Re-branding: Game changer or risky Gamble?


Earlier this month, my university – UWE Bristol – unveiled plans to gradually change their logo and image over the next couple of years, which got those little cogs in my head wondering, why?

We live in a society that is obsessed with youth. Our loyalty to the old soon dissipates when a younger model emerges and for companies, things are no different. (Side note: remember when Bing hit the search-engine scene in 2009 and Google’s long reining dominance was questioned?) 

So what are these companies to do, sit back and wait to be inevitably overtaken? Of course not.They become open to changing with the times. They re-brand.

With advertising and branding becoming increasingly more streamlined, Apple, Google and even Pepsi have all recently re-branded (Unlike Pepsi, rival company Coca Cola have barely changed their branding in 126 years) and simplicity is usually the end goal, a recognisable image that is both iconic and descriptive, no pressure on their work-force, eh?

So what is a re-brand? Some times it’s just a freshen up, and other times it can be a complete overhaul. Just a decade ago Burberry was synonymous with football hooliganism and Vicky Pollard, flash-forward and some of the world’s biggest names (Emma Watson, Eddie Redmayne and Kate Moss to name a few) have graced  catwalks and campaigns alike. Stripping the brand to its heritage has thrown back it into fashion, increased profits and irrevocably changed it’s image forever (It’s worth noting that no logo changes occurred for Burberry, their marketing and communications techniques changed.)

Of course, while there are successes like Burberry, sometimes companies can get it wrong, really wrong.

Microsoft, BP and even the London 2012 Olympics have all caused their fair share of branding controversy but in the 21st century, there’s one story that really stuck in mind.

Hot on the heels of the millenium in 2001, the Royal Mail (which dates back to 500 years to 1516) made the decision to completely re-brand as Consignia – it was a move to show they no longer just delivered mail – and to call it unpopular would be a slight understatement. Employees and customers alike were outraged by the change and following a boycott from the Communication Workers Union, the company reverted back just under a year later. It was a failure that had cost them £1.5 million pounds. Yes, you heard me correctly.

If like me, you haven’t got that amount of cash hanging about in your bank account, then you’re going to need to get your own branding right, so here’s a few hints and tips to make sure you do:

  • Make sure you’ve done your research and know your audience and market’s desires, become the company they want you to be.
  • However, don’t lose your identity, be consistent in your messages and ethos, changing your organisation beyond recognition will have your customers abandoning you like rats off a sinking ship.
  • Remember that re-branding too often can be just as bad as becoming stale.
  • If it goes wrong, it’s OK to admit you’ve made a mistake.
  • And finally, as that old saying goes: ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’

That’s all for this week, maybe next time you visit this blog it’ll have a completely different identity, it probably won’t. But you never know, I might’ve won £1.5 million.




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