Business Blog: The issue of re-brandingBy Nick James
November 18, 2009
The issue of re-branding is very much in the public eye at the moment.
Perhaps it’s because we’re approaching the end of the year, and hopefully the recession, that companies are trying to refresh their image before facing new business challenges.
When most people hear the term ‘re-branding’ they tend to think in terms of changing names and logos.
In my opinion it’s more about addressing the connotations and feelings that a brand evokes, rather than the signs and symbols related to it.
The public readily identifies with brand names, which become synonymous with good service, high status and quality.
To prove this point we had only to read the reports of the thousands who queued for hours out-side H & M stores recently, waiting for their chance to buy affordable Jimmy Choo products.
Whilst effective PR undoubtedly improves a company or organisation’s image, the same cannot always be said for the act of re-branding.
When the Post Office spent over a million pounds in 2001 by re-branding itself as ‘Consignia’ the public derision which followed forced it to rethink.
As we know, it now carries the far more publicly acceptable name of the Royal Mail.
This goes to prove that if there is something fundamentally wrong with the business itself, it is better to address the actual core of the problem rather than to rely on name changes and new logos.
It’s never wise to alienate public opinion in the rush to re-brand.
At the time of writing there is much consternation about the proposed renaming of St. James’ Park, the home of Newcastle United.
The fans’ affiliation with the most celebrated football stadium in the North East is based on a mixture of pride and nostalgia, so obviously they want the world famous name to stay exactly as it is.
There is so much public identification with the current brand name that it’s better to not tamper with this or the fans’ loyalty will be compromised.
It may seem strange that I should take this traditional stance on re-branding, but I know that there are right and wrong ways to go about it.
The first step in the process should always be to determine exactly why there is a need for a change in market perception in the first place.
If an existing brand name hasn’t been tarnished, but is beginning to look a bit outdated, then it should be enhanced and refreshed rather than changed completely.
Total re-branding is only really appropriate for company mergers and if a brand carries negative connotations, or has failed to register with the public.
We have to accept that even the most hallowed of our institutions are now turning towards the business world in their search for benefactors, and these sponsors want to be acknowledged.
The Cambridge University Library, known affectionately to students simply as the ‘UL’ for cen-turies, is looking at fundraising possibilities.
Should the right amount of money be forthcoming from the commercial sector then the world re-nown library is likely to be re-branded.
I am fully aware that many people react adversely to what they see as the insidious creeping of brand names into every aspect of society.
Yet I also know that without business sponsorship very little important research will take place in this country.
I believe successful re-branding will always be ‘more about addressing the connotations and feel-ings that a brand evokes rather than the signs and symbols related to it.’
I’m sure that whatever the outcome of the library’s search for sponsorship, the people of Cam-bridge will continue to call it ‘the university library’.
Sometimes public opinion is just too strong for the forces of commercialism, and many of us, whether or not in we are in business ourselves, are very thankful for that.