Jihadist group’s rise prompts mobile payments service Isis to re-brand

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Mobile payments service Isis is launching a major re-branding effort to distance itself from the jihadist group of the same name wreaking havoc in Iraq.

“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,” wrote Michael Abbott, the Isis CEO, in a statement on the service’s website. “As a company, we have made the decision to re-brand.”

The mobile payments firm has observed the ISIS militants “with growing concern,” according to Abbott.  “The ISIS militant group has been linked to sectarian violence against civilians and government forces in Iraq and Syria,” he noted.

The CEO acknowledged that re-branding is never easy, but promised to share more information on the company's new brand over the coming months.

Rebranding often involves navigating some tricky consumer turf. Other companies that have tried to re-invent themselves have had a difficult transition, as in the case of the SciFi Channel, which re-branded as “Syfy” – a slang term for syphilis in some parts of the world. And in 2009, Tropicana was forced to return to its iconic orange juice carton when consumers described new packaging as “stupid,” and resembling “a generic bargain brand,” the New York Times reported at the time.

ISIS, the acronym for Islamic State of Iraq and Syria/Levant, has grabbed countless headlines with its bloody offensive into Iraq, which has sent shockwaves across the Middle East. The jihadist group recently declared an Islamic Caliphate across parts of Iraq and Syria, headed by leader Abu Bakr al- Baghdadi.

Given the flood of negative press generated by the militant group, the Isis mobile payments service had little choice but to re-brand, according to Todd Ablowitz, president of Double Diamond Group, a Centennial, Colo.-based payments consulting and research firm.

“To have a branding problem of that magnitude, it’s very smart of them to self-aware and take rapid action,” he told FoxNews.com. “This situation is unfortunate and completely out of their control -- the branding of that terrorist group happened so quickly in the Western media.”

Founded by AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless, Isis has been touting its Mobile Wallet as a way for consumers to handle payments via their smartphones. The Mobile Wallet was launched nationwide last November, using Near Field Communication (NFC) technology to connect phones to contactless payment terminals. In mid-May, Isis said that it averaged more than 20,000 Wallet activations a day over the prior 30 days.

“Launching a mobile payments scheme is a massive undertaking – it’s not for the faint of heart,” said Double Diamond Group’s Ablowitz. “There’s a lot of shifting foundations in the NFC infrastructure – it’s challenging from every angle.”

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers