Why companies rebrand

Are rebrands necessary and, if so, when should one be done? Here, we explore the many reasons why companies might need to reinvent themselves.

Rebranding is as essential as branding in the first place. Nobody can keep up with the modern market with one image for a lifetime, so it’s a crucial aspect of marketing today to recognise opportunities to reposition yourself in your industry.

As the founder and CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, said: “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room” – and, as gossip goes, a badmouthing can spread like a bad rash.

I recently attended a WEDF Talk in Bristol by Michael Johnson, author of Branding: In Five and a Half Steps, which piqued my interest in terms of how crucial design can be in a rebranding exercise.

It forms a significant part of my approach to rebranding as a designer, so I thought it prudent to document some of the experiences I’ve had alongside my take on some of the great tips in Johnson’s aforementioned book.

A name change

A name change is perhaps the biggest rebrand a company can take. It entails a complete upheaval that simultaneously establishes a brand-new image whilst maintaining the trust built-up by the previous moniker.

A good example of this was when Nintendo was borne out of a name that was proving difficult to pronounce and, indeed, remember for customers: Marufuku. It made the switch in 1951 and the rest is history. Subway was once known as Peter’s Super Submarines, whilst FedEx made short work of its previous name, Federal Express.

A realignment

If a company undergoes a restructure, it’s often the case that a rebrand will follow. Google repositioned itself under the parent company of Alphabet in 2015 and, well, not much changed as far as the general public was concerned, but it was wholly necessary for the authority of the brand to announce the new corporate structure over in California.

A competitive manoeuvre

Sometimes, the competition makes the first move and forces you into readjusting yourself as a brand to keep up in your given market. It might be about standing out in a shop full of products or shifting your USPs to distance yourself from the competition; either way, it’s a necessary, strategic move to ensure you maintain your integrity and authority.

An image change

The ways in which customers, existing or prospective, might perceive you is sometimes completely out of your hands. ISIS is the most prominent example of this phenomena in the modern age. The existence of the terrorist organisation has forced many a company to rebrand to eradicate any hint of association, however false it may be, from their image. It’s unfortunate, but sometimes there’s just no way of carrying on as you are.

A performance-related issue

If your company is struggling to meet performance targets, it might be that its brand image is holding it back. Whether it’s associated with a specific demographic, it’s old-fashioned or it’s lacking in integrity, a brand refresh might just do the trick. This circumstance fell upon Marks & Spencer at the turn of the century when it had to readdress how it utilised the St Michael branding on its products because of poor sales. It worked.

A product-related shift

In a fast-moving world full of demanding consumers, many products have a shelf-life and there’s often nothing you can do about it. When consumers want something new, it’s not as simple as creating it anew under the old brand; the brand must transform in to the ‘new’ that consumers want and remain that new if it is to survive.

A new corporate strategy

A company does not have to go through a restructure to redefine its direction, but it must consider a rebrand in both instances. If the future looks different than the current identity might suggest, there is no choice but to make room for advancement.

A merger

A positive reason for a rebrand can come in the way of an acquisition. A company has become so successful that another company sees its brand as a threat and, therefore, an opportunity for both parties. Retaining the identities of both brands is often a real challenge in this scenario, but it more often than not comes down to the designers and the new logo.

Take United Airlines’ acquisition of Continental Airlines, for instance. It retained the globe symbol from Continental’s old logo to reinvent itself without losing the heritage of its new acquisition.

Designers can play a crucial role in the success or failure of a company. Get it right and you’ve bought the company a few more years with a fresh, new brand. Get it wrong and you’ve probably put your job at risk. That’s why I always work to the maxim that it’s more than just a logo.

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