Things to remember if rebranding

Rebranding is something the biggest, the smallest, the smartest and the dumbest brands have all thought about at some stage. If you’re even considering a rebrand of your business, you might want to first consider the following examples of the best and worst undertaken in recent history. From the ones that succeeded to the ones that failed, there are lessons to be learnt from all of them.

Old Spice get their swagger back
Old Spice has been a constant sight on supermarket shelves since the 1930s, so by the early stages of the new millennium they realised they were dying out along with their ageing target audience. Their incredible rise from the ashes started in 2008 with a simple rebrand of a solitary product – ‘Glacial Falls’. While updating the packaging and creating a great advertising campaign helped hugely, by simply renaming the product to the confidence-oozing ‘Swagger’, they gave it a new cultural relevance and appeal. It worked – they quadrupled sales and reinvested the profits into further transforming the face of the brand.

Why it worked
If you want to attract newer, younger buyers, you have to think like they do now, not like you did when you were selling to their parents’ generation. Old Spice had a valid reason to rebrand – they had to that point failed to change as their target audience did and instead aged as they did. Importantly, they didn’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Rather than change their entire brand, they started small with one product, got a great agency behind the rebrand and (crucially) let them off the leash to create great work. Finally, they didn’t stop once it started working, they reinvested and kept improving their rebrand.

Apple get a taste for design
Towards the end of the last century, Apple was just another tech company walking ignorantly into obscurity. Reportedly months away from bankruptcy, when they finally decided to rebrand, they didn’t simply change their name or their logo and hope for the best, they changed almost every single element of the business from the inside out. They changed their management structure, they changed their focus from just computing to research and development and they built their entire revolution on simple, beautiful design. And the rest as they say, is history.

Why it worked

Apple realised that it’s not enough to want to change, you have to actually do it. Fearful that the leadership that got them into their problems would be too unwilling to change their ways, they first changed from within and brought back their prodigal son Steve Jobs. They then set about changing what they do and moved into different areas of technology rather than just focus on computers. You only have to look to the fall of mobile phone giants Nokia to see why that was such an important step. Finally, they changed their processes and based every new product on beautiful design and incredibly simple interfaces making themselves irresistible to a new wave of consumers.


Coke truly cocks up

You knew it was coming and we’re sorry but we cannot talk about rebranding without talking about one of the biggest and most famous rebranding disasters in history. With Pepsi gaining ground on their stranglehold on the market, Coke put together a secret team that worked for months before revealing a shocking truth – not only was New Coke being introduced, it was replacing Coca-Cola on its 100th birthday. Their fans revolted and threw every tool they had (in a pre-internet, pre-social media era) at the corporation and forced them into an embarrassing (and expensive) reversal… after only 77 days!

Why it failed

Coke threw the baby out with the bath water and then tossed the tiles, taps and shower curtain out with it! Taking a ridiculous step in the face of some good old-fashioned competition, they made the near fatal error of actually punishing their current customers rather than attract new ones. But their biggest mistake was that they focused their efforts on the wrong thing and tried to rebrand their product rather than simply reinvigorate it. As one of their secret team that came up with the idea put it: “I think we were lazy in really recognizing that we needed to reactivate the brand. If we had done that through an advertising process, I don’t think New Coke would have ever happened, but there was such resistance to any kind of change in the advertising position of the brand that we introduced a change in the taste instead.”

British Airways crash lands

After Tony Blair rose to power on the back of ‘Cool Britannia’, British Airways convinced themselves that their airline represented the stiffer traits of the country Blair was now taking in a new direction. To show off its newly developed ‘cosmopolitan’ image, they rebranded their corporate identity and took the step of removing the Union Jack from their tailfins. They then replaced them with designs representing different international destinations. As if stripping their national flag off one of the countries most loved brands wasn’t stupid enough, someone decided to get former leader Margaret Thatcher to do the unveiling to the public. On seeing what she was unveiling, she quickly whipped a tissue out of her handbag, covered the tailfins and declared: “We fly the British flag, not these awful things”. BURN!

Why it failed

Apart from trying to get the most patriotic Brit on earth to endorse removing her beloved Union Jack from a national icon, BA blew £60 million on an experiment they didn’t even need to conduct. They simply got caught up in a wave of optimism that was sweeping the nation and decided to make a huge rebranding decision that wasn’t warranted or wanted. As they say, if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. And as I say, if you have a spare £60 million lying around, use it more wisely than these airheads did.