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Corporate Rebranding:

Best Practices to Maintain Brand Equity Throughout Transitions in Brand Identity

A Senior Project

Presented to

The Faculty of the Journalism Department

California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

In Partial Fulfillment

Of the requirements for the Degree

Bachelor of Science in Journalism

By

Kelsey Elise Hollenbeck

June 2013

© Kelsey Elise Hollenbeck 2013

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ABSTRACT

Few things are worse for a corporation than a rebranding disaster. The loss of coveted

brand equity is costly in so many ways and oftentimes the reputational damage takes years to

recover. While C-suite executives might easily justify a brand refresher – be it in name, look and

feel, or both – loyal and longtime customers might feel confused or worse, betrayed, by the

changes. Losing money on preliminary research and development or updated merchandise is one

thing, but losing the public’s trust and business is quite another and should obviously be avoided.

That said, rebranding is a normal and often vital stage in a brand’s lifecycle. Whether it’s a

change in structure or management, a merger, a new sub-brand or merely a refreshed look,

change is inevitable.

If rebranding is necessary, it should be done correctly to minimize risk. First and

foremost, corporations must be absolutely certain of their motivation for rebranding and strategy

for doing so. This includes taking into account existing brand equity and connotations,

accounting for consumer skepticism and resistance to change, as well as determining a solid

strategy for making and announcing changes, no matter how small. Additionally, it is important

to understand what makes a successful brand, how to build brand equity and how to maintain it.

Finally, recent corporate rebranding case studies – both successful and unsuccessful – should be

closely examined. This paper will do just that in an attempt to outline the best practices and the

tactics to avoid in order to ensure a seamless, well-received and profitable rebranding effort.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

Chapter 1: Introduction………………………………………………………………………….4

1.1 The Problem…………………………………………………………………………4

1.2 Purpose of the Study……………………………………………

…………………5

1.3 Research Questions………………………………………………………………

5

1.4 Definition of Terms…………………………………….……………………………6

Chapter 2: Review of Literature ………………………………………………………

………9

2.1 Successful Branding…………………………………………………………………9

2.2 Successful Rebranding……………………………………………………… ……14

2.3 Motivations for Rebranding………………………………………… …………… 20

2.4 Worth the Risk?

22

2.5 Keep Consumers in Mind……………………………………………….………….24

Chapter 3: Methodology………………………………………………………………….…….27

Chapter 4: Data Analysis………………………………………………………………….…

29

4.1 Questionnaires

………………….……………………………………….……

29

4.2 Research Questions………….……………………………………………….….….38

4.3 Rebranding Data…………………………………………………………….………42

Chapter 5: Summary

………………………………………………………………………… 55

Works Cited………………………………………………….………………………………….58

Appendix A…………………………………………………………………………………… 61

Appendix B………………………………………………………………………………….….64

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CHAPTER 1: Introduction

1.1 The Problem

Rebranding is a reality for corporations and companies of all sizes and in all industries.

There comes a time in the life of every brand when an image refresher becomes both natural and

necessary. “Managing brands for the long run may involve rebranding. Almost any expenditure

on rebranding is considered fully justifiable and, in some cases, is actually essential to survival”

(Kaikati & Kaikati, 2003). Sometimes this initiative is brought about by some internal change in

structure or management, which might affect the corporation’s identity or values. Other times it

is the product of a new marketing effort to better a company’s image or increase sales.

If it’s natural and necessary, what’s the issue? Change. Rebranding by definition implies

a change to the existing brand image, whether it’s a slightly modified logo, a new name, or a

massive restructuring and repositioning campaign. While change can certainly be good,

unsuspecting and loyal consumers do not always welcome it. They might feel confused or worse,

betrayed by these changes, especially if they are caught off guard or kept in the dark during the

transition process. The resulting consumer skepticism and loss of trust can lead to a sizeable hit

to the brand’s equity, and few things are worse. The process carries a high level of reputation

risk as well as being a very costly exercise (Muzellec & Lambkin, 2006).

In the past three years, many giant corporations have done rebrands that have been badly

executed, incorrectly conceived or hastily done, resulting in either no effective change, no

change in customer perception or worse, a weakened brand with lost sales, smaller markets or

reduced consumer confidence (Brier, 2013). Rebranding is extremely risky, but if done carefully

and correctly, it can truly pay off. It provides a “golden opportunity” for a complete

transformation, but it should not be used for papering over cracks (Kaikati & Kaikati, 2003). It is

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essential that companies and corporations recognize these risks and take precautions to minimize

them. To avoid expensive and embarrassing blunders, brand managers should learn from their

competitions’ triumphs and mistakes. The “why” is just as important as the “how” when it comes

to rebranding and corporations would be wise to invest in exhaustive research and development,

carefully communicate throughout the brand transition and understand public skepticism and

coping mechanisms. These considerations are just as important as the new name and/or new

logo, though they are often overlooked.

1.2 Purpose of the Study

The primary purpose of this research study is to conclude the best practices and blunders

to avoid in the corporate rebranding process through qualitative research and a close examination

of recent rebranding case studies (both successes and failures), as well as relevant academic

research studies and literature. Qualitative interviews with industry experts will be conducted in

an attempt to better understand rebranding. The information gathered will help inform companies

and corporations of the proper ways to go about rebranding with minimal risk and maximum

reward.

1.3 Research Questions

This study was organized around finding answers to the following research questions.

1. What makes a successful brand?

2. What does rebranding entail? What are the steps in the process?

3. Why rebrand?

4. What are the consequences of rebranding gone wrong? Risks? What to avoid?

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1.4 Definition of Terms

An understanding of the following terms is crucial to an understanding of the rebranding process.

Brand:

As defined by the American Marketing Association (AMA), a brand is “a name, term, symbol,

design or combination of them intended to identify goods or services of one seller or group of

sellers to differentiate them from those of competitors.” A brand is a mark of ownership that

represents products, services, people and even places. It is also a bundle of attributes (Geller,

2012) and a collection of perceptions (Larson, 2011) associated with a particular product of

service that can make or break it.

Branding:

Corporate branding is “a systematically planned and implemented process of creating and

maintaining a favorable image and consequently a favorable reputation for the company as a

whole, by sending signals to all stakeholders and by managing behavior, communication and

symbolism” (Muzellec & Lambkin, 2006). If a brand is the idea or image surrounding a product

or service, branding is the marketing or advertising of these ideas and images so that people will

come to associate that name, logo, or tag line with a particular product or service, thereby

differentiating it from a sea of competitors.

Rebranding:

Rebranding is the marketing strategy of “revitalizing and repositioning a brand through gradual,

incremental modification of the brand position and marketing aesthetics” (Muzellec & Lambkin,

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2006). This includes the creation of a “new name, term, symbol, design or combination of them

for an established brand with the intention of developing a differentiated and new position in the

mind of stakeholders and competitors” (Muzellec & Lambkin, 2006). Etymologically speaking,

“rebrand” is a neologism including the prefix “re” which implies that the action of “branding” is

being done again. There are two general types of rebranding: evolutionary and revolutionary.

Evolutionary rebranding refers to relatively minor developments in a brand’s positioning or

aesthetic. Sometimes these changes are so subtle that outside observers hardly notice them; their

primary purpose is to keep the brand relevant and modern without making any drastic changes.

On the other hand, revolutionary rebranding describes bigger, more identifiable changes in image

or positioning that fundamentally redefine the entity. In either case, rebranding is carried out

“through a change in visual identification communicated through conventional corporate

communications media” (Muzellec & Lambkin, 2006).

Brand Equity:

Brand equity is defined as “the marketing and financial values linked with a brand’s strength in

the market, including actual proprietary brand assets, brand name awareness, brand loyalty,

perceived brand quality, and brand associations” (Severi & Ling, 2013). Essentially it is an

umbrella term for any added value beyond actual form or function of a product or service itself.

A study by the Asian Social Science Journal breaks down brand equity into five dimensions:

brand awareness, perceived quality, brand loyalty, brand association and proprietary brand assets

(Severi & Ling, 2013). This value can be analyzed from two different points of view: a financial

perspective and a customer perspective. The financial perspective refers to the company’s

monetary brand value (i.e. sales, and profit), whereas the customer perspective measures equity

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based on marketing decision-making and perceived brand value. Both types of brand equity are

crucial to brand success, and both are subject to taking hits if rebranding goes poorly.

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CHAPTER 2: Review of Literature

This literature review is a compilation of existing research on all aspects of the

rebranding process, including: brand authenticity, maintenance of brand equity, risks associated

with rebranding, motivations for undergoing the process, strategies for success, mistakes to avoid

and consumer reactions to change.

2.1 Successful Branding

Defining the concept a “brand” can be somewhat challenging as the term can be

interpreted to represent many different things. As defined by the American Marketing

Association, a brand is “a name, term, symbol, design or combination of them intended to

identify goods or services of one seller or group of sellers to differentiate them from those of

competitors.” A brand is a mark of ownership that represents products, services, people and

even places. But it is also a bundle of attributes (Geller, 2012) and a collection of perceptions

(Larson, 2011) associated with a particular product of service that can make or break its

reputation and contribute to its ultimate success of failure.

In order to understand how to rebrand, it is crucial to understand what makes a brand

successful in the first place. What makes one brand more successful than another? This is the

million-dollar question that has inspired many a market researcher to study the answer. While

research has varied, some general concepts overlap. Visiting scholar and professor of brand

management and marketing at the Kellogg School of Management, Frank Goedertier, surveyed

“hundreds of companies” and broke down eight keys to successful branding. According to

Goedertier, brands must be memorable, meaningful, likeable, transferrable, protectable,

authentic, simple, and adaptable (Symonds, 2012). Nigel Hollis, chief global analyst at the

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marketing research firm Millward Brown, has determined that there are five components to

brand success: a great brand experience, clear and consistent positioning, dynamism, authenticity

and a strong corporate culture (Hollis, 2008).

Brands must be memorable if they hope to have any longevity in the marketplace.

Becoming memorable and staying relevant is becoming increasingly challenging these days, as

more and more messages are bombarding consumers through rapidly evolving media channels.

According to Jay Walker-Smith, president of the marketing firm Yankelovich, people in the 21 st

century are “completely saturated with advertising messaging vying for their attention” (Johnson,

2009). Market researchers have attempted to qualify this “assault on the senses” and have

determined that Americans may see as many as 5,000 brand logos and/or advertisements each

day (Johnson, 2009).

In order to compete and stand out, any of a brand’s external elements (slogan, logo,

name) should be easy to recognize and even easier to remember. Professors Chiranjeev Kohli

and Doulgas LaBahn of California State University, Fullerton researched brand naming in their

report for Penn State’s Institutes for the Study of Business Markets. They surveyed 101

companies to determine how important a brand’s name is to its success (Kohli & LaBahn, 1995).

Brand names and any associations they elicit make up a huge component, at least initially, of

consumer understanding of the brand. Names also function to differentiate brands from their

competitors with similar products. In fact, many brand managers believe that brand names

influence sales more than packaging, and are consequently more important (Kohli & LaBahn,

1995). This survey concluded, “brand names are critical to the success of a new product,

consumer and industrial goods companies place similar emphasis on the brand naming task, and

a detailed and systematic process is used in the creation of the brand names” (Kohli & LaBahn,

1995). Brand managers go through extensive screening processes for potential names, in order to

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determine connotations, associations and alignment with branding objectives – and rightfully so.

Dawn Lerman and Ellen Garbarino noticed that “being memorable” was a common suggestion

for brand names, but they wanted to go deeper, so they studied the cognitive memory processing

associated with recalling brand names in their research article for Psychology & Marketing. They

determined that there are two types of brand names: word and non-word (Lerman & Garbarino,

2002). “Word” brand names, such as Tide or Always, can rely on dictionary definitions to

suggest certain qualities of their products fairly easily, and are easier to recall because they are

more obvious. On the other hand, “non-word” names, such as Exxon, can be more flexible in

their word associations and are oftentimes easier to reposition and legally protect, though they

may not be as easy for consumers to recall (Lerman & Garbarino, 2002).

There is something to be said for embracing simplicity in branding and rebranding,

especially in this age of information overload and shortened attention spans. According to

Marketing Magazine UK, today’s consumers are overwhelmed with multiple messages, choices

and responsibilities. Brands that focus on simplicity are able distinguish themselves from all of

this noise and gain a competitive advantage (Kemp, 2013). Another interesting trend consumer

psychologists are noticing is that people are increasingly looking towards brands that are (or

seem to be) trusted experts in a single field, as opposed to brands that have over-extended

themselves in search of a quick profit. Judy Mitchem, managing director and chief marketing

officer of Ogilvy Group, a massive international marketing, advertising and public relations

group, believes many brands are simply sending too many messages, and should attempt to

“define themselves as much by what they don’t say, as by what they do say” (Kemp, 2013).

Brands must recognize the finite nature of consumers’ attention spans and brand managers must

“have the gravitas to edit or risk being overlooked” (Kemp, 2013).

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Furthermore, successful brands are meaningful brands and meaningful brands are those

that “enhance the wellbeing of individuals, communities and the environment” (Havas, 2012).

Branding elements must emphasize key points of difference and special benefits beyond a

functional product or useful service. More than ever before, consumers are demanding more

from brands. Havas Worldwide London, an international advertising agency, conducted a

“Meaningful Brands Survey” in an attempt to quantify this growing preference for brands that go

above and beyond. Havas surveyed 30,000 consumers in fourteen countries; the results are

telling. Only 20% of the brands consumers interact with actually have a positive impact on their

lives, and consumers agreed that nearly 70% of brands could disappear entirely from the

marketplace without them so much as noticing, let alone caring (Havas, 2012). Havas Media’s

chief executive, Russ Lindstone, suggests that the secret to creating meaning is shifting the focus

from the brand itself, and focusing on outcomes that benefit the consumer:

Did this brand make you fitter, wiser, smarter, closer? Did it improve your personal

outcomes? Did it improve your community outcomes? We’re trying to get beyond ‘did

this company make a slightly better product’ to a more resonant, meaningful questions:

Did this brand actually impact your life in a tangible, lasting, and positive way? The key

is to emphasize this impact (Havas, 2012).

This same study also created a “meaningful brand index” in which a higher meaningful

brand index score translates to more brand attachment and ultimately, more brand equity.

Lindstone suggests that brand managers should focus on how their brand increases individual

wellbeing and/or community wellbeing by emphasizing unique attributes. He suggests touching

on some of following general concepts that the survey suggests are highly valued: fitness, health,

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happiness, learning new things, being a part of something, helping people help others, improving

skills, looking and feeling good, recycling, transparency, ethics and corporate responsibility

(Havas, 2012). Fast Company editor, Morgan Clendaniel, says this Havas study proves that there

exists a huge opportunity for brands to increase their impact on consumers’ lives beyond creating

a decent product, and this should be carefully factored into the rebranding process, particularly in

relation to slogans and advertising campaigns (Clendaniel, 2012).

One other important factor to consider in the branding and rebranding processes is

transferability. All elements of a brand’s identity must understood and accepted on a universal

basis, if the corporation hopes to compete in international markets (Kaikati & Kaikati, 2003).

This necessitates conducting extensive research to ensure that brand names, slogans, logos and

colors will be interpreted and translated appropriately, and to avoid potentially disastrous

consequences. Miscommunication due to language barriers is an all too common example of lack

of attention to transferability. Michael White, executive director of the Foreign Trade

Association of Southern California, examines this concept in his book, A Short Course in

International Marketing Blunders. For example, Coors beer experienced a miscommunication

like this back in the 1990s with their “Turn it Loose!” tagline. While it was successful at selling

beer in the U.S., it was not so well received in Mexico, where the slogan was translated to

“Suffer from Diarrhea!” (White, 2009). Similarly, Procter and Gamble failed to sell Puff tissues

in Europe, as it was discovered after the fact that the term “Puff” is a German colloquialism for a

“house of prostitution” and widely used in the UK as a derogatory term for homosexuals (White,

2009). “Language can play tricks on marketers who don’t respond to cultural differences…

marketers must examine not just the spoken word, but all the elements of culture that form a

barrier to mutual understanding” (White, 2009). Even color can be lost in translation. Professors

Thomas Madden, Kelly Hewitt and Martin Roth of the University of South Carolina, Columbia

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researched this for the Journal of International Marketing. They conducted an eight-county study

on color meanings and preferences with regards to products, packaging, logos and other

marketing collateral (Madden, Hewitt & Roth, 2000). They asked subjects to match colors with

product logos and found that about half the time the combinations suggested consistency in

meaning, and the other half of the time, the color and its meaning were interpreted in ways they

were not intended; this proves that there is in fact a margin for global miscommunication. For

instance, while white represents “purity, freshness and cleanliness” in Western cultures, it is the

traditional color of mourning death in most of Asia (Madden, Hewitt & Roth, 2000).

2.2 Successful Rebranding

The aforementioned components are crucial to building a brand and building equity, but

what about changing the identity of an existing brand? Rebranding has been a fairly hot topic in

the business press, especially in the 21 st century, where there seems to have been a growing trend

towards updating brand image to remain relevant. Rebranding around the world increased by 7%

from 2000 to 2001, and the U.S. led the world with a total of 1,716 corporation name changes

within the year (Kaikati & Kaikati, 2003). For such a seemingly popular business practice,

academic studies on the subject remain fairly scarce. There is relatively little empirical research

on how the process affects consumer’s attitudes, despite the high level of uncertainty and cost

associated with rebranding (Ing, 2012).

Laurent Muzellec and Mary Lambkin of University College Dublin seek to answer the

question of whether rebranding destroys, transfers or builds brand equity. They acknowledged

that rebranding is risky and should therefore be informed by strong theory and research, however

“a comprehensive literature search indicated that most of the writing on this topic so far is

journalistic in nature, with almost nothing appearing in academic journals. This is a deficit this

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paper seeks to begin to address” (Muzellec & Lambkin, 2006). They took a cross-sectional

sample of 166 international rebranded companies to provide descriptive data on the context in

which the rebranding occurs and to generally shed light on the process (Muzellec & Lambkin,

2006). They define rebranding as the marketing strategy of “revitalizing and repositioning a

brand through gradual, incremental modification of the brand position and marketing aesthetics”

(Muzellec & Lambkin, 2006). This includes the creation of a new name, term, symbol, design or

combination of them for an established brand with the intention of developing a differentiated

and new position in the mind of stakeholders and competitors.

Corporate rebranding is a complex and multi-faceted process. The decision to make

changes to a brand’s identity is not reached without much careful deliberation, and the process

itself can be costly, lengthy and risky. After all, a brand has conceivably built up equity through

consumer association of its name, tagline or logo with certain superior qualities. What happens

when their aforementioned name, tagline and/or logo is changed? A loss of equity would be

devastating, both for that brand’s market share and its reputation. At the same time, rebranding is

often necessary either to solve a problem, reflect a structural change or simply keep up with the

times. This is why corporations must do their research and enlist the help of a seasoned branding

agency to ensure a smooth transition from the old brand identity to the new.

While circumstances certainly vary, experts have attempted to outline potential

approaches to the rebranding process. It is important to note, that prior to making any changes,

marketing and brand managers must evaluate why they feel compelled to change and identify

what it is about their current brand identity that is not working. Jack Kaikati and Andrew Kaikati

stress this in their 2003 technical paper for the Journal of Business Strategy. “Before deciding to

rebrand a product or even to tweak its logo and look, corporate managers should ascertain what

the customers think of it” (Kaikati & Kaikati, 2003). David Brier, a Fast Company blogger and

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award-winning brand identity specialist, suggests that decision-makers ask themselves the

following questions prior to beginning the rebranding process:

1. Why are we doing a rebrand?

2. What problem are we attempting to solve?

3. Has there been a change in the competitive landscape that is impacting our growth

potential?

4. Has our customer profile changed?

5. Are we pigeonholed as something we (and our customers) have outgrown?

6. Does our brand tell the wrong (or outdated) story?

7. What do we want to convey? To whom?

8. Why should anyone care about our brand?

9. Have we isolated exactly who should care about our brand?

10. Have their needs, or the way they define them, changed?

11. Are we asking our customer to care more about our brand (and what it means) than

we do?

12. Is our brand associated with something that is no longer meaningful?

13. Is our brand out of step with the current needs and desires of our customers?

14. Are we leading with our brand direction?

15. Are we following with our brand direction?

16. Is the goal of this rebrand a steppingstone (evolutionary) or a milestone

(revolutionary)?

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18. If we were starting our business today, would this be the brand solution we would

come up with?

These questions are intended to help corporations delve deeper into their motivations for

rebranding and the unique context in which it will potentially occur (Brier, 2013). After

thoroughly asking and answering these questions, brand managers will need to determine which

rebranding strategy is most appropriate for their corporation’s situation. The Kaikati brothers

outline six options for implementing a rebranding strategy: (1) phase in/phase out, (2) combined

rebranding strategy via one umbrella brand, (3) translucent warning strategy, (4) sudden

eradication strategy, (5) counter-takeover strategy and (6) retrobranding.

During the phase-in stage of option one, the new brand remains tied to the existing brand

for a designated introductory period, after which time the old brand is gradually phased out. This

option provides stakeholders with a buffer time and helps ease the shock of sudden changes.

Disney utilized this strategy in the 1990s when transitioning from Euro Disney to Disneyland

Paris. Over a period of two years, the theme park’s name went from “Euro Disney” to

“Euro Disneyland” to “Euro Disneyland Paris” and then finally to “Disneyland Paris” (Kaikati &

Kaikati, 2003). This slow and steady approach allowed for a more gradual transition while still

accomplishing the corporation’s goal of emphasizing the park’s precise location in Europe.

The second of the aforementioned strategies, “umbrella branding,” effectively combines

multiple existing brands under a single (oftentimes global) banner brand. This applies to

mergers and acquisitions, as well as the creation of new subset brands. Before rebranding as

Visa, National BankAmericard used to issue cards under twenty-two different names around the

world. In the interest of expanding brand recognition, the corporation consolidated under the

name “Visa” (Kaikati & Kaikati, 2003). It is worth noting that the world’s leading payment

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network chose its name because it is pronounced the same in most languages (Kaikati & Kaikati,

2003). This approach makes it easier for consumers to identify the primary brand without getting

bogged down and confused by multiple subsidiaries.

The next option relies on being very transparent in communicating a rebrand by alerting

customers before and after the actual branding changes take place (Kaikati & Kaikati, 2003).

These warnings are most often carried out through intensive promotion and advertising

campaigns, as well as in store displays and special graphics on product packaging (Kaikati and

Kaikati). This strategy is effective because corporations are able to almost hold the customers’

hands and walk them through the transition, rather than simply making the switch to a new

name/and or logo and hoping that the public will catch up. Snickers was able to avoid a

potentially devastating drop in sales after changing its name from the well-known “Marathon

Bar” in the UK, by communicating all throughout the shift. Prior to the start of the rebranding

campaign, Marathon wrappers read “known worldwide as Snickers” and after the name change,

they read “formerly known as Marathon” (Kaikati & Kaikati, 2003). Because of this aggressive

advertising strategy and because the packaging design and product were otherwise left the same,

this transition was relatively seamless.

The sudden eradication strategy is appropriately if not dramatically named, as it refers to

situations in which corporations need to disassociate themselves immediately from a brand

identity with a negative connotation (Kaikati & Kaikati, 2003). Dropping the old brand identity

almost overnight and immediately replacing it with something new and different, without any

sort of transition period or warning, can accomplish this. This strategy is also suited for ailing or

dying brands that are out of other viable options for resuscitation, though it caries the risk of

consumers feeling betrayed or confused. This strategy inherently destroys any existing brand

equity, but it also offers the promise of a clean slate to rebuild a more favorable image.

