"What do I know about branding, maybe nothing (but I did become President!), but if I were Boeing, I would FIX the Boeing 737 MAX, add some additional great features, & REBRAND the plane with a new name," – Donald Trump
However disingenuous Trump’s unsolicited advice to Boeing, there is in fact a time and place for rebranding. Boeing may in fact be well-served by starting fresh with a new name. On the other hand, Firestone and VW each stayed the course, saving the pain of rebranding, while investing heavily in salvaging their reputations. Which suggests there are no right answers here.
Inevitably, most companies will someday face the decision of whether or not to rebrand. Here are six reasons why it may make sense.
M&A. When hospitals, banks, tech companies, etc. combine, there are four naming options: choose one of the existing names, choose an entirely new name or double up. While doubling up may be a good option (ExxonMobil, BMOHarris, KraftHeinz), it can create confusion in the short term. It’s often wiser to choose one or the other name, as Chevron did with Texaco, Verizon did with AOL, and AT&T did with BellSouth. In the UK, the merger of telecom brands Orange and T-Mobile is resulting in an entirely new name, EE, in the process of rolling out now.
Market Shifts. Who doesn’t love donuts? A lot of people apparently, as Dunkin’ Donuts shortened its name to free it to expand its offering (and compete more directly with Starbucks in beverages). Likewise, Hightail (YouSendIt), The Y (YMCA) and Olay (Oil of Olay) all decided to drop the confining parts of their names in favor of something more expansive.
Parent-Child Conflict. Most companies start with a product and give it the same name as the company. Product success can create a dilemma for the parent company when it inevitably needs to to expand into new ventures in pursuit of continued growth. Alphabet (Google), Freeform (ABC Family) and Altria (Philip Morris) found it necessary to rename the corporation to create separation from the product brands in order to grow.
Product Risk. In categories where product failure or even notoriety is a possibility (e.g., airliners), companies sometimes find it wise to create separation, to minimize damage to other portfolio businesses. Janssen, a pharmaceutical division of Johnson &Johnson, is such a brand. Janssen itself was a rebrand of Ortho McNeill.
Memorability. The first name is not always the best, and many successful brands traded in their less-distinguishing identities early on. Some famous examples include MasterCard (Interbank), eBay (AuctionWeb), Best Buy (Sound of Music) and even Google (Backrub).
Price Competition. When a brand succeeds, it invites competition. While innovation is the preferred way to protect preference, another is to create a flanker brand. J Crew created its J Crew Factory brand to offer more price sensitive shoppers a way to enjoy the J Crew label without damaging its premium standing.
To Rebrand or Not to Rebrand?
Regardless of the reason, rebranding can be a difficult and costly process. Here are some considerations before embarking on a rebranding effort to ensure the time and money are well-spent, and to develop strategies to mitigate the risks of change.
- Customer Brand Perceptions: How do customers see the brand? Are they likely to be confused by the change or embrace it?
- Sources of Growth: What are the implications of the current name for the future growth of the business? Will change support or hinder it?
- Risk of No Change: What costs and risks are associated with staying with the current name?
- Internal Support: What is the likely internal response to a name change? How resistant are employees or suppliers likely to be?
Thinking about your growth strategy?
Your brand should be an asset in pursuing growth. If it’s not, or if you’re not sure, it may be time to revisit your brand architecture. A well-thought through brand architecture ensures investments made in building equity are strategic and directed to the right brands.
Learn more about brand architecture from our Brand Architecture Toolkit or give us a call.