The Surprising Reasons These Companies and Brands Changed Their Names

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6. Academi
> Former name: Blackwater

The private military contractor once known as Blackwater has changed its name twice in recent years to try to distance itself from scandal. In September 2007, Blackwater guards opened fire on Iraqi civilians in Baghdad, killing 14 non-combatants. Four guards were convicted of murder or manslaughter but later pardoned by President Donald Trump. In February 2009, likely in part as a public relations move, Blackwater changed its name to Xe Services. Just a few months later, two of its mercenaries fired on a vehicle and killed two Afghan civilians.

In December 2011, the company again changed its name, this time to Academi. As reported by The Wall Street Journal, the company’s CEO, Ted Wright, explained the name change was an attempt to appear more “boring.”

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7. Monsanto
> Former name: Bayer

Agricultural giant Monsanto had built up a negative public image throughout the 20th century, notably for producing the weapon Agent Orange used by the U.S. military in the Vietnam War. The company also dealt with PR issues over its production of genetically modified organisms and settled a case related to hazardous herbicide for $86.7 million. Monsanto also settled suits filed against small farmers over intellectual property rights for seeds.

In 2018, Monsanto was acquired by German pharmaceutical company Bayer, which announced it would discontinue the Monsanto brand. Business Insider reported that Bayer representatives said on a conference call that Monsanto had considered rebranding itself “to try to improve the Monsanto brand” because of the negative image.

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8. Altria
> Former name: Philip Morris

Philip Morris, maker of brands like Marlboro, changed its name to Altria Group Inc. in 2003 on the same day that the company was cleared of responsibility in a wrongful death case. The move had been planned since 2001. Philip Morris claimed that the name change was intended to emphasize that the company sells a wide array of products, in addition to the famous tobacco brand. But the assumption for many is that the move was largely to disassociate the company from its controversial product.

An anti-tobacco group, Intact, called the plan “a PR maneuver meant to distance the corporation’s image from its deadly business practices.” The tobacco units, Philip Morris International and Philip Morris USA, kept their original names.

Source: Courtesy of Titan Sports

9. WWF
> Former name: WWE

The popular entertainment company once known as the World Wrestling Federation, or WWF, had to change its name for a very different reason than many of the other companies on this list — a trademark violation. Few multimillion dollar companies come across such a problem.

But the World Wildlife Fund, a global conservation organization founded in 1961 that carries the initials WWF, sued the entertainment group and won on the grounds that it had broken a 1994 agreement that it would limit use of the WWF initials. The WWF in 2002 changed its name to World Wrestling Entertainment, and finally just WWE.

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10. Meta
> Former name: Facebook

Though subscribers will still be logging in to Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, the company changed its corporate name to Meta Platforms, Inc. The company said it changed its name to Meta as it is expanding its virtual reality technology and digital commerce business, shifting its focus to the “metaverse.”

The major rebrand move comes after a wave of criticism following the release of thousands of internal documents claiming that Facebook knew its platforms harm teenage mental health but chose profit over safety, that the social media giant failed to act against human traffickers and drug cartels using the site, and failed to stop famous users who posted violent content or conspiracy theories.