Hartford wants its umbrella back

In an editorial in yesterday’s Hartford Courant, the newspaper mourned that the red umbrella that’s currently part of the Citigroup logo is likely to be lost to a rebranding effort the company plans to undertake.

The umbrella, of course, came Citigroup’s way when predecessor company Citicorp acquired the Hartford-based Travelers Insurance Co. in 1998. In 2002 Citigroup spun off the insurer’s property/casualty insurance business into Travelers Property Casualty Corp., but kept the umbrella. With Travelers having since become part of St. Paul Travelers Cos.–and having a red winged shield as its logo–that company says it has no interest in the apparently soon to be available umbrella.

But while the red umbrella might not have a place in future branding efforts, it does still resonate in Connecticut. Beneath the headline “Symbol of a Gentler Time,” the Courant editorial recalled a 3,000-pound red neon umbrella once adorning Hartford’s Travelers Tower, which together with the umbrella’s place in Travelers ads in print and on television branded Hartford “ground zero for the insurance industry.”

It’s amazing, but sometimes a logo or company brand can grow beyond the property of a company into a cherished symbol in which an entire community feels ownership. Here in Chicago, Federated Department Stores continues to deal with fallout from the company’s decision last year to rename and rebrand the Marshall Field’s department stores as Macy’s. I don’t know how the kind of passionate brand loyalty demonstrated by long-time Field’s shoppers picketing outside the newly named Macy’s stores factors into marketing plans, but it seems to me it’s something that needs to be considered.



One Response to Hartford wants its umbrella back

  1. winstonian says:

    Why is it so difficult for companies to manage separate brands? I don’t get why uniformity is more desirable than a collection of strong brands. Agree that the Macy’s effort to exterminate and replace the Field’s brand was retarded and will lose them customers in the Midwest.

    Look at Starbucks for a contrarian view. They own several different coffee chains, but keep the original brands. Starbucks owns Seattle’s Best, Torrefazione Italia and probably more. They must laugh their asses off taking money from people in Seattle’s Best who claim to hate Starbucks.

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