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Abandon Ship: GMAC Rebrands to Distance From GM/GMAC

By Mark Skoultchi

May 18, 2009

I saw a short news blurb on the rebranding of GMAC Financial to Ally Bank (here’s the LA Times story). Normally, I’m not such a big fan of companies changing their names as a way to escape bad associations (see previous post on Blackwater changing to Xe), but in this case, I actually think it makes sense. Why the change of heart from this naming consultant? Two reasons.

First, I think it was a mistake to tie the home loan group to the auto loan group in the first place. Using the GM prefix for home loans created a weird mental gap for customers to cross. I recently refinanced my home, and my broker told me that GMAC was the best option. I seriously considered using another lender because this bank’s name didn’t make sense to me.  It’s really a different business, and deserves a different name.

Second, while GM and other parts of GMAC (namely, the auto lending group) are going down in flames right now, the home lending group seems to be doing quite well. Any association with GM has got to be a major monkey on the back these days. And unlike Xe née Blackwater or Altria née Phillip Morris, GMAC finance isn’t trying to hide from its past bad doings. It’s trying to clarify confusion in the market. A better comparison for this name change would be Accenture née Anderson. That name change sure worked out well.

Lastly, from a name development perspective, I think they chose a strong brand name. Not only is the name familiar, short and easy to pronounce, but it also ties the company to a set of values that address the fear created by the current financial crisis while positioning the company well for the days after this crisis is behind us. Allys are strong, they work with you for a mutual benefit, and they can be relied on come thick or thin. I think this is exactly the kind of message GMAC (sorry, Ally) should be sending right now. Kudos to whoever is responsible for creating and/or selecting this name.

Name Grade: A-

Grade:
A-
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