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The counter-takeover strategy is usually implemented following a merger or, more often,

an acquisition. Normally, acquirers choose to hold onto their original brand identity to

communicate their dominance, but in this strategy the roles are reversed. If the acquired brand is

more popular and respected than the acquiring brand, it is wiser to adopt the new brand identity

to reap the benefits of its recognition and equity, rather than holding onto the old identity for the

sake of a corporation’s ego. This strategy may not be as compelling as the others, but it is

relevant as more competing corporations fight for clout and traction in the global market (Kaikati

& Kaikati, 2003).

The final possible strategy is retrobranding, which occurs when corporations revert back

to their original brand identity after a failed attempt at rebranding. It is indicative of a somewhat

drastic about-face, in hopes of regaining original brand equity and salvaging the brand’s image

(Kaikati & Kaikati, 2003). A recent example of retrobranding is Netflix. In the wake of

consumer backlash over fee increases, Netflix made a rash decision to separate its online

streaming and DVD delivery services, with the latter service being rebranded under the name

“Qwikster” (Pennington, 2011). The plan backfired in a classic example of misusing a

rebranding campaign in an attempt to solve unrelated problems. The division essentially required

users to update two accounts and do twice the work on separate websites, which they were none

too happy about. To make matters worse, Netflix failed to secure the @Qwikster Twitter handle

prior to announcing the new brand, which turned out to be controversial as it was discovered the

owner of the handle was “someone who chose to represent themselves [with a photo of] Elmo

smoking a joint…real classy” (Pennington, 2011). Customers were not amused and voiced their

disapproval via social media, leaving 15,826 mostly negative comments within 24 hours of the

rebranding announcement (Pennington, 2011). Netflix, realizing their mistake, quickly scrapped

Qwikster and reverted back to its original name and brand identity.

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Gap has also recently gone through a bit of a retrobranding experience with their logo. In

2010, Gap released a radically different, modern-looking logo on their Facebook page in an

effort to signal a fresher, newer direction for the brand, which has struggled for years with

painfully sluggish sales. Despite executives’ well-intentioned desire to signal change, it was an

unfortunate example of one change too many (Zmuda, 2012). After an overwhelmingly negative

response, Gap executives attempted to actively join in the discussion while also gaining

consumer input by announcing a crowd-sourcing project to find a new logo. This also backfired,

particularly among the design community, who saw it as a ploy for free logo ideas. Within a

week of the initial announcement, it was determined that Gap should return to their original logo

(Zmuda, 2012). Even the colossus Coca-Cola retrobranding. After introducing “New Coke” in

1985, the beverage giant was met with harsh consumer backlash and ended up reverting back to

their classic design.

2.3 Motivations for Rebranding

With so many inherent risks and costs associated with the process, it’s a wonder so many

corporations are choosing to rebrand. Saleh Alshebil sought to identify these motivators in his

2007 thesis for the University of Texas. There are many motivators for rebranding, but on a very

basic level, they fall into one of two categories: have to vs. want to (Alshebil, 2007). Muzellec

and Lambkin’s cross-sectional study of 166 rebranded companies also attempted to gather more

concrete data on the context in which rebranding occurs. The findings are as follows:

The main drivers for rebranding are, therefore, decisions, events or processes causing a

change in a company’s structure, strategy or performance of sufficient magnitude to

suggest the need for fundamental redefinition of its identity. Such events can vary from

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sudden, total structural transformation following a merger or acquisition to a gradual

erosion of market share or firm’s reputation due to changing demand patterns or

competitive conditions. These drivers fall into four main categories: (1) change in

ownership structure, (2) change in corporate strategy, (3) change in competitive position

and (4) change in the external environment (Muzellec & Lambkin, 2006).

These communicated reasons for change are insightful. The aforementioned study

aggregated press releases, website and blog postings, and press conference statements and

separated the corporations’ communicated justification for the rebrand into two broad categories.

The first category of explanations emphasizes the point that the brand changes are driven by

changes that have affected the company’s structure or organization. These rebranding ventures

are generally non-marketing related and are more of an “administrative necessity” (Muzellec &

Lambkin, 2006). Mergers and acquisitions top the list of drivers toward rebranding. In fact, 75%

of the 2976 U.S. corporations that changed their names in 2000 resulted from mergers and/or

acquisitions (Muzellec & Lambkin, 2006). The other category addresses the need for

corporations to “foster a new image or rationalize the brand portfolio and reveal a rebranding

approach that is strategic in its own right” (Muzellec & Lambkin, 2006). The latter category also

pertains to corporations that seek to distance themselves from a negative reputation or scandal.

However, it is important to remember that while rebranding offers a golden opportunity, it

should not be attempted with the intention of papering over existing cracks. It is a fresh start but

not a cure-all.

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2.4 Worth the Risk?

If brand equity is built over time, through the maintenance of a consistent and high-

quality product or service, and a careful maintenance of brand reputation, what happens when a

corporation makes changes to its brand identity? There is a paradoxical relationship between

rebranding and the notion of brand equity; that is they seem to be at odds with each other.

Stephen Greyser and colleagues articulate this apparent disconnect in their article for the

European Journal of Marketing, titled “Corporate Marketing: insights and integration drawn

from corporate branding, corporate identity, corporate communication, corporate reputation and

visual identification.”

At first sight, rebranding practice may appear to contradict the marketing and corporate

reputation literature. The main inconsistency revolves around the notion of brand equity.

Some additional challenges appear with regards to rebranding gestation, involvement of

personnel and means of communication. Brand equity is a set of assets linked to a brand

name and symbols…hence, rebranding can be seen as a corporate marketing

transformation, i.e. a very strong formal signal to stakeholders and consumers that

something about the corporation has changed. (Greyser & Jenster, 2006).

Take a name change, for example. In order to launch a new name, the old name has to be

abandoned. This action brings with it the potential to nullify years of concentrated branding

efforts to gain recognition and build awareness. Along with a brand name comes a series of

attached associations (which as previously discussed, are crucial to the building of equity) that

may very well be lost with the phasing out of the original name (Greyser & Jenster, 2006). Name

awareness is a key component of brand equity, so rebranding involving a change of name can be

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damaging if not done correctly. The same risks exist for visual rebranding campaigns. What if

tomorrow, Nike changed its iconic logo? Even Nike’s CEO, Phil Knight, has been quoted

admitting “without the Swoosh, we’d be nowhere” (Muzellec & Lambkin, 2006). The sports

powerhouse’s brand recognition would significantly decrease, reducing it to just another athletic

gear manufacturer, even if the product remained unchanged.

Graeme Martin and Cary Cooper examine the risks associate with rebranding in their

book Corporate Reputation: Managing Opportunities and Threats. Beyond equity loss, there is a

great financial risk associated with executing a large scale rebranding campaign (Martin &

Cooper, 2011). Rebranding has been estimated to cost from thousands to millions of dollars

(Alshebil, 2007). Consider all of the subsequent changes that need to be made following a

change in name or logo. After AT&T “revitalized and reinvigorated” its logo in 2005, they had

to update nearly 50,000 company vehicles, 6,000 buildings, 40,000 uniforms and hardhats worn

by employees, millions of monthly bill statements, business cards, pamphlets and the website

(Alshebil, 2007). All this to say that brand managers had better be certain that their new brand

identity will be well received before taking the plunge, lest they learn the hard way and lose

millions.

Similarly, experts have deduced that rebranding can be classified depending on level of

intensity as either evolutionary or revolutionary, where evolutionary rebranding describes minor

changes to positioning and aesthetics, and revolutionary rebranding describes major,

recognizable changes (Muzellec & Lambkin, 2006). The latter category of rebranding is

substantially riskier, as it represents a much more dramatic departure from stability and a greater

possibility of equity loss and damage to the brand’s reputation. The impact of a rebranding

exercise on brand equity is a very complex issue with both qualitative and quantitative

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dimensions, and significant financial repercussions. The process challenges elementary

marketing theory and principles (Ing, 2012).

Existing literature on the subject of rebranding does confirm that while the process itself

can be very risky, a brand refresher can almost always be justified for one reason or another and,

if done correctly, can be very beneficial. The Journal of Business Strategy articulates this

concept:

Robust brands have always had to evolve to remain desirable. Managing brands for the

long run may involve rebranding. Carefully crafted monikers, designed by reputable

brand consultants, are supposed to ‘contemporize’ companies and their products by

providing them with updated identities. Thus almost any expenditure on rebranding is

considered fully justifiable and, in some cases, actually essential to survival. Rebranding

is expected to provide a golden opportunity for a complete transformation. (Kaikati &

Kaikati, 2003).

Muzellec and Lambkin of the European Journal of Marketing agree that “revitalizing and

repositioning” (frequently used terms synonymous with rebranding) a brand through gradual,

incremental modification of the brand proposition and marketing aesthetics can be considered a

natural and necessary part of the task of brand management.

2.5 Keep consumers in mind

It is absolutely crucial for brand managers to always keep their consumers in mind prior

to making any changes, big or small. It’s easy for C-Suite executives to sit behind a desk and

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justify a rebranding venture, but how will their loyal customers react? How will it affect them?

Ultimately, it’s the consumers and their purchasing decisions that will determine whether a brand

is a success or a failure in the marketplace.

The fact of the matter is, most consumers do not like change and are fairly

skeptical of rebranding. Mentioning the word “rebrand” can trigger some negative energy.

Following the rebranding of the European Telecom Eirann, Internet users expressed their

skepticism: “Let’s fool everyone into believing we’re new and dynamic, by spending millions on

a new image!” (Muzellec & Lambkin, 2006). Grace Ing, in her recent study for the International

Journal of Business and Society, asserts, “despite the high cost and unsure outcomes, empirical

research on the impacts of corporate rebranding strategy on consumers’ attitude structure is

scarce” (Ing, 2012). She conducted 138 questionnaires consisting of a pre-test and a recall test

comparing high and low familiarity brand names to determine attitudes pre-rebrand, during re-

brand and post-rebrand. Her findings suggest that consumer attitude structures vary according to

the levels of product familiarity, but that “the imposed element of the rebranding strategy might

induce skepticism among stakeholders and further influence their brand attitudes” (Ing, 2012).

Saleh Alshebil’s dissertation attempts to answer the same question, but examines logo

changes rather than name changes. Alshebil conducted in depth interviews with people of

varying demographics to obtain their feedback, deducing that consumers are generally suspicious

of change (Alshebil, 2007).

If a logo change is done right and it is favorably viewed – even if it is a drastic

change – consumers would likely be more interested in it, as well as less

questioning of it. The lower level of questioning would contribute to less

skepticism about it, and would contribute to the consumer’s improved attitude

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toward the brand. Of course, if a logo change is not done right and is unfavorably

viewed, multiple penalties would accrue when consumers apply their coping

process to the change. In such a case, the consumers’ attitude toward the brand

would decline (Alshebil, 2007).

His study also determined that highly-brand committed people had more negative attitudes

toward the brand after a logo change, but weakly-committed people had more positive brand

attitudes after the logo change (Alshebil, 2007).

While rebranding can be symbolic of a new beginning and can certainly help

corporations reposition their products to reach new consumers, it is a mistake to forget those that

have stood by them and may be attached to the existing name, look and feel. This is where focus

groups, market research and a carefully crafted communication strategy come into play, to help

ease consumers through the brand transition while still reaping the benefits of a refreshed image.

When it comes down to it, consumers and customers will determine the success or a failure of a

rebranding campaign. Their buy in or rejection of the changes translates to sustained or increased

brand equity and/or increased sales, so it is crucial to get their input and communicate throughout

the changes.

