Considering a brand name change

By Tom Dougherty

3 July 2014

A brand name change alone is not rebranding


brand name changeIt bears repeating. A brand name change does not change a brand by itself.

Unfortunately, there are a great many organizations and consultants who believe otherwise. They believe a brand name change is all you have to do for audiences to look at your differently.

The automotive division of GMAC changed its name to Ally Bank. Therefore, the whole of GMAC, including consumer and automotive, could be under the same umbrella. GMAC Bank, the consumer banking division, underwent a brand name change some time ago and now the automotive division followed 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 a brand name change

For example, a brand promising to be “straightforward” should change the name of all 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 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.)

company name

The travel industry need to adjust

Even simply changing your brand theme line only goes for far. Bojangles, a fried chicken chain in the southeast US, changed its theme 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 this 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 alone.

Sprint Nextel became Embarq, which is now CenturyLink. Each time the company changed its name, it incurred huge costs over a quick four years. Three brand name changes in four years is insane. Clearly, in this “rebranding” exercise, the activity of changing the company name was far more important than actually building a meaningful brand.

Product name, logo, tagline, theme line and brand name changes have increasingly become knee-jerk reactions to serious problems. 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

company nameWhat 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 instead their own.

Make no mistake. There are good reasons to change a brand name, visual identity, theme line or tagline. But it must be a strategic solution to a problem that creates preference.  All of these changes deserve consideration but none are mandatory when rebranding.

Moreover, a great many companies throughout the world could benefit from a brand name change. But a company cannot stop at just changing a name.

Rebranding is purely superficial. That is, it is usually an un-differentiating and benign restatement of what the organization makes or does that are not much different from the competition. Or it’s  simply window dressing to coverup a company’s warts. (Think BP will “rebrand” after the crisis in the Gulf of Mexico?)

What is missing?

The two most important components of brand are often missing: 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. Who they believe they are or aspire to be is that meaning. The brand of an organization should be a reflection of that aspiration they use that brand.

company nameIngrain this customer/prospect self reflection the organizational culture, making everything an organization says or does lives up its brand. If it doesn’t fulfill the new brand promise, don’t do it.

Notice what is missing from these components: Creative execution. Execution comes out of these things. It does not drive them. Creative execution only occurs after the brand is defined and the shift in culture begins to take place. Creative execution does not define the brand. It amplifies it.

You do not have a brand if your organizational culture has not been affected by your brand. 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. Doing so keeps organization’s 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, give us a call and, in one hour, we will change everything.