Rebranding: a cardinal sin or honoring the brand?

Wednesday, 28. November 2018

If, as a 9-year-old boy, I had had the opportunity to change my name, I would now be called Niki. I was enthralled by Niki Lauda’s 1st F1 World Championship title in 1975. I wanted to be as cool and daring as he was. My child’s logic told me that, by assuming his name, I would also attain his qualities.

It’s an intriguing question: when should companies change their name? After all, they have invested time and money in their brand image; surely you don’t then just throw this overboard? No, you don’t. And yes, there are situations where a new name makes perfect sense.

Double-barrelled names are not only often unwieldy when it comes to surnames. Avensis sounds far better than Rhone-Poulenc-Hoechst and is much easier to say. And neither of the two workforces feels relegated to coming second, such as at DaimlerChrysler.

Strategic realignment
Sometimes the name simply no longer fits because the business now operates internationally, or other business areas have come to the fore. Upon introducing the iPhone in 2007 Steve Jobs got rid of the second part of the company’s original name: Apple Computers.

Legal or media-related pressure
Sometimes, you simply have to change your name, such as when chocolate sales crumbled because the melodious name ‘ISIS’ that had been introduced in 2013 had metamorphosed into a synonym for terrorism by 2014.

Commercially weak names
The verb “to google” is part of the German lexicon nowadays. What would have happened if Larry Page and Serge Brin hadn’t changed Google’s original name – BackRub – two years in? Would “to backrub” have made it into our everyday vocabulary?

Whatever it is that drives a name change, the effort involved is enormous. It’s about successfully transferring across the established brand image though. A meticulous project can take several months, even years – from the strategy to the development, to the process of careful selection and actual subsequent introduction. When it is done well, however, it is worth it. A strong, new name has considerable booster potential – both internally and externally.