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CHAPTER 3: METHODOLOGY

Qualitative interviews with industry experts were conducted and analyzed to inform the

remainder of this study. This method was chosen as it typically elicits responses that would be

harder to obtain through a traditional survey design.

Each of the three professionals interviewed was asked the same set of questions. These

questions were designed to obtain responses that would answer the original research questions

that make up the premise of this study.

The interview participants were marketing experts with extensive knowledge of and

experience with branding and rebranding. Mary Verdin is the president of Verdin, a full-service

PR, marketing and branding agency located in San Luis Obispo, California. She has more than

twenty years of experience in the industry and has helped hundred of clients navigate the

rebranding process, in addition to rebranding her own business in 2011. Mary is also the

professional advisor for the Cal Poly Public Relations Student Society of America. Alexia

Haynes is an Account Executive at Clearpoint Public Relations, a boutique PR and marketing

firm in San Diego, California. She has a deep understanding of media relations, having worked

in PR for the past seven years, and working in radio and TV production in years prior. She has

worked with many clients, both established businesses and start-ups, in the technology and

finance fields and has managed on brand transitions, both big and small. Kristin Kenney is a Cal

Poly journalism alumna (Winter 2013) who has spent two years working as the Media &

Communications Coordinator for the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. There she acts

as a brand manager, and is currently working on rebranding CIE in addition to handling all of

their external communication. Additionally, Kristin was the student manager of Central Coast

PRspecitves, Cal Poly’s on-campus PR firm.

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The following questions were asked to interview participants in order to elicit responses

about the best rebranding practices:

1. What are the components of a strong, successful brand?

2. What does the rebranding process entail? How do you go about the process?

3. What are your [clients’] motivations for rebranding? Does this influence the process?

4. What are the risks associated with making changes to an existing brand identity? How

do you combat them?

5. What should generally be avoided when rebranding?

6. How important is communication in rebranding?

The interviews were recorded using an audio recorder, then transcribed into direct

quotations although some responses were paraphrased for added clarity. Interviews with Mary

Verdin and Kristin Kenney were conducted in person; the interview with Alexia Haynes was

conducted over the phone due to her location in San Diego.

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CHAPTER 4: DATA ANALYSIS

This chapter will focus on analyzing interview responses to provide insight into the

rebranding process and to attempt to answer the research questions.

4.1 Questionnaires

Question 1: What are the components of a strong, successful brand?

This question was asked to gain insight from experts on what the ideal brand should look like.

Mary Verdin: “One of the biggest things that resonates with people is the

idea of a brand coming from branding cattle. Is the brand the metal

instrument that I use to put the mark on the cow? No. The brand is the

impression that is left behind. It’s not your logo or your slogan; it’s the

promise you make to your customer and what they think about you. Three

key elements of a brand are that people recognize you, that they know

what you offer and what you promise, and that they know what you

deliver (this is the one you can manage but not control). Consistency is

key for achieving this. Consistent font, logo, colors, imagery,

tagline…everything consistent.” (Appendix B).

Alexia Haynes: “A successful brand really communicates clearly what the

company does, and for whom, and why they are different, special or

unique. It’s so much more than just a tagline or just a logo…it’s really

everything that they do communicates those things.” (Appendix C)

Kristin Kenney: “It’s important to remember that your brand isn’t just

your name and your logo, it’s really your value set. Brands should

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naturally grow out of value propositions. The value set isn’t something

that customers or the general public needs to know about necessarily, but

it should be the foundation for choosing a name and logo and it should

really guide the growth of a company - at least internally. You should

come up with a brand that has deeper roots than just a cool logo or even a

visual representation. The strongest thing you can do is stay true to your

values as an organization” (Appendix A).

Question 2: What does rebranding entail? How do you go about the process?

This question was asked to encourage industry experts to articulate the concept of rebranding and

share their process for successful rebranding campaigns.

Mary Verdin: “We have a rebranding process called the 4-BA process. We

create what’s called a “Brand Architecture” that addresses overall brand

equity. The top of the pyramid, so to speak, represents internal work: brand

character, why do people believe in your brand, what do you promise, this a

lot of times becomes the mission statement. Then comes the external part: the

new logo, website, ads, anything that communicates a change in look or

messaging for a company. We’ve been using this for probably three years.

The principles are still solid. The four steps we go by are as follows: 1)

Discovery: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT)

analysis. What do people thing about this company? Where do you stand out?

Are you capitalizing on that? 2) Visioning: Where do you want to go? What

are your goals for the brand? 3) Activation: This is where we actually deliver

a new name, new logo, new tagline, new website, etc. 4) Analytics: A lot of

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people forget about this step, but it’s crucial. All people in our industry talk

about anymore is ROI. This step is ongoing because it’s a continual process of

checking up on analytics” (Appendix B).

Alexia Haynes: “Since we are a PR firm, we like to start with the words – we

work with a contracted graphic designer to focus on the visual brand identity –

so we figure out what does the company want to communicate? What

messages do they want to put out and how will they change with a rebrand?

Like I said, the brand needs to communicate the essence of a company so in

rebranding we want to first assess that. Who are you? How are you unique?

What can you offer your customers? So I think the short answer is it is case-

by-case but we do have certain elements we make sure to look at every time. I

think most companies are pretty smart when they do different types of

rebranding when they somehow reflect the old and slowly change. It’s like the

rebranding we as consumers see in grocery stores, you know. Same great

product, new and improved package!” (Appendix C).

Kristin Kenney: “For us, we need to rebrand to end the confusion of having

one umbrella brand (CIE) that contains so many other subset programs…it

gets confusing really quickly. We have too many logos and not enough unity

so we’re working on that. We’ve been talking with University Advancement

to find a way to visually communicate the relationship and differences

between these different organizations and do it in a way that is easy for people

to understand. It needs to be quick and easy to understand – that is our major

hurdle. And it can’t be just throwing logos together. It’s figuring out a way to

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link them all that communicates how they’re all related but also different”

(Appendix A).

Question 3: What are your [clients’] motivations for rebranding?

This question was asked to get a better sense of the conditions under which corporations decide

to go through a rebrand and make changes to their brand identity.

Mary Verdin: “As we updated our web design and copy, we started to realize

that we had evolved and our brand no longer accurately representing our

company. When we started, it was just me…as we expanded we grew to a

staff of 12 people with two in-house designers and our goal was to expand

outside of SLO County. I’ve been in this community so long and people here

know me and what Verdin does, but in other places you have to start from

scratch. We mostly wanted to better represent ourselves and come up with a

more sophisticated look that matched the company we had grown into… It’s

different and kind of case-by-case. One case comes to mind for a mailing

software company called Accuzip. Essentially they had a goal of becoming

more global, both in terms of expanding from just mailing, but also

geographically, they wanted to be successful outside of the U.S. so they

needed to make some changes and we helped them do that” (Appendix B).

Alexia Haynes: “A big one that we see a lot is if the ownership has changed in

some way. So if we’re looking at a merger or an acquisition, some change in

ownership structure, that’s a good reason to make a change. The company has

literally changed in some way and they need to reflect that. Another big

reason is elevating a company image. A lot of times we’ll see that from a

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start-up company that has evolved over say five or ten years and they’ll say,

you know what, we’re not a teeny tiny fledgling company anymore, we’ve

grown up so they need a brand identity that reflects that more sophisticated,

grown-up version of themselves. Those are really the main reasons we’ve seen

rebranding…we also see it with milestones in a company. For instance, we

[Clearpoint Agency] actually rebranded for our 10-year anniversary. It wasn’t

a huge brand overhaul but we definitely reassessed. Who are we? Is this still

who we are? Have our goals changed?” (Appendix C).

Kristin Kenney: “Going back to value propositions…you need to really look

at why you’re rebranding. One of our start-ups, RepairTech is going through a

bit of a rebrand right now. They have great existing branding but they’re

current logo is a little too playful and doesn’t necessarily match their goals.

They hope to become a national company that is a little more serious and

communicates that they are a tool for professionals rather than a couple

college kids that can fix computers. That’s a situation in which it makes sense

and is appropriate to make changes to your brand identity. They are tweaking

things to better reach their target market” (Appendix A).

Question 4: What are the risks associated with rebranding? How do you combat them?

This question was asked to determine and acknowledge some of the risks and fears associated

with undergoing a change in brand identity, as well as the things to do in order to minimize these

risks.

Mary Verdin: “A client might come to us and say we have this new name,

now we need a new logo. I’ll response with but, do you know what people

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think about you now? If you’re going to take that risk of changing your brand

identity and putting yourself out there, you really want to take the time to do it

right so you can resonate with your customers. You can’t do that unless you

find out what they think of you. They might like something that you don’t

think they like, that could be your point of differentiation that you should be

capitalizing on. I think it is easy to skip research because it can be expensive

and brand managers think they have all of the answers already. Equity loss is

a big fear too. They think, gosh, we’ve had this brand identity for 20 years.

Are people going to think we’ve sold? Especially in this economy recently,

companies don’t want to look like they needed saving or needed to be bought.

That’s why you have to plan a launch for a rebrand, you can’t just do it

without explanation” (Appendix B).

Alexia Haynes: “It is something that has to be looked at…if a big company

decides to do a brand overhaul they should absolutely take stock of their

existing equity and find out what they might lose if they make big changes.

I’ve seen clients who have thought about a big change then decided it wasn’t

worth it, so it’s really an important first step to ask why you want to make a

change and do your research. Make sure you communicate very clearly with

all of your audiences or else they’ll be taken off guard and might become

skeptical.” (Appendix C).

Kristin Kenney: “The issue is when you don’t have a legitimate reason for

jeopardizing your equity and you change for the sake of changing…there just

needs to be solid reasoning and a lot of through that goes into rebranding.

Being contemporary is not good enough, in my opinion. Businesses probably

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feel pressure to change with the times, but if you’ve done the initial legwork,

your brand identity should be relatively timeless….For example, so many

start-ups have dumb names because they want to seem cool and different but

that’s not the way to distinguish your brand. A good brand goes beyond a

name and logo, though those are important since they are what people see. A

big thing to remember is your value statement. Why does your company

exist? What does it promise consumers? What associations do people have

with it? What makes it stand out? You need to answer those questions and

build a brand identity from that” (Appendix A).

Question 5: What should generally be avoided when rebranding?

This question was asked to determine red flags and common mistakes in the process that should

be avoided.

Mary Verdin: “Like New Coke and Gap? It amazes me how many big

corporations aren’t in tune with their audience. They’re the ones buying your

product, so what they think and feel and want should be at the forefront of

brand managers minds when making any changes…It can be easy to skip

research because it can be expensive but it is a mistake not to get a 360 degree

view of your brand and its environment prior to beginning a rebrand. And

back to consistency. If you saw the Pepsi logo and it was green and yellow

and a square instead of a circle but said Pepsi you’d think it didn’t look right

because it isn’t consistent. And you’d probably switch to Coke or something”

(Appendix B).

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Alexia Haynes: “Yeah, I really think communication and a slow rollout is

crucial. Sure you should have everything ready ahead of time, but prepare

people! But from the PR perspective it can be a great thing to talk about. Hey

we’ve rebranded! Why? Let us tell you. It’s a great opportunity for press.

Conversely, if you don’t explain it or give people time to get used to the idea

and adjust to the new look and feel it can be disastrous” (Appendix C).

Kristin Kenney: “Yes I’ve definitely witnessed a lot of start-up failures in my

years at CIE. There was one fledgling idea from Start Up weekend – I can’t

remember the initial name – but they started out as a crowd-sourcing

application to tell people where to sit if they want to catch fly balls. By the

end of the weekend they had developed into a crowd-sourced ticketing

application, which had a lot of potential, but their initial name was Swizz.

