Changing an organization’s name means more than trading in old letters for new ones. An organization’s name reflects its identity and history. Phillip Morris opened his shop on London’s Bond Street in 1854 to sell tobacco and rolled cigarettes. The switch from Phillip Morris to Altria in 2003 may be one of most memorable corporate name changes. Although Phillip Morris made a lot more than cigarettes (it owned Kraft Foods), its name said Marlboro at a time when the association with tobacco had become a liability. After spending $250 million on an ad campaign to cure its tarnished reputation, it concluded that a name change had to be part of the package. Why Altria? The company explained that it comes from the Latin altus, which means high, suggesting that the company will reach its high goals. But others thought Phillip Morris wanted to be seen as more altruistic. (If you don’t like Altria, consider the alternatives the company considered—Encordus, Consumarc, and Marcade!) [i]
[i] Ronald J. Alsop. The 18 Immutable Laws of Corporate Reputation (New York: Simon & Schuster, May 8, 2010), Kindle loc. 5262.