Only six months into 2012 and I’ve noticed several major household brands rebranding. But WHY do companies (new and old alike) take an introspective look and decide to make this major transformation?
Over time, brands evolve and change. Apple is a great example of a brand that has matured. When it first popped on the scene with the Apple I, it aimed to please technology geeks who were exploring this new idea of personal computers. In the early 90’s, one could argue Apple wanted in with the younger generation by creating the sleek, colorful desktops. Now, the brand is “grown up” with a sophisticated elegance of design and the austerity of Jon Malkovich asking Siri the meaning of life.
Other times, brands may choose to make a dramatic shift, as in the case of Twitter. Earlier this month, Twitter declared “Twitter is the bird, the bird is Twitter.” The company has chosen to completely overhaul how the brand is viewed and used. Twitter expects that its users will see the brand as more universal – it is positioning itself as a service that will aim for “limitless possibility.”
Responding to Change
Some companies decide to change based on how their customers are actually using the product or service. The shipping company formerly known as Federal Express officially changed its brand name in 1994 to FedEx because customers had long abbreviated the name. The new brand was a better reflection of the company and how customers saw it.
More recently, foursquare launched a new version of their app “after three years of seeing how [its community] used the app.” With an emphasis on exploration and recommendations, the move is a predictable competitive change to stay ahead of other services that provide location-based recommendations and reviews.
Mergers & Acquisitions
When a large merger or acquisition occurs, the organizations involved often take to rebranding to unify the two companies and their audiences. In 2004, Sprint and NEXTEL announced they would merge to form Sprint Nextel Corporation. The new company created a logo that combined Nextel’s yellow/back color scheme with Sprint’s word mark and pin drop logo.
New Start after a Crisis
In some cases, you may not have realized a company was ever known by another name: After a crisis, companies will rebrand in an attempt to put distance between the old company image and its negative connotations in favor of starting over. Rebranding, however, doesn’t always work. In an attempt to move away from the scandal of the 2007 Nisour Square shootings, the private security corporation Blackwater changed its name to Xe and then Academi in the span of four years. Despite a change in ownership, management and a focus on a new line of business, the company remains plagued by its dark past.
Don’t be Gap
Gap faced enormous criticism from its customers when it attempted to change its logo. Before making a change to your organization’s brand, you need to make sure it is the right choice to avoid a reoccurrences of the Gap debacle. Ask yourself, “Why do I want to rebrand?” If you don’t have an obvious answer, consider conducting an audit to see if a rebrand is necessary. Market research, such as a survey, can help you discover if your brand, messaging and target audiences are a good fit or if they may need revision. A rebrand must be a long-term commitment that builds your brand’s equity and doesn’t force you to fall on your sword admitting to a mistake.