When you think of AOL—formerly known as America Online—what's the first thing that comes to mind? If you're old enough, you probably think of the annoying screeches your modem used to make whenever you would use AOL's dial-up service to get online. (Or, worse, that annoying "you've got mail" sound.) In fact, you might even be one of the few people who still subscribe to AOL's dial-ups services or, at the very least, still have an email address from the company.
While that sounds like a perfect bit of branding for AOL, it's actually not. The company has a lot more going on than just online connectivity, and AOL executives seem concerned that a lot of people aren't very aware of that fact—so much so, that there's talk AOL might even change its name, period.
"If you ask me today, I could say, 'I feel very strongly about the AOL brand. It has a lot of legacy and meaning, and we shouldn't move away from it! But if we met tomorrow, I could be like, 'Yes! We need a new name!' It's a very hard needle to thread for us," said AOL's chief marketing officer Allie Kline, in a recent interview with Business Insider.
As for what AOL could change to, Kline didn't offer up any ideas. And all the talk of a name-change is just chatter right now—nothing concrete, as far as we can tell. However, if AOL were to go through with such a move, it certainly wouldn't be the first major tech company to rebrand itself in an effort to shift popular attention for its services. Take Google, for example; the company created the holding company Alphabet last year in an effort to expand its ability to play in different spaces, areas that might not otherwise fit perfectly with Google's primary mission. (Google is now a subsidiary of Alphabet, along with Google Fiber, Nest Labs, Google Capital, and X, to name a few others.)
While we don't know whether the Verizon-owned AOL would try such a technique, it certainly makes sense from an organizational standpoint: AOL also owns The Huffington Post, TechCrunch, Engadget, Mapquest, and both the Verizon Digital Media Services and One advertising businesses.
Or, as marketing consultant Mark Ritson told Business Insider:
"Now that it is part of Verizon, there should be a major restructuring of the AOL divisions and a very concerted brand cull, But this is a move that should be made by Verizon executives, not vested AOL people. It's time to take out the knife and cut back brands to release growth and profit."