McAfee Brand Suffers

Retired founder's woes still hurt perception of company, per study

Anti-virus giant McAfee is catching some blowback from the very strange and very public legal entanglements of its founder John McAfee—even though he hasn't worked at the company for almost two decades.

McAfee the man resigned from his namesake company in 1994, and hasn't been formally affiliated with it since. The distinction appears to be lost—perhaps understandably—on many consumers. The company's consumer perception is the lowest it's been in five years following a slew of negative media stories about the brand, according YouGov. 

Per the consumer tracker, McAfee the brand has suffered a steep decline in public perception since mid-November. That's when news started to trickle out that its founder was evading police in Belize, where he lived, and where a neighbor of McAfee's was found murdered after McAfee's dogs were reportedly poisoned to death. The surreal sequence of events continued to unfold, as details of McAfee's unusual lifestyle—described by McAfee as involving a bizarre, polyamorous love web, homemade antibiotics and government corruption—came to light, and the millionaire fled to Guatemala.

There, he was caught after Vice outed his location (accidentally, the media company says; McAfee, himself a notorious media manipulator, alleges it was purposely). In Guatemala, McAfee faked a heart attack to avoid deportation to Belize and was ultimately put on a plane back to the U.S.

It's tempting to suggest that the company should have changed its name after its founder left. Of course, the company would have needed a crystal ball to predict just how far off the handle McAfee might fly…making it harder to justify abandoning the positive associations with a brand that was at the time iconic, and remains so. On the other hand, he might have always been a little bit crazy

@GabrielBeltrone Gabriel Beltrone is a frequent contributor to Adweek.
Publish date: December 19, 2012 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT