How Octavius Updated His Brand After the Ides of March

Mar 15, 2019

The Ides of March marks one of the most infamous assassinations in history. But many people don’t realize Julius Caesar’s betrayal and murder also kick started one of the earliest examples of a successful rebranding effort.

Caesar’s assassination at the hands of Brutus (who some say was Caesar’s son) in 44 BC threw the Roman Republic into civil war. After a bloody victory over Marc Antony and Cleopatra, Caesar’s great-nephew and adopted heir Octavius assumed power to become the first emperor of Rome.

As Octavius worked to consolidate control and win over different Roman classes, he sought to distance himself from his part in the divisive civil war and ruling style of past dictators.

So he updated his brand.

How Octavius Became Augustus

Octavius had the Roman Senate give him a new name – Augustus.

It roughly translates to “Revered One” and accomplished everything Augustus was looking for in a rebrand. It was new – no one had been called it before. It implied religious authority rather than political authority. It positioned him as a protector rather than a power-hungry leader.

The rebrand worked. Augustus’ reign lasted 40 years and laid the groundwork for “Pax Romana” – a two-century era of peace and prosperity in the Roman Empire. Augustus became the official title of subsequent Roman emperors and lives on today as the origin of the word August.

Names and titles were important in Roman times. Much of the illiterate population relied on descriptors and imagery to better understand leaders and how they intended to rule. Augustus understood the value of his public image (in fact, the man born Octavius had five names over the course of his life).

The Right Name is Crucial to any Rebrand

But the power of a name to reshape audience perceptions lives on. The right word can conjure up positive associations for a company or product, even if it doesn’t really mean anything on its own.

Take Andersen Consulting, for example. When the firm wanted to reinforce its commitment to global consulting performance, it held a naming contest among employees. A Danish worker combined the words “Accent on the future” to create Accenture. That made-up word has become synonymous with smart consulting work and visionary thought leadership.

Long story short: Names matter. Sometimes creating a new identity based on positive associations is the best way to show your audience what makes you better.

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