An excellent article by Clare Goff of The Guardian (London), 23 January 2006:
Inside creative media: Out with the old, in with the new:
The decision to rebrand is about much more than a change of logo, and should not be taken lightly – it can mean making changes to the very heart of a company, says Clare Goff
New year, new logo. As makeover mania takes hold, some of the world’s most iconic brands are starting the year with a new look. ITV has ditched its yellow and blue boxes, computer chip maker Intel has introduced a new strapline, and telecommunications giant AT&T has undergone a facelift.
Like any image overhaul, a rebrand can enable a company to update its messae, signal a change in direction or appeal to new audiences. For every business, the health of its brand is key to its success.”The brand is the emotional heart of the business,” says Clare Salmon, director of marketing and strategy at ITV. “If the heart stops beating, the beast is going to die.”
For ITV this is its fourth rebrand in the past 10 years; the latest aims to give the broadcaster more clarity in the digital TV landscape. Intel is casting off its 37-year-old logo, “Intel Inside”, for the more futuristic “Intel. Leap Ahead” and AT&T has a new identity to expand its appeal in the global market.
But as brands cast off the old, they could be waving goodbye to loyal customers. The annals of advertising history are littered with rebrands gone wrong, from the Post Office’s short-lived affair with the name Consignia, to the introduction of ethnic tailfins on British Airways planes. When Kellogg’s attempted to change its cereal brand, Coco Pops, to Choco Pops in 1999 its customer base rebelled.
So how does a company update without alienating? Robert Jones, a consultant for branding agency Wolff Olins, prefers the word “reinvention” to “rebrand”, and says that a rebrand is more than just an image change. “If you go for the superficial, the result will be superficial,” he says. The introduction of Consignia, for example, was more about a new name than an evolution within the company and thus failed.
The process of rebranding is a slow one with three key stages, Jones says. When given a brief to rebrand a company, the branding consultancy will firstly think about the big idea behind the business, what its customers in the future will need, and encapsulate an idea to drive it. Then it will work with the company on a prototype that will best exemplify that idea, and only then will it try to express that idea through a logo, new imagery or tone of voice.
At ITV the decision to rebrand came at the end of a long process of introspection for the company following the merger of its network companies, Granada and Carlton, in 2003. A research project, ITV 2010, carried out with advertising agency M&C Saatchi and media agency Mindshare, attempted to understand what ITV meant to people, and what role the channel would play in the televisual landscape of the future. “Understanding the consumer and viewer is the place where you start,” says ITV’s Salmon.
The research found that while consumers had very clear ideas about what rival TV channels, such as the BBC or Channel 4, stand for, they were more vague about ITV.
The rebrand includes a new visual identity for each of its four channels, which positions each channel as a distinct entity and promotes ITV as an entertainment destination that has appeal to a broader range of people.
A £7m advertising campaign launched the new identity earlier this week. Its ultimate aim – and the aim of any rebrand – is to change consumers’ minds.
“Rebranding is about striking out one dictionary meaning and inserting another,” says Philip Spencer, marketing director at oversees development charity Worldvision, who previously ran communications group WPP’s branding consultancy, Enterprise IG.
Rebranding should, he says, “create some surprises” around the brand, inviting consumers to reassess their opinion.
He is currently working on an overhaul of the Worldvision brand, which the charity hopes will increase its appeal to a more mainstream audience.”When consumers hear the name Worldvision they think we are about sending spectacles to Africa,” he says. “It is my job to make them forget that and introduce a new set of perceptions around the brand.”
The first wave of its rebranding campaign has already been launched in Scotland, with an integrated marketing push across a variety of media channels. When it comes to unveiling a new brand identity, a big splash is key, he says.
But a big splash can sometimes be followed by a retreat. The Abbey National bank alienated customers with its modernisation attempt last year. Changing its name to “abbey” and presenting itself as a modern, contemporary company, it left customers reeling by shaking off its image as a trusted financial company and taking on a more simple, informal image in one swoop. Just a few months later the bank was forced to install a new, more appealing identity.
The risks of a rebrand can be huge, but get it right and it can boost and refresh a business. James Murphy, chief executive of advertising agency RKCR, worked on an overhaul of retailer Marks & Spencer at a time when the company was on its knees. Retail tycoon Philip Green was bidding for the company, and no less than a “symbolic refreshment of the whole business” was needed. The new logo “Your M&S” was the result, and it has helped turn the company around.
Successful rebrands are about balance, according to Murphy, ensuring the value of the brand remains while signalling a change in direction. “It should be about a positive evolution not a desperate revolution,” he says.