue with consumers since its national launch in November. Indeed, the decision to scrap the name comes at a time when Isis has recently seen some success in winning consumers over to its mobile wallet, which works with cards from JPMorgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo & Co., and American Express Co., including AmEx’s Serve platform.
Holland argues the rebranding effort may work to the company’s advantage if it uses the effort to re-think its strategy. “It may be back to the drawing board [for Isis],” he says. “It may be a good time to retrench and re-evaluate.”
It may be advantageous for Isis if it were to adopt a full-fledged host card emulation (HCE) strategy, for example, along with its new name, if it chooses to retain its emphasis on near-field communication (NFC) technology to link phones with point-of-sale terminals, Holland suggests. HCE streamlines NFC programs by allowing payments providers to bypass the secure element embedded in mobile devices; it is currently available on devices running the latest version of Google Inc.’s Android operating system.
While controlled by mobile carriers, Isis has not entirely ruled out HCE. Indeed, executives told Digital Transactions magazine it will likely use HCE to move loyalty apps off the secure element to free up space (“NFC’s Cloudburst,” June).
Isis chief executive Michael Abbott on Monday hinted at the time it will take to conceive and establish a new brand in a blog post announcing the decision to rename the company. “We are actively working on a new brand, and I’ll share more with you as our journey progresses in the coming months,” Abbott says in the post. Isis officials will not comment on the decision beyond what is in Abbott’s post.
Isis signaled in recent weeks that it was rethinking its brand following a wave of terror and violence committed in Iraq by an Islamist extremist group one of whose names, rendered in English, is the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. The group’s name has also been translated as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and as, simply, the Islamic State.
With the group’s recent battlefield victories having received widespread news coverage, Isis surveyed consumers to gauge their awareness of the group and its abbreviated name. The results of that survey have not been released, though they may have influenced the rebranding decision. “However coincidental, we have no interest in sharing a name with a group whose name has become synonymous with violence and our hearts go out to those who are suffering,” Abbott says in the blog post.
While changing the brand may incur substantial cost in time and money, it might be worth the effort in the long run if it severs any association in consumers’ minds with Islamic extremism, Holland says. “You don’t want your network associated with torture and murder when [users] are buying [their] groceries,” he says.