It is widely understood that an organization’s brand is a valuable, intangible asset, representing a significant percentage of every company’s total market value.
Today, brand is more than a name, logo, tagline, advertising campaign or even the marketing department’s sole purview. A brand’s success is measured by the summation of the touchpoints all stakeholders—customers, employees, partners, investors, community—have with an organization. When a brand is well-managed, stakeholder experiences align with the expectations set by marketing communications and the brand grows in value over time. However, sometimes brands lose relevance and need to be reconsidered, a process known as rebranding. Here are six scenarios when a company might want to consider rebranding.
1. Merger and acquisitions. Significant changes in capital structure or ownership often signify a new era for a company, thereby requiring a new brand. The Bristol Myers Squibb acquisition of Celgene is a recent example. The 2020 rebrand symbolizes a new era for Bristol Myers Squibb as a diversified specialty biopharma leader.
2. Divestitures. When a company spins off a major division, it requires standing up a new entity and often repositioning the remaining company. In October 2014, the Hewlett-Packard Company announced it would split into two separate entities—HP, Inc., which would focus on personal systems and printing, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), an enterprise technology provider. HPE articulated a clear brand strategy and created a distinct brand experience and identity.
3. Expansion. Growth in product portfolio, target customers, plans for capital raises (e.g., IPO) or international expansion often requires a brand to keep pace. An organization may be constrained by a name that is too product or market-specific. Dunkin Donuts rebranded to Dunkin’, indicating an expansion in food offerings. Similarly, as the YMCA expanded its relevance to include more members, it adopted the moniker, “The Y.” The name represented a friendlier, more modern sensibility. It was brought to life with a vibrant visual and verbal identity, including a new logo and brand voice.
4. New CEO or CMO. When executives join an organization, they are hired because their ambitions exceed the status quo. Often the appointment results in a slew of changes. A rebrand can be a highly visible way to signal those changes. When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, the rainbow identity was replaced by a clean look that signaled the focus on simplicity across the business.
5. A compromised reputation. A reputational issue may tarnish a brand such that it needs a new brand to signal to the world that it was moving forward. After undergoing radical internal transformation—including new leadership and a renewed focus on the customer—Wells Fargo needed to evolve its brand. The rebrand’s most visible expression was the refreshed stagecoach, which signified a sense of forward momentum to customers, employees and the public.
6. Repositioning: Market shifts resulting from competitor moves, technology changes or an overall desire to highlight what is distinctive about an organization in a “sea of sameness” are common reasons to rebrand. Every facet of the 2019 AT Kearney rebrand to Kearney was executed to underline the consulting firm’s distinctiveness. Their research revealed that working with Kearney is different—their people simplify complex ideas and are more relatable than other management consultants. Kearney’s longtime clients already knew of this quality, but the brand needed to communicate the message to a broader audience. From an identity that highlights individual ideals to original photography and a more inclusive name to cover the entire family, the brand centers squarely on what it believes makes Kearney great—its people.
A rebrand presents a marvelous opportunity for a company to re-establish brand relevance, raise awareness and attraction among stakeholders, realign everyone around purpose, redefine business models for profitable growth and, ultimately, revitalize the value of a key intangible asset—the brand.
However, to enter into a rebrand is not a trivial decision. A well-executed rebrand necessitates a comprehensive evaluation of a company, including purpose, positioning, name, verbal identity, visual identity, target audience, activations, products or services. When considering a rebrand, ask what the organization is signaling. Is it a sign of change or merely a change of sign? To be successful, a rebrand must signify substantive change and resourced appropriately in terms of people, time and budget.
By Margaret Molloy