Flip Mo's Quick Fix

A rose by any other name is still a rose, to paraphrase Shakespeare. By that logic, Philip Morris(NYSE: MO) is still Flip Mo, no matter what new and supposedly hip name it gives itself.

Philip Morris is now officially Altria Group, though the company will continue to trade under its old ticker.

Altria Group. Hmm, doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, does it? And it seems vaguely reminiscent of that huge, ugly, rat-like swamp creature, the nutria. (We'll let you draw your own conclusions about the irony of Philip Morris rebranding itself as something that evokes rat-like images.)

But, hey, Philip Morris is more than just smokes, man. And that's the announced reason for the name change. Altria wants to be clear about the fact that its brands include, among others, Oscar Mayer, Ritz, Oreo, and Maxwell House. It wants to highlight its diverse products and industries, and nothing says, "We do more than make ciggies" more than "Altria."

Where'd they come up with the new handle? It's derived from the Latin word altus, which means high. The company wants to showcase its "peak" performance.

The old name isn't going away completely. Philip Morris USA and Philip Morris International will still exist as divisions under the Altria umbrella.

So, yes, the name "Philip Morris" carries some, ahem, baggage. Big deal. Changing it to something new and incredibly vapid, like Altria, hardly seems like a good solution for Flip Mo's PR problems. It's not the name that has created a negative impression. And last time we checked, we didn't read, "We are going to stop making cigarettes" in the press release.

Altria. Philip Morris. It's all the same. A rose, a rose, a rose...




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4/17/2014 4:00 PM
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Altria Group, Inc. CAPS Rating: ****