AOL's decision to rebrand as Aol. takes a bad brand and makes it worse

Not since AT&T gobbled up Cingular and rebranded as at&t with that ugly Death Star-like logo has a company erred so far from sensibility. The new AOL brand, Aol., is coming soon to frighten you. AOL's attempt to be hip is anything but. Not that AOL, distributor of a billion CD coasters, was ever cool. The service may have been the biggest online community of the 1990s, but it was never hip. Nor will the lame rebranding make it so.

AOL previewed the new brand identity overnight ahead of its unveiling on December 10th, for the company's spin-off from Time Warner. By measure of big tech sites and Twitter, the rebranding is a total fail before even being officially launched.

Giga OM's Om Malik opined: "The new logo fails to capture what is going to be a smaller, nimbler AOL, one that is represented by a collection of smaller, iconic brands such as Engadget and Joystiq. AOL should ask for its money back!"

NBC Washington's Jim Iovino blogged: "Give those image consultants a year's worth of dial-up and a few thousand AOL CDs packed away in the Dulles campus boiler room. And yes, they're officially calling the logo 'aol-dot'. Dot-what you ask? Good question. We'd suggest 'dot-lame,' but whatever."

Designer Daily blogger Mirko Humbert likes the basic lower-case logo and period, but still gives it a fail: "Unfortunately, there are many chances that you won't even notice the nice changes to the logo since it also features some horrible background images."

AOL Rebranding

The logo was a big topic on Twitter today, too. Some random tweets:

Web designer Will Ayers: "AOL's new branding + identity is nothing short of a complete disaster. Wow. Speechless."

FASTforward blogger Paula Thornton: "And in lower case it is now subjected to pronunciation. How would YOU pronounce aol? : )"

Business Insider writer Alaska Miller: "Iterate, get trolled, re-iterate. Ad nauseum. Maybe now AOL can finally compete. Good on them. TS on the shareholders, though."

Web developer Bruce Clark: "AOL, the world is crying for you. How in the world did you ever seriously consider this...much less make it real?"

Marketer Doug Chavez: "Does anyone else think the new Aol logo looks like it was designed by a 5th grader?"

The branding announcement comes at a strange juxtaposition. AOL execs are on the road trying to woo investors to next month's public offering, while also looking to lop 2,500 heads from the 6,000 payroll. You've got to wonder who would want to leave a company right before a spinoff. I lived in Washington, D.C., when an earlier incarnation of AOL went public and turned even the lowliest of employees into instant millionaires. Surely this past isn't lost on the AOLers looking at the big exit sign.

AOL is giving employees some untoward exit options. Last week, All Things Digital's Kara Swisher blogged:

AOL is offering those who 'volunteer' to leave the company now a departure package that ranges from three to nine months of pay, compared to one to four months for employees laid off in the first quarter of next year. It's a depressing rock-and-a-hard-place choice. An AOL spokesperson confirmed the offer.

Say, AOLers, if the new brand is any indication of things to come, maybe you should take the money now and run. But use that rebranding as bargaining chip for 12 months pay with benefits and a bunch of cheap AOL shares. You can look for reemployment at leisure instead of going down with the good ship Aol., which can't be all that good for you. How cruel is it to take voluntary departures until December 4th, only to trot out the big public offering days later? The point: AOL's execution problem is much bigger than just the rebranding.

Wait. Now when is that public offering again? Officially, it's December 9th. But according to Silicon Alley Insider's Nicholas Carlson, AOL stock could start trading as early as tomorrow under "when issued" trading rules. Sure enough, there's an 8-K filing dated November 20th explaining AOL's plans.

Can you come up with a better brand for AOL than Aol.?

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