Blackwater is now Xe: seriously

Blackwater Worldwide, the world’s largest private security company, made the wrong kind of headlines in 2007 when Blackwater contractors allegedly shot and killed 17 Iraqis in a crowded square in Baghdad. This resulted in protests, congressional inquiries and the Iraqi government refusing to allow the organization to operate there. As a result, Blackwater is changing its name to Xe (pronounced ZEE).

Most organizations declare that a change in name is necessary to allow a company “better define” what it does, or “clarify” a shift in services, and this is often in tandem with a repositioning of services or a shift in core competencies. Anne Tyrrell, a spokeswoman for the company, explained that Blackwater was changing its name because “the idea is to define the company as what it is today and not what it used to be.” I'm pretty sure it's still a company that gets paid to kill people. Not really sure what's changed over the past few years.

The Blackwater name has being expunged from all of its business units: Blackwater Airships (which offers surveillance services for intelligence gathering) has become Guardian Flight Systems. Blackwater Target Systems (the unit that develops and builds targets) is now being called GSD Manufacturing, and Blackwater Lodge and Training Center has been named the U.S. Training Center.

Not everyone agrees with Tyrrell. RJ Hillhouse, a national security expert and author of the blog called The Spy Who Billed Me, said the company is “obviously trying to distance itself from their image as reckless cowboys that’s etched into the world’s mind from the…shooting.” With a new name, “there are a lot of people who probably won’t connect the dots,” she said. “In a year or two, people won’t remember that’s Blackwater.” And she's right. The American public is stupid as shit and this terrible logo and rebranding should throw them off the Blackwater scent.

When asked about the name change, Robert Passikoff, president of the New York marketing research firm Brand Keys, Inc. offered this: “There’s an old saying about brands: ‘When you can’t change the product, you change the packaging,’” he said. It’s common for companies to rename in an effort to distance themselves from bad publicity, but in Blackwater’s case, things have gotten so bad that the company had little choice but dump the brand.

Tyrrell disagrees. She countered that Blackwater’s past was only one of several factors involved in the decision. “The company leaders came up with and considered several new names,” she said. “Xe had the best potential for brand identity but has no special meaning, she added.”

No special meaning indeed. The same can be said for the identity, which is a bizarre cross between a bad rendition of the old Xerox logo and the logo for Xena: Warrior Princess. As a result, the only X this rebrand deserves is for a new identity that has gone terribly, terribly wrong. This logo seems better fitted for a lame tech company, not a murder for hire outfit.

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