Published: April 4th, 2017

McAfee’s brand change was like watching the 1993 movie Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray. I can safely say I’ve seen this movie before.

Back in 1997, I reported on an interesting four-way merger deal involving McAfee and Network General for the most part. PGP Corp. and Helix Software were also included but the real prize was the Sniffer technology, which was owned by Network General. What was strange about this deal is that they announced a new name for the company; Network Associates.

The IT press corps thought they were crazy to drop a well-known brand like McAfee for a brand new one. One executive I remember said to me “we couldn’t call the company Sniffer.”

Thus, the company changed its name to Network Associates, but the market place, channel partners and even Network Associates executives still used McAfee to describe the company.

So, McAfee never really left. It took a while but the Network Associates brand was getting some recognition in the market. And, then in the summer of 2004, McAfee resurfaced after it sold Sniffer to venture capitalist Silver Lake Partners who then created a new organization for the product that they aptly called Network General.

McAfee was back. For a few year’s anyways. Then in the summer of 2010 the IT press again was thrown another curve ball by McAfee senior executives. They decided to sell McAfee to Intel for a whopping $7.7 billion. And, we all collectively asked: Why?

Intel’s acquisition of McAfee was as strange as EBay’s acquisition of Skype in 2005. The McAfee brand was put on the shelf another time and Intel Security was created. But that did not last too long as the duel headed CEOs of Intel Security began using the McAfee brand as product brand.

The following year McAfee founder John McAfee started getting into trouble. Police in Belize named John McAfee a “person of interest” in connection to the murder of an American expatriate. John McAfee was forced to flee Belize to Guatemala. While there he sought political asylum. Got turned down and was later deported back to the U.S. The President of Belize said John McAfee was “bonkers”.

The IT press asked Intel Security senior leaders if John McAfee’s problems led to the disassociation of the McAfee brand. The IT press must have asked this question 25 different ways and Intel Security execs either deflected the question or said there was nothing to that.

The market place and the channel community thought differently, mind you, but at least Intel Security had a united front when it came to the John McAfee controversy.

Six and half years later, just like Bill Murray in Groundog Day, McAfee is back as an independent security vendor.

And, I found the comments from McAfee’s CTO in a story from my colleague Brian Jackson in ITBusiness.ca interesting. You can read the story here. 

He said the decision to go back to the McAfee name wasn’t made lightly. Are you kidding? Intel relinquishes control to TPG Capital and executives think a brand known for microprocessors would be better for a security vendor? Going back to McAfee is an easy; no brainer move to make.

Also in Jackson’s story are comments from Axle Davids, CEO of Distility, a corporate branding service based in Toronto. He said the positives for Intel and TPG’s joint venture is in returning to a corporate brand name that holds a lot of equity in the cyber-security field.

“It isn’t the return of the McAfee brand, as much as the Intel brand leaving the stage,” he says. “Before: Simon & Garfunkel. After: Paul Simon.”

I agree with this take. McAfee needed to be back in front. So, despite all the attempts to kill or de-value the brand from its founder to other forgotten executives from the nineties McAfee has survived and still, somehow, resonates with channel partners and customers.

One quick hit before I go. Co-founder and CEO JP Carney of Revolabs, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Yamaha Corp., not the motorcycle company but the hard drive vendor, will be stepping down. He will be succeeded by Masanori “Mick” Kamihara, who is currently the group manager of Communication System Development Group at Yamaha.