Swizz! That’s just awful I think and doesn’t give any indication of what the

application does. It was a good illustration of this point: of course you have to

have a good product to be successful, but your name is also very important. It

should be something that is short, easy to remember, and also not stupid. Also,

do your research and figure out why you want to change. If you do something

like Gap did a while back and just tweak the logo for no reason, just to seem

relevant, people will not respond well. There wasn’t anything wrong with the

existing logo…there just needs to be solid reasoning and a lot of thought that

goes into rebranding. Being contemporary is not good enough, in my opinion”

(Appendix A).

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Question 6: How important is communication to the success of a rebranding campaign?

This question was asked to get a professional opinion on the importance of communicating

throughout all stages of a change.

Mary Verdin: Don’t keep your key audiences in the dark! [When we

rebranded] we said here’s why we rebranded, here’s our new logo. Then after

the party we sent another e-blast to everyone on our list explaining that our

look was refreshed but our service would stay as good if not better than it had

been in the past. That night we switched over all of our social media pages to

match the new and improved brand identity, the new colors, new logo, new

name. We also sent out a press release and even purchased ads in local papers

for the following morning. We had 3 color ads saying, “fall is in the air. It’s a

great time for a change. Verdin Marketing Ink is now Verdin” (Appendix B).

Alexia Haynes: I think the most important thing is to make sure you’re being

very communicative throughout the whole process. It’s like the rebranding we

as consumers see in grocery stores, you know. Same great product, new and

improved package! It’s the same thing for a company. You’ll slowly see a

logo change over time. Or you’ll email customers who are confused and really

explain here’s our new logo, this is why we changed, here’s what it means for

you. Make sure you communicate very clearly with all of your audiences. You

want to talk to your customers, but it’s important how you communicate the

change to your internal audience, your employees and how you communicate

to stockholders or investors or even your competitors.

There’s a lot of

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different audiences to consider and a lot of different ways to communicate to

those audiences (Appendix C).

Kristin Kenney: That’s really the essence of my whole job at CIE. If people

are confused by our current, multiple logo situation, imagine how they’d be if

we changed it all drastically without any explanation! I think rebranding

oftentimes seems like internal work, like the company needs to just figure it

out on its own and hope for the best but I’ve learned that it’s better to really

break it down for your audience. Let them know how it will affect them”

(Appendix A).

4.2 Research Questions

For this research project, the following six research questions were created to better understand

the varying components of rebranding campaigns, as well as to determine best practices and

mistakes to avoid.

Research Question 1: What makes a successful brand?

A name, term, symbol, design or combination of them intended to identify goods or

services of one seller or group of sellers to differentiate them from those of competitors”

(AMA, 2012).

It is important to remember that a brand is also a bundle of attributes” (Geller, 2012).

“The five components to brand success: a great brand experience, clear and consistent

positioning, dynamism, authenticity and a strong corporate culture” (Hollis, 2008).

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Brand names are critical to the success of a new product, consumer and industrial goods

companies place similar emphasis on the brand naming task, and a detailed and

systematic process is used in the creation of the brand names” (Kohli & LaBahn, 1995).

“Meaningful brands are those that enhance the wellbeing of individuals, communities and

the environment” (Havas, 2011).

“Brands that focus on simplicity are able distinguish themselves from all of this noise and

gain a competitive advantage” (Kemp, 2013).

“Language can play tricks on marketers who don’t respond to cultural differences…

marketers must examine not just the spoken word, but all the elements of culture that

form a barrier to mutual understanding” (White, 2009).

Research Question 2: What does rebranding entail? How is it done successfully?

The marketing strategy of revitalizing and repositioning a brand through gradual,

incremental modification of the brand position and marketing aesthetics” (Muzellec &

Lambkin, 2006).

Rebranding is always carried out through a change in visual identification

communicated through conventional corporate communications media” (Muzellec &

Lambkin, 2006).

Before deciding to rebrand a product or even to tweak its logo and look, corporate

managers should ascertain what the customers think of it” (Kaikati & Kaikati, 2003).

“…six options for implementing a rebranding strategy: (1) phase in/phase out, (2)

combined rebranding strategy via one umbrella brand, (3) translucent warning strategy,

(4) sudden eradication strategy, (5) counter-takeover strategy and (6) retrobranding”

(Kaikati & Kaikati, 2003).

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During the phase-in stage of option one, the new brand remains tied to the existing brand

for a designated introductory period, after which time the old brand is gradually phased

out. This option provides stakeholders with a buffer time and helps ease the shock of

sudden changes” (Kaikati & Kaikati, 2003).

“This strategy is effective because corporations are able to almost hold the customers’

hands and walk them through the transition, rather than simply making the switch to a

new name/and or logo and hoping that the public will catch up” (Kaikati & Kaikati,

2003).

Research Question 3: Why rebrand?

“There are many motivators for rebranding, but on a very basic level, they fall into one of

two categories: have to vs. want to” (Alshebil, 2007).

“The main drivers for rebranding are, therefore, decisions, events or processes causing a

change in a company’s structure, strategy or performance of sufficient magnitude to

suggest the need for fundamental redefinition of its identity. Such events can vary from

sudden, total structural transformation following a merger or acquisition to a gradual

erosion of market share or firm’s reputation due to changing demand patterns or

competitive conditions. These drivers fall into four main categories: (1) change in

ownership structure, (2) change in corporate strategy, (3) change in competitive position

and (4) change in the external environment” (Muzellec & Lambkin, 2006).

“75% of the 2976 U.S. corporations that changed their names in 2000 resulted from

mergers and acquisitions” (Muzellec & Lambkin, 2006).

“[Need to] foster a new image or rationalize the brand portfolio and reveal a rebranding

approach that is strategic in its own right” (Muzellec & Lambkin, 2006).

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Research Question 4: What are the risks associated with rebranding? What should be

avoided?

“At first sight, rebranding practice may appear to contradict the marketing and corporate

reputation literature. The main inconsistency revolves around the notion of brand equity.

Some additional challenges appear with regards to rebranding gestation, involvement of

personnel and means of communication. Brand equity is a set of assets linked to a brand

name and symbols…hence, rebranding can be seen as a corporate marketing

transformation, i.e. a very strong formal signal to stakeholders and consumers that

something about the corporation has changed” (Greyser & Jenster, 2006).

“Along with a brand name comes a series of attached associations (which as previously

discussed, are crucial to the building of equity) that may very well be lost with the

phasing out of the original name” (Greyser & Jenster, 2006).

“There is a great financial risk associated with executing a large scale rebranding

campaign” (Martin & Cooper, 2011).

“Rebranding has been estimated to cost from thousands to millions of dollars” (Alshebil,

2007).

“Despite executives’ well-intentioned desire to signal change, it was an unfortunate

example of one change too many” (Zmuda, 2012).

“However, it is important to remember that while rebranding offers a golden opportunity,

it should not be attempted with the intention of papering over existing cracks” (Muzellec

& Lambkin, 2006).

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Research Question 5: How do consumers respond to rebranding? Why should brands

care?

Following the rebranding of the European Telecom Eirann, Internet users expressed their

skepticism: “Let’s fool everyone into believing we’re new and dynamic, by spending

millions on a new image!” (Muzellec & Lambkin, 2006).

“If a logo change is done right and it is favorably viewed – even if it is a drastic change –

consumers would likely be more interested in it, as well as less questioning of it. The

lower level of questioning would contribute to less skepticism about it, and would

contribute to the consumer’s improved attitude toward the brand. Of course, if a logo

change is not done right and is unfavorably viewed, multiple penalties would accrue

when consumers apply their coping process to the change. In such a case, the consumers’

attitude toward the brand would decline” (Alshebil, 2007).

“The imposed element of the rebranding strategy might induce skepticism among

stakeholders and further influence their brand attitudes” (Ing, 2012).

“Customers were not amused and voiced their disapproval via social media, leaving

15,826 mostly negative comments within 24 hours of the rebranding announcement”

(Pennington, 2011).

4.3 Rebranding Data

For this study it was important to consult experts in the fields of branding and marketing

to gain their professional opinions on how to go about the rebranding process in the best possible

way. The three respondents handle brand management on a daily basis and have insight to share

on the subject. Mary Verdin, Alexia Haynes and Kristin Kenney were each asked a series of

Hollenbeck 43

questions to aid in clarifying the existing literature, as presented in Chapter 2, as well as to

answer the original research questions.

What are the components of a successful brand?

This question was formulated to elicit a clear response and get the experts’ opinion on

this million-dollar question. It is crucial to understand what makes a strong successful brand in

order to aspire to it during a rebrand. Existing literature offers up a plethora of attributes that may

aid in brand success, from staying consistent and emphasizing unique attributes, to keeping the

company’s name, look and messaging very simple and meaningful.

The experts echoed some of the same points expressed in the literature. All three agreed

with the literature, in that a brand is much more than just a name, logo or tagline. Mary Verdin

suggested that a brand is more the impression that is left behind, while Alexia Haynes believes a

brand is a clear understanding of what a company does and what makes it unique. Kristin

Kenney suggested that strong brands are those that grow out of solid value statements, and the

importance communicating that sense of meaning and purpose in all aspects of branding. Mary

Verdin also emphasized the importance of staying consistent in all aspects of branding,

messaging and positioning. She agreed that fonts, logos, colors, taglines, etc. should be presented

consistently every time to build up equity. Verdin also said that a strong brand has the following

three key elements: people recognize you, people know what you offer and what you promise,

and people know what you deliver.

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Table 1: What are the components of a successful brand?

Respondent

What is a brand?

What makes it strong?

Mary Verdin

Not logo or slogan, but the promise you make to your customers and what they think of you.

Consistency, being recognizable and understood.

Alexia Haynes

Much more than name or logo.

Communicates clearly who a company is, what they do, and what makes them unique or different.

Kristin Kenney

Isn’t just name or logo, it’s a reflection of company value sets.

Strongest thing you can do is stay true to your values as an organization.

What does rebranding entail? How do you go about the process?

This question was asked to prompt experts to articulate exactly what rebranding is and

what it entails, in addition to sharing their individual processes. Existing literature is in

agreement that rebranding is a change in the identity of a brand, prompted by one of many

reasons – generally either because the existing brand identity doesn’t match the essence of the

company or because of a tangible, structural change. Both the existing literature and the experts

mentioned the necessity of really understanding why a corporation feels compelled to rebrand,

prior to making any changes. Some literature even suggests that brand managers provide detailed

answers to dozens of difficult questions before even deciding to rebrand (Brier, 2013). Alexia

Haynes asks her clients similar questions to better understand their unique situation and kick start

the process. She also likens corporate rebranding to supermarket packing redesign and believes

the communication of the change in brand identity should say something to the effect of “same

great product, new and improved look” (Appendix C).

Hollenbeck 45

Mary Verdin follows a four-step process for successful rebranding that echoes the

suggestions of existing literature. The first step is discovery, which is research intensive and

helps better understand the strengths and weaknesses of the current brand identity. Next she

suggests visioning to determine the end goals. Finally she suggests activation, the unrolling of

the new brand identity, and analytics for measuring success.

Kristin Kenney highly values logic and communication and attributes these strategies to a

rebranding campaign’s success, over a pretty logo or fancy name. She does mention the

importance of a brand name that is simple and explains what the company does, an important

point explored in the literature (Lerman & Garbarino, 2002).

Table 2: What is rebranding? How do you go about the process?

Respondent

What is a rebranding?

How?

Mary Verdin

Has internal and external components.

Rebuild brand architecture through discovery, visioning, activation and analytics.

Alexia Haynes

Same great product, new and improved package.

Figure out what messages company wants to communicate. Reflect the old and slowly change.

Kristin Kenney

Not just a new logo, more or a new communication strategy.

Need solid reasoning and thought process. Answer questions.

What are your [clients’] motivations for rebranding?

