By Susan Richter, Marketing Communications Manager

Of course this blog is inspired by Facebook’s bold move to rebrand its holding company to Meta. Like most things Facebook does, the rebranding is not without its critics; from the reasons behind it (to divert attention from the allegations of whistleblower Frances Haugen) to the lack of translatability (meta means dead in Hebrew).

But Facebook isn’t the first brand to take the leap and it won’t be the last. The one example that sticks out in my mind is WWF (World Wrestling Federation) changing its name to WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) in 2002. This was as the result of the wrestling organisation losing a trademark lawsuit brought by the World Wildlife Fund, or the “real” WWF.

As far as reasons go, Northern Rock becoming Virgin Money also stands out. The Newcastle-based bank failed, was nationalised and eventually sold to Virgin Money and quickly rebranded.

There are a number of reasons for a rebrand; ones that don’t involve lawsuits or fixing bad reputations. M&A, brand evolution, moving into new markets, change in strategy… the list goes on.

Regardless of reason, it should be a good one; a rebrand is costly. Not just in terms of design and implementation, but also the impact it can have on your customers, investors, suppliers and other stakeholders.

Brand building is an ongoing process, and key in strengthening credibility and creating trust. Not all brands have the luxury of changing their name, garnering international media coverage and being big enough (with big enough budgets) that a name change won’t affect customer loyalty or market perception.

Although a rebrand doesn’t always equate to a complete name change. Starbucks Coffee dropped the “Coffee” and Kentucky Fried Chicken lost most of the consonants and all the vowels from its name to become KFC. Again, these are massive global brands. But what about smaller brands?

In 2018 The Whiteoaks Consultancy rebranded to Whiteoaks International. The reason? To move with the times, to reflect our evolution and to highlight our reach as an agency. Three years later we revamped our brand identity and tagline, for some of those same reasons. One step that was vital for us in both instances, was considering our audiences.

For other brands, the same is also true. How will this impact customers, staff and other stakeholders? This ties into the overriding reason for the change. Is it with the customer / end user in mind? Or is it a vanity exercise? How will the change affect reputation, market credibility? Are you staying true to your purpose as a business?

Then there’s the logistics involved in managing the change. The key to a successful rebrand is having a solid plan to roll it out – from communicating the change to internal and external audiences, to designing the assets and revealing them in all forms, including building signage, letterheads, website and social channels.

As humans, as much as we resist change, we’re all about reinvention. From a new hairstyle, to a new colour scheme in your bedroom. And who could forget the artist formerly known as Prince, proving it’s not just companies that can rebrand. In all seriousness, it’s easier for us; a trip to the hairdresser (or Boots) and a visit to Dunelm for soft furnishings and voila. For brands, it’s a little trickier because the stakes are so much higher and there are a lot more moving parts. So when it is time to think about a rebrand or a brand evolution? What is the secret to success? If the strategy behind it is well-considered and the change is well managed, the sky (fun fact: Sky One was recently rebranded to Sky Showcase) is the limit.


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