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What's in a name?

10 February 2014


A recent high-profile rebrand has caused a bit of a flutter in the industry concerned.


So if people are talking about it, it must have worked – yes?

In some ways maybe it has – certainly in terms of getting people talking. But why do organisations change their logo or branding?

There are usually arguments about refreshing the image, raising awareness, keeping current, remaining relevant and similar management-speak, and perhaps there is some short-term gain in that such a change will guarantee some column inches in lieu of paid advertising – for publicity is publicity.

It may be that some factor makes a rebrand essential: mergers, de-mergers and takeovers are all likely to make a change essential. And then there are other cases where it may be desirable to escape an identity that has lost credit; no names mentioned here, but no doubt most of us can think of at least one such example.

But a change of branding with no obvious cause always runs the risk that the action will be met with ridicule and although it will still generate some column inches, these may not always be favourable. If public opinion also turns, you really have a problem. Think back to a business in the petrochemical industry that made such subtle change that spot-the-difference competitions were being run in the press, or maybe I should mention Consignia?

Some of the comments on the rebrand that sparked this train of thought have been about it looking smart, “about time they did it”, “refreshing” and so on, but what good is it going to do for customers? What will it do for the morale of employees? 

Those behind a rebrand are hardly likely to admit that they have made a mistake, and I doubt that you will find dissent in several layers of the management, for these things are like the Emperor’s new clothes. 

But of all of the rebrands that I have been involved in I can think of one where it was necessary to differentiate us from our parent that did achieve its aims. All of the rest cost a significant sum yet generated no discernible change in revenue, so they effectively created a loss. Most were little more than vanity projects and we would have been better off investing the funds in something tangible – and that is a view from beneath my sales and marketing hat.

But from under my client or buying hat you can rest assured that I am likely to have a stronger view because, as an existing customer, I am paying my share of what you have just blown on your new badge and all of its associated costs.

I make no apologies here. We are emerging from tough economic times and my view is that we should be spending what we have on delivering better value for the customer.

John Bowen is an FM consultant
http://thatconsultantbloke.wordpress.com/