This question was asked to obtain responses that could be cross-referenced against the

motivations listed in the existing literature. It is helpful to understand why a corporation might

want or need to rebrand. Existing literature lists four main drivers: (1) change in ownership

structure, (2) change in corporate strategy, (3) change in competitive position and (4) change in

Hollenbeck 46

the external environment (Muzellec & Lambkin, 2006). An overwhelming majority of

rebranding case studies seem to have been prompted by a merger or acquisition.

Alexia Haynes also cites mergers and acquisition as the primary reason her clients choose to

rebrand. That said, she also thinks rebranding can elevate a company’s image if done correctly,

which is desirable. The latter reasoning aligns with the literature: “fostering a new image or

rationalize the brand portfolio and reveal a rebranding approach that is strategic in its own right”

(Muzellec & Lambkin, 2006).

Mary Verdin and Kristin Kenney are in agreement that rebranding should occur if the

existing brand identity no longer adequately represents the company, whether that is literal due

to a change in management or more figurative in the sense that the current identity is not clearly

communicative or is being misinterpreted. Mary Verdin shared her experience rebranding her

own business and said “We mostly wanted to better represent ourselves and come up with a more

sophisticated look that matched the company we had grown into” (Appendix B). She also noted

that her clients sometime have to reevaluate their branding to make themselves more widely

understood and global. Kristin Kenney also shared a case study of a start-up she works with that

is changing their logo to better reach and communicate with their target audience.

Both the experts and the literature reached the consensus that changing for the sake of

change is ill advised and rarely successful when it comes to branding.

Table 3: What is rebranding? How do you go about the process?

Respondent

Motivations for rebranding

Mary Verdin

If existing brand identity no longer accurately represents company and its goals.

Alexia Haynes

Mergers and acquisitions, to elevate company image or to signify company milestone.

Kristin Kenney

To better communicate essence of company and its values, to better reach target market.

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Question 4: What are the risks associated with rebranding? How do you combat them?

Existing literature and case studies have shown that undergoing a rebrand can be very

risky. Changing a brand’s identity, whether that change is minor or major, puts them in the

spotlight and opens the doors for potentially negative feedback. These risks threaten both the

company and the brand’s reputation and equity, and their potential profits (Brier, 2013). This

question was asked to prompt experts to articulate the risks they encounter when rebranding and

the ways they work to minimize them.

Mary Verdin agreed with existing literature that loss of brand equity and all that comes

with it is probably the biggest risk and fear associated with rebranding. “They think, gosh, we’ve

had this brand identity for 20 years. Are people going to think we’ve sold? Especially in this

economy recently, companies don’t want to look like they needed saving or needed to be bought.

That’s why you have to plan a launch for a rebrand, you can’t just do it without explanation”

(Appendix B). Alexia Haynes adds to this concept and recommends that companies take stock of

their existing equity and really understand what they stand to lose if rebranding goes wrong. She

has watched clients decide against rebranding because of the potential risks. Kristin Kenney is

more optimistic, believing that if you do the legwork and have a justifiable reason for changing,

you should be successful. “The issue is when you don’t have a legitimate reason for jeopardizing

your equity and you change for the sake of changing…there just needs to be solid reasoning and

a lot of through that goes into rebranding” (Appendix A).

All three experts agreed with existing literature that the best way to combat these risks is

to have a strategic plan for launching the new and improved brand identity. This aligns with

Kaikati and Kaikati’s “translucent warning strategy” in which publics are kept informed

throughout all phases of the rebrand so they have time to adjust and feel included rather than

taken off guard or betrayed.

Hollenbeck 48

Table 4: What are the risks associated with rebranding? How do you combat them?

Respondent

Risks

How to combat?

Mary Verdin

Loss of equity, hit to brand’s reputation.

Have a strategy for launching new brand. Explain reasoning and what it means to customers.

Alexia Haynes

Potential loss of existing equity if rebranding is not well received.

Do your research and inform your varying audiences.

Kristin Kenney

Jeopardizes equity if you are not rebranding for the right reasons.

Need legitimate reasoning behind rebranding. Communicate it.

Question 5: What should generally be avoided when rebranding?

This question was asked to gain the experts’ perspective on what should absolutely be

avoided in any rebranding situation. Respondents shared their personal observations as well as

opinions on larger-scale case studies of rebranding gone wrong.

Both Mary Verdin and Kristin Kenney mentioned Gap’s retrobranding incident, in which

they made “one change too many” and ended up reverting back to their original logo after the

new one was met with harsh criticism by consumers. However, Verdin and Kenney had slightly

different analyses of this case study. Verdin saw this as an example of being out-of-touch with

your customers, while Kenney saw it as a brand making the all-too-common mistake of changing

simply for the sake of change. The literature suggests that Gap updated their logo to give off a

“fresh” vibe after years or stagnant sales, and that they did so much too rapidly and without

warning, without so much as testing with focus groups or even explaining their reasoning to

customers (Zmuda, 2012).

Alexia Haynes agrees that moving too quickly and keeping your audiences in the dark is

a big mistake: “I really think communication and a slow rollout is crucial. Sure you should have

Hollenbeck 49

everything ready ahead of time, but prepare people! If you don’t, it can be disastrous” (Appendix

C). It is also important to remember that while rebranding offers a golden opportunity, it should

not be attempted with the intention of papering over existing cracks (Muzellec & Lambkin,

2006).

Finally, Mary Verdin stressed the important of doing your research to determine if and

how to rebrand. She has noticed many brand managers skipping out on research because “they

think they already know everything” and because it can be expensive, but asserts that it’s

worthwhile in the long run.

Table 5: What should generally be avoided when rebranding?

Respondent

What to avoid when rebranding?

Mary Verdin

Being out-of-touch with your audiences, failure to communicate change, lack of research.

Alexia Haynes

Keeping your audiences in the dark and moving too quickly without warning.

Kristin Kenney

Changing for the sake of change.

Question 6: How important is communication to the success of a rebranding campaign?

Existing literature touches on the need to communicate heavily throughout a rebrand, but

neglects to outline exactly what companies should be explaining, how and to whom. This

question was asked to ascertain feedback from communications professionals. All three

respondents heavily emphasized the need to cover all bases when it comes to communicating

change. When Mary Verdin rebranded her company, she made sure the news reached all relevant

audiences, from her own customers, to local community members. “We said here’s why we

rebranded, here’s our new logo. Then after the party we sent another e-blast to everyone on our

list explaining that our look was refreshed but our service would stay as good if not better than it

Hollenbeck 50

had been in the past. That night we switched over all of our social media pages to match the new

and improved brand identity, the new colors, new logo, new name. We also sent out a press

release and even purchased ads in local papers for the following morning. We had 3 color ads

saying, ‘fall is in the air. It’s a great time for a change. Verdin Marketing Ink is now Verdin’”

(Appendix B).

Alexia Haynes agreed, adding that all audiences should be informed, including

customers, employees, investors and even competitors. “I think the most important thing is to

make sure you’re being very communicative…there’s a lot of different audiences to consider and

a lot of different ways to communicate to those audiences” (Appendix C). Kristin Kenney echoes

this, understanding that sometimes companies feel that rebranding is more of an internal issue

but also realizing that it’s best to really break it down for your audience and spell out how the

change will affect them.

Existing literature has shown that customers react poorly to a rebrand if they are surprised

by it or feel that they have no say in the matter. Consequently, they become skeptical of the

brand and lose trust in the company, which results in a damaging hit to the brand’s equity (Ing,

2012). Communication is as important as the new name, logo or tagline, if not more important.

Table 6: How important is communication to the success of a rebranding campaign?

Respondent

How important?

How to communicate?

Mary Verdin

Crucial.

Make sure you are reaching all relevant audiences to inform them of reasoning behind change and its implications.

Alexia Haynes

The most important aspect of rebranding.

Consider all of your audiences and make sure to reach all of them.

Kristin Kenney

Very important.

Best to break it down and let public know how it will affect them.

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Research Questions

The questions asked of the industry experts were intentionally similar to the original

research questions, and were designed to elicit relevant and insightful answers.

Research Question 1: What makes a successful brand?

All three experts agreed that a brand is much more than just a name, logo or tagline.

When it came to breaking down the components of a successful brand, they each had slightly

different responses. Mary Verdin argues that staying consistent and being recognizable and

understood is the key to brand success. Alexia Haynes suggested a strong brand is one that

clearly communicates what it does and what makes it unique, and Kristin Kenney said that strong

brands are those that grow out of and stay true to their value propositions.

The literature offers up varying responses to this question. Research backs up the experts

in articulating that a brand is more a bundle of attributes and impressions than it is a tangible

visual representation of a product or service (Geller, 2012). Literature added that brands should

strive to highlight what makes them unique and meaningful, while staying relatively simple

(Havas, 2012). It also touched on the challenge of coming up with brand names that are

simultaneously descriptive, short and easy to remember – a point that Kristin Kenney also made.

In conclusion, companies should strive for the aforementioned qualities of strong brands

when handling their own rebranding.

Research Question 2: What does rebranding entail? How is it done successfully?

Just like a brand is more than just a logo, a rebranding effort consists of more than just

developing a new logo. The experts were in agreement on this point, though they articulated their

answers slightly differently. Mary Verdin acknowledged that rebranding has internal and

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external components, and outlined Verdin’s 4-step process for rebranding: discovery, visioning,

activation and analytics (Appendix B). Alexia Haynes emphasized the messaging component of

the rebranding process and likened it to the old adage: “same great product, new and improved

look!” (Appendix C). Kristin Kenney agreed that rebranding is largely a messaging and

communication strategy, and she urged brand managers to start with a solid reasoning to justify

changes to brand identity.

The research affirms that there are both internal and external parts of the rebranding

process. Kaikati and Kaikati outlined six options for implementing a rebranding strategy: (1)

phase in/phase out, (2) combined rebranding strategy via one umbrella brand, (3) translucent

warning strategy, (4) sudden eradication strategy, (5) counter-takeover strategy and (6)

retrobranding (Kaikati & Kaikati, 2003). All but one of these options requires some level of

external communication with the public, as well as a heavy initial research stage and the actual

development of a new name, logo and/or tagline.

In conclusion, companies should be aware of their potential options for implementing a

rebranding strategy, and should generally begin with research and end with analytics.

Research Question 3: Why rebrand?

This question elicited nearly identical answers from the three respondents. Mary Verdin

and Kristin Kenney both mentioned an instance in which brand identity and brand values do not

match and cited that as a main driver of rebranding. Alexia Haynes added mergers and

acquisitions, elevating company image and company milestones to the mix.

The literature mentions all of these motivators and more. Muzellec and Lambkin agree

than misrepresentation of brand identity is a compelling reason to rebrand. They also found that a

Hollenbeck 53

large majority of companies that rebranded did so because of a merger or acquisition situation,

which supports Alexia’s point. (Muzellec & Lambkin, 2006).

In conclusion, companies should carefully evaluate why they feel compelled to rebrand

and check to see if their motivations align with those that researchers and experts have deemed

worthy of taking such a big risk. If a company cannot articulate why they want to rebrand or

support their decision with adequate research, it’s safe to say they should not be rebranding to

begin with.

Research Question 4: What are the risks associated with rebranding? What should be

avoided?

All three experts admitted that rebranding is a risky undertaking, due to its potential for

falling flat or worse, diminishing or destroying existing brand equity by changing a familiar

name or altering a traditional logo. Mary Verdin and Alexia Haynes focused primarily on the

reputation risk, and Kristin Kenney acknowledged the risk but was confident it could be

minimized with careful planning. The research addressed the potential reputation risk, but also

examined the risk of diminished markets and profits, as well as the actual cost of undergoing the

rebranding process. Saleh Alshebil determined it costs between thousands and millions of dollars

for a major corporation to rebrand and update all visible materials, from marketing collateral, to

buildings, cars, website, etc (Alshebil, 2007). Martin and Cooper concurred that there is a

noteworthy financial risk.

