AOL walks away from its brand

Forget naked Scarlett Johansson. Now, brands are getting undressed, too.

AP reports that a host of new AOL sites are targeting niche audiences by leaving the AOL brand behind. WalletPop for personal finance, Spinner for hip music, and StyleList for fashion push the AOL name to near invisibility — apparently, big ol’ AOL is a little stodgy. For example, if you visit Asylum, an edgy new site for men, you’ll only see tiny AOL links in the submenu … beside a near-naked Scarlett Johansson.

It’s a fascinating move, as the whole groundswell of microsites and blogs and hub-and-spoke strategies for disseminating messages make the old portals disappear. Today, AOL no longer matters in many categories, but AOL has bravely recognized this. Mike Rich, a senior VP at Asylum, noted that research showed a name like AOL Men “wouldn’t connect.” So Asylum it is.

How about your brand? Does it work for everyone, or should you start putting on new clothes?

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