Rebranded Disease Gains Universal Negative Brand Imagery

New York, N.Y. ( – Just days after Philip Morris declared it will change its name to the Altria Group, lung cancer today announced it will change its name to Philip Morris. According to lung cancer officials, the chance to snap up a brand that is more widely associated with lung cancer than lung cancer itself was too enticing to pass up.

Altria Philip Morris

“The ‘Lung Cancer’ brand certainly evokes something powerful and terrible, but that brand essence is palpable only in English-speaking markets,” explained Lung Cancer Marcom Director Reginald Hacking-Coughlin. “In terms of global markets, it lacks universality. That is, if you’re in Spain, you cannot just say lung cancer, you have to say cáncer de pulmón. In Germany, it’s lungenkrebs.”

“Philip Morris,” by contrast, ensures instant worldwide comprehension. “It needs no translation,” said Hacking-Coughlin. “When you hear ‘Philip Morris’, no matter if you speak English or German or Cantonese, you think lung cancer.”

Lung cancer analysts, who estimate the market value of the Philip Morris brand at more than $1 billion, applauded the disease’s move, and conceded they were mystified by the cigarette maker’s adoption of “Altria,” which comes from the Latin altus, meaning “high.” (Philip Morris currently insists it will still use the name to identify its tobacco subsidiaries; lung cancer is expected to fight for full use of the name in court.)

“Philip Morris, the parent company, has spent more than a century building up phenomenal brand equity. That they would voluntarily relinquish it for the first pretty pseudo-word to come along is unfathomable,” said Janet Spittingblack-Phlegm.

At least one expert with an even worse name, however, theorized that the corporation, which includes subdivisions such as Kraft foods and Miller Brewing, may have chosen Altria for more than its pretty sound.

rebranding campaign

“I wonder if they decided to change names precisely because people do associate it with cigarettes and lung cancer,” said Richard Sooty-Bits-of-Lung-On-A-Handkerchief of Salomon Smith Barney. “It could very well be that, far from embracing that well-earned image, they want to distance themselves from it.”

One issue most agree on is that changing names can be an expensive marketing proposition. Last year, for instance, Andersen Consulting had to spend an estimated $175 million to rebrand itself as Accenture. Hacking-Coughlin, however, insisted the change to Philip Morris will require very little outlay.

“For a time, patients will have to get used to hearing ‘We suspect you have Philip Morris’ instead of ‘We suspect you have lung cancer,'” he said. “But in terms of comprehension, I think they will instantly understand what they’re being told.”

Branding consultants, meanwhile, suspect lung cancer’s announcement may signal the beginning of a wider trend. Already, officials from Hypertension and Heart Disease say they have left standing offers with McDonald’s if that company should ever decide to change its name.

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