The experts came up with three overall mistakes to avoid: keeping your audiences in the

dark/failing to communicate, changing too rapidly without doing the proper research, and

changing simply for the sake of changing. The research focuses more on the risks than how to

overcome them, but does emphasize research and communication.

Hollenbeck 54

In conclusion, companies should be familiar with the inherent reputation and financial

risks that come with making a big change to brand identity. That said, they should not be afraid

to undergo the process if their reasoning is sound and they are making the best use of their

available resources.

Research Question 5: How do consumers respond to rebranding? Why should brands

care?

The experts found that the rebranding campaigns they have worked on were all

overwhelmingly positive, and attributed this success to targeted, meaningful and frequent

communication with all relevant audiences. Literature supports this idea, showing in case after

case that consumers reacted badly largely because they felt taken off guard and left out of the

loop, or weren’t made to understand why a brand had changed so drastically on them.

Saleh Alshebil’s thesis research concluded that for the most part, consumers prefer stability to

change in brand identity. However, the literature has confirmed that rebranding is a natural and

oftentimes necessary occurrence in the lifecycle of any successful brand (Kaikati & Kaikati,

2003). Times change, companies evolve and brands would be wise to make changes when it is

appropriate (Brier, 2013). Alshebil’s study also determined that if a rebrand is done correctly and

favorably viewed, consumers would likely be more interested and less skeptical, but the opposite

holds true if the change is unfavorably viewed (Alshebil, 2007).

In conclusion, companies should understand the power that their audiences and

consumers have to make or break a rebranding campaign. With this in mind, brand managers

should involve actual consumers and/or customers as often as possible in the process and

communicate early and often to allow time for feedback and adjustment.

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CHAPTER 5: SUMMARY

The purpose of this study was to shed light on the complicated process of corporate

rebranding and provide suggestions to steer brand managers towards success. This study

addresses the issue of increasingly unsuccessful rebranding ventures in recent years. Qualitative

interviews of industry experts were conducted to supplement an in-depth review of existing

literature on the subject. This research was guided the following overarching questions:

1. What makes a successful brand?

2. What does rebranding entail? What are the steps in the process?

3. Why rebrand?

4. What are the consequences of rebranding gone wrong? Risks? What to avoid?

5. How do consumers respond to rebranding? Why should brands care?

It’s challenging to create protocol for rebranding that is perfectly applicable for every

company’s goals. Each company facing the possibility of a rebrand has a unique situation and

similarly unique needs, depending on their size, sector, target consumers and long-term goals.

However, it is crucial that brand managers and marketing executives are as informed as possible

about the basics prior to diving into the costly and risky process of rebranding if they want to

come out on top. By examining relevant literature and consulting industry experts, some general

conclusions can be drawn which answer the aforementioned research questions.

Both the experts and the literature agree that the first step should always be determining

why, exactly, the corporation feels the need to make changes to its brand identity and what

consumers think about the existing branding. This exercise is designed to weed out corporations

that are looking for a quick fix for an unrelated issue or feeling compelled to update their look

Hollenbeck 56

simply because it is seemingly trendy (Brier, 2013). According to literature and experts, most

often rebranding is sparked by a change in corporate structure or an existing brand identity that

does not accurately communicate a company’s essence and values. If after a thorough discussion

about motivation, the corporation has determined a rebrand is still appropriate, they must begin

working (internally or with a contracted branding agency) to come up with a new, suitable

identity. While the crafting of the new look and feel is certainly a creative process, it is important

to remember the value of research (Appendix B). A name, color or logo cannot be chosen simply

for the reason that it sounds nice or looks pretty especially if it belongs to a global brand. Mock-

ups should be thoroughly tested in focus groups and researched to ensure they will not be lost in

translation among varying markets and consumers.

At this point, brand managers should also take care to make sure the proposed new brand

identity is strong. Again, the experts and literature are in agreement that a strong brand is one

that clearly communicated its meaning and value, emphasizes its unique attributes and authentic

characteristics, and keeps messaging simple. These are highly valued attributes in the eyes of

consumers (Havas, 2011). Emphasizing these characteristics will help maintain, if not increase,

the brand’s equity despite the impending changes.

Depending on the circumstances, the corporation should develop a strategic

communication plan for unveiling their new brand identity. The existing research and expert

interviews both emphasized the necessity of clear and consistent communication throughout any

brand transition. In most cases, consumers (especially the loyal ones) need to be coddled and

slowly transitioned between identities otherwise they will feel as though the rug has pulled out

from under their feet. Companies should take care to identify all relevant audiences and employ

measures to communicate with all of them, to explain the reasoning behind their rebranding and

its implications lest they risk their customers becoming skeptical or responding negatively to the

Hollenbeck 57

change (Appendix C). In select few cases (where the goal is distancing the brand from a negative

image, for example), it may be better to make the switch without any warning or buffer time,

though this approach carries its own risks (Kaikati & Kaikati, 2003).

Once the rebrand has gone live, corporations can do little but wait it out and pay close

attention to consumers’ reactions by monitoring analytics (Appendix B). Because of the nature of

rebranding, it may take some time to measure the change’s effect on equity. Loyal consumers

need time to adjust and new customers need time to build loyalty. If the rebranding is not well

received, brand managers should employ retrobranding strategies as damage control. Despite the

inherent risks associated with rebranding, it is fundamentally a fresh start and, if done carefully

and conscientiously, it can help corporations revitalize their brands and evolve for the better.

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INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT

APPENDIX A

Respondent: Kristin Kenney Cal Poly journalism alumna (2013), Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Communications Coordinator, Former student manager of Central Coast PRspecitves Date of interview: 7/8/2013

Kelsey Hollenbeck: Can you start by describing your involvement and experience with branding and rebranding?

Kristin Kenney: Sure. I’ll start with CIE [Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship]. You kind of already know what I do, which is pretty much anything and everything communications related and web related. As far as branding, we’re trying to figure out our [CIE] branding right now. The issue is that we have pretty much two separate organizations and then the Hot House, which is probably the strongest and most recognizable “brand” that we have but it’s just a place. So it’s kind of a mess. We’re just figuring out how to combine all of these aspects into one brand that is clearly defined but still representative of the individual parts. Right now people are confused.

KH: I can understand why. In your opinion, what makes a strong brand?

KK: It’s important to remember that your brand isn’t just your name and your logo, it’s really your value set. Brands should naturally grow out of value propositions. The value set isn’t something that customers or the general public needs to know about necessarily, but it should be the foundation for choosing a name and logo and it should really guide the growth of a company - at least internally. You should come up with a brand that has deeper roots than just a cool logo or even a visual representation. The strongest thing you can do is stay true to your values as an organization.

KH: What are some of the risks involved in rebranding?

KK: Yeah. The SBDC, which is the Small Business Development Center, provides a lot of our funding so we have to give them exposure and they require two of their logos to be on all of our materials. This makes it confusing because we have to give everyone their due exposure, if you will, but we end up with a bar of like 5 or 6 logos on every piece of marketing collateral and that is just confusing for people. That said, change can certainly be good and sometimes you just have to take that risk because it can pay off. In our case, it’s worth the initial confusion because in the end we’ll have a more logical set of brand identities and our target publics will have a better understanding of who we are and what each of our divisions does. Change can be scary, especially for an established company with a well-known brand, but if you’ve done the proper research and have solid reasoning behind it, it should be a win-win.

KH: So how is CIE going about this process of rebranding?

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KK: We commissioned iiiDesign to do the brand identity for the Hot House a while back, but they haven’t yet come up with a solution to our problem aside from the logo bar that is admittedly confusing. We’ve been talking with University Advancement to find a way to visually communicate the relationship and differences between these different organizations and do it in a way that is easy for people to understand. It needs to be quick and easy to understand – that is our major hurdle. And it can’t be just throwing logos together. It’s figuring out a way to link them all that communicates how they’re all related but also different.

KH: What is your motivation for rebranding?

KK: Yeah pretty much everyone is confused. Even I get confused from time to time and I’m in charge of all the messaging so that’s not a good sign. I do all of the CIE newsletters and external communication and a lot of the time my boss will want to put in SBDC events which aren’t technically associated with CIE but may involved using the Hot House, which is run by CIE. It gets pretty tricky pretty quickly and even I sometimes struggle with identifying which logo goes where and who is sponsoring which event. Imagine how confusing that would be to the outside observer!

KH: Yeah, I’ve been to a few CIE events and couldn’t tell you the difference between CIE, the Hot House, Accelerator, SBDC, and Start-Up Weekend…beyond the fact that one is an event and one is a building. Right?

KK: Exactly my point. That the problem and its worth fixing.

KH: What elements make a brand successful, in your opinion?

KK: Yes I’ve definitely witnessed successes and failures in my years at CIE. There was one fledgling idea from Start Up weekend – I can’t remember the name – but they started out as a crowd-sourcing application to tell people where to sit if they want to catch fly balls. By the end of the weekend they had developed into a crowd-sourced ticketing app, which had a lot of potential, but their initial name was Swizz. Swizz! That’s just awful I think and doesn’t give any indication of what the app does. It was a good illustration of this point: of course you have to have a good product to be successful, but your name is also very important. It should be something that is short, easy to remember, and also not stupid. So many start-ups have dumb names because they want to seem cool and different but that’s not the way to distinguish your brand. A good brand goes beyond a name and logo, though those are important since they are what people see. A big thing to remember is your value statement. Why does your company exist? What does it promise consumers? What associations do people have with it? What makes it stand out? You need to answer those questions and build a brand identity from that.

KH: Good advice. Any specific examples of this principle?

KK: Neighbor Favor/Favor comes to mind. This is a Cal Poly start-up turned nationally successful app where friends could request favors of each other. It has since evolved into a food- delivery service with a fleet of drivers to do favors. Anyway, their product did change a little bit and now they’re just called Favor, but I think Neighbor Favor (abbreviated Neighb Fav) was a

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little more playful and frankly better communicated what they set out to do. Favor doesn’t really tell you what they do. Favor could mean a lot of things. Favor isn’t a bad name, it’s shorter and simpler which is always good, but I think they should have kept the old name. The change hasn’t really affected them all that much but that’s one of those things where there are a million food delivery apps and Favor doesn’t sound too unique to me. Besides the name change, they went through a long process and did lots of focus groups to come up with their logo and tagline, and overall look and feel. That’s the cool thing about CIE is we have lots of resources and experts in the subjects of entrepreneurship and marketing to guide start-ups in and set them up for success.

KH: Can you think of anything specific to avoid when rebranding?

KK: Going back to value propositions…you need to really look at why you’re rebranding. One of our start-ups, RepairTech is going through a bit of a rebrand right now. They have great existing branding but they’re current logo is a little too playful and doesn’t necessarily match their goals. They hope to become a national company that is a little more serious and communicates that they are a tool for professionals rather than a couple college kids that can fix computers. That’s a situation in which it makes sense and is appropriate to make changes to your brand identity. They are tweaking things to better reach their target market.

The issue is when you don’t have a legitimate reason for jeopardizing your equity and change for the sake of changing. If you do something like Gap did a while back and just tweak the logo for no reason, just to seem relevant, people will not respond well. There wasn’t anything wrong with the existing logo…there just needs to be solid reasoning and a lot of through that goes into rebranding. Being contemporary is not good enough, in my opinion. Businesses probably feel pressure to change with the times, but if you’ve done the initial legwork, your brand identity should be relatively timeless.

KH: Thank you so much for your help.

KK: Anytime!

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INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT

APPENDIX B

Respondent: Mary Verdin President and Founder of Verdin Marketing Date of interview: 7/9/2013

Kelsey Hollenbeck: I’ll start by asking you what you think makes a strong brand?

Mary Verdin: I often talk to student groups about this topic and one of the first things I do is explain what a brand is. One of the biggest things that resonate with people is the idea of a brand coming from branding cattle. Is the brand the metal instrument that I use to put the mark on the cow? No. The brand is the impression that is left behind. It’s not your logo or your slogan; it’s the promise you make to your customer and what they think about you. I think a lot of people don’t like that because you can manage it to some extent but you can’t control it altogether. The 3 elements of a brand are…

1) That they recognize you…this comes from your name, your logo, your color scheme and consistent imagery…everything we do for Blue Rooster Telecom, for example, is going to have this same color blue and the same fonts.

2) I know what you offer and what you promise…that’s what marketing does. Marketing tells people what the company does, it informs.

3) I know what you deliver. That’s the part that marketing can’t necessarily deliver. It’s what the public thinks of a company based on their individual experience. For example, if I got to FedEx and absolutely need something delivered overnight but half the time I do this, it doesn’t get there on time they can advertise overnight delivery all they want but I won’t believe it, I’ll be skeptical. That’s their brand to me. These are the things that feel make up a brand.

Another key is consistency: consistent font, logo usage, color, typography, tagline, service. I had a client years ago and we showed them a few potential logos and they said, “we like them all – can’t we just use all of them?” and I was shocked. What a nightmare, no way can you have three different looking logos. Consumers will be so confused. If you saw the Pepsi logo and it was green and yellow and a square instead of a circle but said Pepsi you’d think it didn’t look right because it isn’t consistent.

KH: What are some risks of rebranding?

MV: Equity loss is a big fear, I think. They think, gosh, we’ve had this brand identity for 20 years. Are people going to think we’ve sold? Especially in this economy recently, companies don’t want to look like they needed saving or needed to be bought and sometimes a rebrand signifies that. That’s why you have to plan a launch for a rebrand; you can’t just do it without explanation.

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KH: What’s an example of a successful rebrand that you’ve been a part of?

MV: Well we actually rebranded a couple years ago. I really think we did a good job. It was an interesting process and it really helped us refine our rebranding process for clients…we had to live it so that was insightful. We obviously had all of the new identity decided ahead of time, and then we officially went live with it on a Friday. September 22, 2011 to be exact. Earlier that week we sent out an e-blast to clients only. First we were going to say “Oooh, something exciting is happening, we have a surprise for you” but we decided to be more transparent because part of our brand is not talking too much about ourselves and keeping the focus on our clients. We wouldn’t exist without them so we wanted to clearly communicate what this rebrand would mean for them and their businesses. We decided to just say that we’re rebranding and invite them to come see it first. We thought if we got ten people to show up it would be a success but we ended up with about 25, so that was great. We had repainted the lobby to match our new color scheme. We said here’s why we rebranded, here’s our new logo. Then after the party we sent another e-blast to everyone on our list explaining that our look was refreshed but our service would stay as good if not better than it had been in the past. That night we switched over all of our social media pages to match the new and improved brand identity, the new colors, new logo, new name. We also sent out a press release and even purchased ads in local papers for the following morning. We had 3 color ads saying, “fall is in the air. It’s a great time for a change. Verdin Marketing Ink is now Verdin.”

KH: How were you able to determine whether or not the rebranding campaign was a success?

MV: Of course we measured everything. We had analytics on all of our pages, our webpage and social media platforms. We actually changed out the big sign on the building facing Tank Farm Rd. and that got a lot of attention because it’s a busy road for locals and while they may never have noticed it before, they noticed that it was different. It was really successful. That’s key to not having confusion. You want to be sure you’re hitting people from different angles so that as many people as possible are made aware of the change and the motivation behind it. We hit people from lots of angles…we had the e-blast, we sent postcards, we had the launch party, ads in the paper, the sign…all within a weeks period they’re seeing all of this.

KH: What motivated you to rebrand Verdin?

MV: It all started with us needing to update our website. Every two or three years you need to update your website…you know technology changes. As we updated our web design and copy, we started to realize that we had evolved and our brand no longer accurately represented our company. When we started, it was just me, and I brought a strategic planning expertise. I opened as a full-service marketing firm and worked with outsourced designers and ad-buyers…that was Verdin Marketing Ink. As we expanded we grew to a staff of 12 people with two in-house designers and our goal was to expand outside of SLO County. I worried people in other areas would think l I was a printing company, because of the “Ink” play on “Inc” and obviously I didn’t want that. I’ve been in this community so long and people here know me and what Verdin does, but in other places you have to start from scratch. We mostly wanted to better represent ourselves and come up with a more sophisticated look that matched the company we had grown into.

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KH: What are some of the reasons that your clients come to you wanting to rebrand? What are their motivations?

MV: It’s different and kind of case-by-case. One case comes to mind for a company called Accuzip. They are basically a national software company that provides solutions for mailing for

big companies. But they had also recently developed some software that the average person could use, with applications outside mailing. So they wanted to expand and be seen as more than a mailing company. Their original logo is very reminiscent of the USPS, it’s got red and blue with a flag-like motif. Some of their other materials even had an eagle on them. Essentially they had a goal of becoming more global, both in terms of expanding from just mailing, but also geographically, they wanted to be successful outside of the U.S. We have a rebranding process

called the 4-BA process. We create what’s called a brand architecture (See Appendix

addresses overall brand equity. The top of the pyramid, so to speak, represents internal work:

brand character, why do people believe in your brand, what do you promise, this a lot of times becomes the mission statement. Then comes the external part: the new logo, website, ads, anything that communicates a change in look or messaging for a company. We did a lot of surveying for them of their entire customer database, anonymously, so we could find out what they think about Accuzip, what they like and don’t like, etc. We had a gift card incentive, which worked really well, we got hundreds of responses. We also did some one-on-one interviews over the phone with a diverse sampling of customers, ranging from different sized businesses or different industries to even customers who expressed interest in Accuzip products but ended up going with another company to find out what held them back to get 360 degree view of what the existing brand means to people, what were the weaknesses and selling points. The new crated a brand report and worked on some new logos.

) that

KH: Tell me a little more about the logo development process:

MV: We wanted to introduce some new things but also keep some aspects of the existing look. I’m kind of a fan of that approach; I like seeing evolution of a logo that still harkens back to the brand’s history. They’ve been around for 22 years so they have a lot of history. We always start in black and white, so no one gets distracted by colors. They ended up choosing the one that has the similar shape and feel of the original, incorporated in a new way. They then chose from four color palettes and we whipped up a brand style guide so they could produce consistent collateral.

KH: Do you foresee making any changes to your existing rebranding protocol?

MV: Sure. It’s like anything; we’ve been using this for probably three years. The principles are still solid. The four steps we go by are as follows:

1)

Discovery: SWOT analysis. What do people thing about this company? Where do you

2)

stand out? Are you capitalizing on that? Visioning: Where do you want to go? What are your goals for the brand?

3)

Activation: This is where we actually deliver a new name, new logo, new tagline, new

4)

website, etc. Analytics: A lot of people forget about this step, but it’s crucial. All people in our industry talk about anymore is ROI. This step is ongoing because it’s a continual process of checking up on analytics. Having measurable metrics, whether they’re anecdotal or

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quantitative (web traffic numbers). After we rebranded I was actually invited to speak at a SLO Chamber meeting. They were like, you know, we saw that you rebranded, you’ve been around for several years and you’re obviously evolving with the times and showing progress and betterment, we’d like you to speak about that. For me that was a huge marker of success. Not only did people notice that we had rebranded, they deemed it successful.

KH: Can you think of anything major to avoid when rebranding?

MV: I think one thing that’s hard for clients to understand is the importance of research. A lot of times, businesses will come to us and say they need an ad. And we’ll explain that we can’t just create a singular ad. I need to know about the business, about its competitive environment, about its target audience and target market…so that first ad might cost $2000, not because the ad space is expensive, but because we have to take the time to do the research and make it successful. The subsequent ads might only cost $300. It’s the same idea for rebranding. A client might come to us and say we have this new name, now we need a new logo. I’ll response with “but do you know what people think about you now?” If you’re going to take that risk of changing your brand identity and putting yourself out there, you really want to take the time to do it right so you can resonate with your customers. You can’t do that unless you find out what they think of you. They might like something that you don’t think they like, that could be your point of differentiation that you should be capitalizing on. I think it’s easy to skip research because it can be expensive and brand managers think they have all of the answers already.

Like New Coke and Gap. It amazes me how many big corporations aren’t in tune with their audience. They’re the ones buying your product, so what they think and feel and want should be at the forefront of brand managers minds when making any changes.

KH: Awesome. Thank you for taking the time to talk to me! I really appreciate it.

MV: No problem, I hope I gave you some good answers.

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INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT

APPENDIX C

Respondent: Alexia Haynes Account Executive, Clearpoint Public Relations Date of interview: 7/28/2013

Kelsey Hollenbeck: Good morning, Alexia! Could you please start by describing your personal experience with branding and rebranding?

Alexia Haynes: Sure! I have worked at a PR agency for the past seven years and we have helped numerous clients both through big brand transitions and smaller, subtler changes. So I definitely feel qualified to talk about this subject.

KH: What would you say makes a strong brand?

LH: A successful brand really communicates clearly what the company does, and for whom, and why they are different, special or unique. It’s so much more than just a tagline or just a logo…it’s really everything that they do communicates those things that I just mentioned.

KH: So does your agency have a set protocol for rebranding?

LH: It’s really more on a case-by-case basis because different companies will have different reasons for rebranding. Sure we have certain things we like to do but it is based on their individual reasons for rebranding. Since we are a PR firm, we like to start with the words – we work with a contracted graphic designer to focus on the visual brand identity – we figure out what does the company want to communicate? What messages do they want to put out and how will they change with a rebrand? Like I said, the brand needs to communicate the essence of a company so in rebranding we want to first assess that. Who are you? How are you unique? What can you offer your customers? So I think the short answer is it is case-by-case but we do have certain elements we make sure to look at.

KH: What are some motivations your clients have had for rebranding?

LH: A big one that we see a lot is if the ownership has changed in some way. So if we’re looking at a merger or an acquisition, some change in ownership structure, that’s a good reason to make a change. The company has literally changed in some way and they need to reflect that. Another big reason is elevating a company image. A lot of times we’ll see that from a start-up company that has evolved over say five or ten years and they’ll say, you know what, we’re not a teeny tiny fledgling company anymore, we’ve grown up so they need a brand identity that reflects that more sophisticated, grown-up version of themselves. Those are really the main reasons we’ve seen rebranding…we also see it with milestones in a company. For instance, we [Clearpoint Agency] actually rebranded for our 10-year anniversary. It wasn’t a huge brand overhaul but we definitely reassessed. Who are we? Is this still who we are? Have our goals changed? You see that to some extent too.

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KH: What are some risks associated with rebranding? What should be avoided?

LH: I think the most important thing is to make sure you’re being very communicative throughout the whole process. But it is something that has to be looked at…if a big company decides to do a brand overhaul they should absolutely take stock of their existing equity and find out what they might lose if they make big changes. I’ve seen clients who have thought about a big change then decided it wasn’t worth it, so it’s really an important first step to ask why you want to make a change and do your research. But I think most companies are pretty smart when they do different types of rebranding when they somehow reflect the old and slowly change. It’s like the rebranding we as consumers see in grocery stores, you know. Same great product, new and improved package! It’s the same thing for a company. You’ll slowly see a logo change over time. Or you’ll email customers who are confused and really explain here’s our new logo, this is why we changed, here’s what it means for you. Make sure you communicate very clearly with all of your audiences. You want to talk to your customers, but also how you communicate the change to your internal audience, your employees and how you communicate to stockholders or

investors or even your competitors.

different ways to communicate to those audiences. Yeah, I really think communication and a slow rollout is crucial. Sure you should have everything ready ahead of time, but prepare people! But from the PR perspective it can be a great thing to talk about. Hey we’ve rebranded! Why? Let us tell you. It’s a great opportunity for press.

There’s a lot of different audiences to consider and a lot of

KH: Thank you so much!

LH: No problem, Kelsey. You’re totally welcome.