Changing Brand or Company Name Is An Important Move
By Tom Dougherty
Unfortunately, there are a great many organizations and consultants who believe otherwise, even appearing to be in some sort of self-denial/disillusionment about what brand truly is and, therefore, spending quite a bit of money in the process.
The automotive division of GMAC changed its name to Ally Bank in order that the whole of GMAC, including consumer and automotive, could be under the same “umbrella.” GMAC Bank, the consumer banking division had already changed its name some time ago and now the automotive division was following suit.
Ally, as a name, could be very strong and strategic for a financial services company. Especially when it’s coupled with the theme line “straightforward,” it is meaningful and persuasive.
However, when you start to critically examine the brand, the outward benefits of the name and theme line are simply not strong enough to make up for the organizational deficiencies.
Considerations in Branding and Rebranding
For example, a brand promising to be “straightforward” should have changed the name of all of its parts at the same time. It comes off as strange that the part of the company tarnished by government bailouts was last to change its name for risk of tarnishing the original Ally brand launch. (Read more about rebranding here)
Oh, and the US government also owns more than 50% of Ally. (Perhaps big brother would have been a more accurate name.)
Even more recently, Bojangles, a fried chicken chain in the southeast US changed, its tag line from “GottaWannaNeedaGettaHava” to “Its Bo Time.” In a demonstration of the prevailing misunderstanding of what brand really is, Bojangles’ senior vice president of marketing said in an interview, “We think ‘It’s Bo time’ is a very unique positioning, that our brand inspires craving like no other chain or food does, so when that craving strikes, it’s Bo time.”
Words do not position a company no more than they have the ability to brand one.
One final example is Sprint Nextel becoming Embarq, which is now CenturyLink. Each time the company changed its name, it incurred huge costs and did so within the span of four years. Clearly, in this “rebranding” exercise, the activity of changing the company name was far more important than actually building a meaningful brand.
When changing brand names, the product name, logo, tagline, and theme line changes have increasingly become knee-jerk reactions to serious problems many marketing executives are struggling with. Unfortunately, a great number of well-intentioned executives are getting bad advice from their advertising agencies and/or outside consultants.
Don’t solve the wrong problem
What many of these agencies and consultants are doing is solving the wrong problem, namely, the problem these agencies and consultants have in retaining clients. What better way to keep a client than to tell them they should change their name or visual identity? Many of these agencies and consultants are not solving their client’s problems but their own instead.
Make no mistake. There are good reasons to change a brand name, visual identity, theme line or tagline, and it is often one strategic method to solving a problem and creating preference because so few meaningful ones exist. All of these deserve consideration but none are mandatory when rebranding.
Moreover, a great many companies throughout the world could benefit from changing. But, and this is where the failure to fully understand brand comes in, a company cannot stop at just changing those things.
Most of the “rebranding” we hear and see today is purely superficial. That is, it is either a “flavor of the month” – an undifferentiating and benign restatement of what the organization makes or does which are not much different from what the competitors are saying or is simply window dressing to cover-up a company’s warts (Think BP will “rebrand” after the gulf crisis?).
What is missing?
What is often missing are the two most important components of brand: the customer and organizational culture. An organization has not fully rebranded unless it addresses these two elements.
The customer with their beliefs and attitudes drive brand meaning as this meaning is derived from who they believe they are or aspire to be. The brand of an organization should be a reflection who the customer believes they are when they use that brand.
Then this customer/prospect self reflection should be ingrained in the organizational culture making everything an organization says or does from R&D to customer relations to investor relations the foundation for the organization’s ability to live its brand.
Notice what is missing from these components: Creative execution. Execution comes out of these things. It does not drive them. Creative execution can only occur after the brand is defined and the shift in culture begins to take place. Creative execution does not define the brand it amplifies it. And if your organizational culture has not been affected by your brand, then you do not have one. You have a marketing tactic. If your agency or consultancy has made you think otherwise, perhaps it is time to change.
At Stealing Share, we believe that brand is more powerful than a commercial or new logo. We also believe that needlessly spending money to solve the wrong problems is foolish and keeps organizations attentions away from the real issues and market opportunities.
If you are happy with your market share, there is no need to call us. But if you are aggressive and looking for ways to grow your business in a meaningful and protracted way, give us a call and, in one hour, we will change everything.