McAfee Must Die: Why the Brand Has Outlived Its Usefulness to Intel Security

Summary Bullets:
• The once-strong McAfee brand now does Intel Security more harm than good.
• The vendor missed an opportunity for a portfolio-wide rebranding in late 2015 when it launched a new threat-centric product strategy.

Intel Security has a branding conundrum on its hands. The once-strong McAfee label, for decades associated with a venerable line of consumer and business security products, has been slowly losing its luster for years, but has now reached the point where it does the vendor more harm than good.


The McAfee brand has three problems:

• The general public associates McAfee with the VirusScan line of signature-based antivirus software. Or, that the program that slows down computers without actually preventing the most damaging viruses. Every consumer antimalware brand has this problem to a degree, but the more well-known brands like Symantec and McAfee suffer from more acute negative brand perception.

• McAfee, as a company, no longer exists; Intel Security is the business unit that evolved from Intel’s $7.68 billion purchase of McAfee in 2010. It, in turn, now sells McAfee-branded products. For years, Intel has been straddling the line between the conflicting business interests of branding Intel as a security industry leader in hardware, software, and firmware, while still maintaining the McAfee product lines (and their hefty recurring revenue streams). That conflict has ultimately been holding Intel Security back.

• Then there’s John McAfee. Every time the brand’s namesake starts trending on social media for his police encounters, YouTube videos, or presidential aspirations, he is inevitably linked to the business he founded. It’s an association Intel Security insiders loathe (executives undergo media training in which they’re instructed to carefully answer any questions about John McAfee by stating he no longer works for the company and doesn’t reflect the values of Intel Security). This is clearly less than ideal.

With those points in mind, it’s easy to understand why Intel Security leaders should want to disassociate the company from the McAfee brand, and yet they continue to push forward with a mixed message. In addition to the end-of-life of nearly a dozen McAfee-branded products, the company has stated that its strategy with new products will be to judiciously choose how to use the McAfee brand association on a case-by-case basis, intimating it’ll be used less over time. Yet, when Intel Security recently announced its new endpoint products, they were both McAfee-branded products, tacitly revealing how hard it is to disassociate from the brand once and for all.

Intel Security may believe that more time will make its brand disentanglement effort easier, but the opposite is more realistic. The vendor missed an opportunity for a fresh start with the high-profile launch of its new threat-centric product and strategy in October. The best move would have been to introduce a portfolio-wide rebranding then, leveraging a fresh product lineup to convince top-tier customers and partners to be informal ambassadors for the change.

Instead, the McAfee brand appears to be a solidified presence for the foreseeable future, likely to its company’s detriment. The reality is that the brand’s best days have past, and retiring the McAfee brand (or at least disassociating it from its enterprise products) is not only desirable, but also ultimately inevitable.

About Eric Parizo
Senior Analyst, Enterprise Security, with Current Analysis.

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