It’s enough to give branding a bad name – now mercenaries outfit Blackwater becomes Academi

Branding companies (there seem to be more and more of them, perhaps because they used to be design companies) are heartily sick of being pilloried by ‘non-professionals’ for the weird and seemingly meaningless names they come up with (although this is largely the point, of course). In the UK the most recent notable example was the short-lived rebranding of the Royal Mail as ‘Consignia.’

But there’s a particularly cheeky new example (some might use a stronger word than cheeky) in the transformation of Blackwater, which, among other things supplies occasionally trigger-happy ‘security’ guards to the US military among others, as ‘Academi.’ Actually this is the second such revamp for Blackwater, which prior to Academi dubbed itself Xe.

Academi is suposed to emphasise the company’s role as a provider of security training to civilians as well as the military. But Blackrock says it’s still going to provide armed personnel to clients with the wherewithal to pay for them. It says it’s not going to act as a ‘cover’ company for the CIA any more but we’ll believe that when we see it, as we surely won’t.

We don’t know which branding agency, if any, helped Blackwater with its latest bit of nifty marketing (although presumably it wasn’t Interbrand judging by the linked report).

Did whoever did it (in-house or otherwise) have a twinge of conscience? But maybe Academi, whose guards killed 17 civilians in Iraq in 2007, really has had a change of heart. Maybe it’s only going to hire sustainable Fairtrade mercenaries from now on.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.