July 8, 2014, 4:48 PM

A branding nightmare causes a mobile wallet to change its name

Mobile wallet Isis now shares its name with the Islamic militant group ISIS, which has captured large areas of Syria and Iraq in violent clashes. The mobile wallet is working on a new name.

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It’s a marketer’s worst nightmare: His company’s brand name is associated with a group that’s suddenly all over the news, and not in a good way. It’s completely out of his control.

Such is the case with mobile wallet Isis. After recent events in the Middle East, U.S. consumers now know ISIS to be the Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham (or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), an Islamic militant group involved in violent clashes against government forces and civilians in Syria and Iraq. Much blood has been shed.

So the mobile wallet Isis has announced it will change its name in the coming months.

“The ISIS militant group has been linked to sectarian violence against civilians and government forces in Iraq and Syria. 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,” says Isis CEO Michael Abbott. “Changing a brand is never easy, but we know this is the right decision—for our company, our partners and our customers. In the meantime, we remain committed to growing the mobile payments ecosystem, and advancing our mobile wallet. Our focus on delivering a great product and platform to our customers hasn’t changed.”

The mobile wallet Isis is a joint venture between AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon. The company formed in 2010 and the mobile wallet formally launched in November 2013 after a period of limited testing. The mobile wallet app uses Near Field Communication, or NFC, wireless networking technology. An NFC chip in a mobile device communicates payment information with a chip in a retailer’s checkout terminal when the two are extremely close. The idea is that a consumer can store her credit or debit card details in her mobile phone and pay in a retail store by holding her phone close to a wireless reader.

But the Isis mobile wallet has not taken off, in part because consumers have yet to embrace mobile wallets and in part because NFC technology has not been included in many smartphones or deployed at many retail checkout counters. Many industry observers say NFC-based mobile wallets have the best shot at getting into the mainstream when Apple Inc. gets around to including an NFC chip in its iPhone. The new iPhone 6 likely will debut in September, along with the anticipated iWatch. Both are rumored to include NFC chips that will tie into an expected Apple mobile payments system.

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