Dos and Don’ts of corporate rebranding

Corporate rebrands are no longer seen as merely a reprint of the office stationery because they can positively affect perception of companies and their bottom line, but marketers should be wary of “change for change’s sake” in the eyes of the cynical consumer.

Orange rebrand

Earlier this month France Telecom became the latest company to rebrand its corporate entity. By rebranding to Orange, the company feels integration will be more widely encouraged across the group’s many regions and divisions, according to Daniel Keller, the company’s brand strategy director. To the outside world, he believes the change acts as a “positioning statement” to reaffirm the role the company plays beyond pure telecoms to connecting people with their increasingly digital lives.

David Blair, European managing director at brand consultancy Fitch, says a corporate name change must represent a shift in direction in order to demonstrate the power of the corporate brand – and the value in an expensive rebranding exercise – to stakeholders and customers.

He adds: “If it’s just change for change’s sake or if someone new comes in and says the previous brand feels out of date, a rebrand could be risky and could look like a case of keeping up with the Jones’ as opposed to what the company really believes it stands for. 

“But there is a logic to consolidation as [a rebrand] does demonstrate a point of view, shifting from a company that is pushing out to one that is drawing the consumer in and learning collaboratively with them.”

Orange’s parent in the UK EE rebranded from Everything Everywhere in 2012 to coincide with the launch of its 4G network. The move was led by the newly installed CEO, Olaf Swantee, who was quoted a year saying the Everything Everywhere brand name was “silly”. The rebrand also fuelled speculation the company was looking to appeal to the city ahead of a separation from Orange and T-Mobile’s shareholders to form a separate entity.

Like EE, Research in Motion’s company rebrand to BlackBerry in January also marked a defining moment in the company’s history: the launch of the BlackBerry 10 operating system and a renewed focus on consumer technology as well as being a business software outfit. 

Some corporate rebrands have been brought about by less than positive landmarks in their history. Last year The Lance Armstrong Foundation received State approval to change its name to the Livestrong Foundation to distance itself from its disgraced cyclist former ambassador, for example.

Reactive rebrands can be risky, Tim Hill, development director at The Brand Union warns.

“The days of covering up bad news and hiding things are well and truly over, especially with the level of access technology allows consumers and stakeholders to businesses. A rebrand should not be a reaction to a disaster – you have to go back to the fundamentals of why your business exists in the first place and ensure your brand reflects that now,” he adds.

In an increasingly short-term performance driven environment, some marketers are likely to be wary of corporate rebranding exercises as they rarely drive immediate uplifts to revenue or brand metrics and are costly projects to undertake – even Keller admits Orange’s exercise will need continued investment and is likely to make many dials turn markedly in the coming weeks and months.

Hill says: “Good marketers provoke and challenge and must be prepared to ask their CEO or board why a rebrand needs to happen rather than just acting as a yes man carrying out an operational procedure that adds no value.”



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