To rebrand or not rebrand?

It’s the age-old question – and one that we know intimately. Sometimes a re-brand is required in response to the market moving on, or changing direction, and a desire by the company to not be left behind.

But for many companies a re-branding process is unavoidable and comes because of a company merger or name change.

Australia has had its share of these company name changes and they have not always been met with a positive customer response. Personally, I remember the disdain that first greeted the news that Telecom was becoming Telstra, or that The Bank of NSW would become Westpac. The name itself is a portmanteau of ‘Western-Pacific’ but in 1982 this did not sound like the name for a bank.

It may have been some brilliant marketing, or maybe just the passage of time, but eventually both names found their place in the marketing landscape.

Not many people are aware that one of the world’s most ubiquitous brands – Google – was originally called something else. When it first began in 1996, founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin named their first search engine ‘BackRub’. A year later, when it became too large to operate on the Stanford University servers that hosted it, they registered the domain name – and over time this gave us the expression ­­to “Google it”. “BackRub it” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, does it?

So ultimately, company names and brands evolve over time and re-branding does not have to be seen as a scary or negative thing.

Some organisations embrace change and are constantly looking to update and stay relevant. These companies make subtle changes to their logo as a matter of course – to show they have their ‘finger on the pulse’ and are few steps in front of their competitors.

They evolve their logo over time – as part of an overall long-term strategy – and keep an eye on their past, as much as where they want their brand to go. This reference to their past prevents any loss of customer loyalty, or any confusion in the marketplace.

Take Apple Computers who – can you believe it? – have now been around 40 years! Apart from a very early incarnation in 1976, they have used and adapted the “bitten apple” through the decades – adding and removing colour and dimension to arrive at the current version of a flat, silhouetted shape that is one of the most recognisable logos on the planet.

Apple logo evolution

Coca-Cola are another great example of a shape-shifting brand. The company started in 1886 and the trademarked Coca-Cola script logo was created the same year. Over the years their brand has evolved many times but it has always included reference to that original design.

In the early years, the company always resisted the use of the word “Coke”. They took the stance that the brand was called “Coca-Cola” and people should call it that and not use the shortened form. But in 1941 they finally embraced the abbreviation and produced magazine ads with the headline: “Coke means Coca-Cola” – which told people it was now OK to use the term “Coke.” It then got it’s own logo and was added to their stable of brands.

As a Branding agency, it is always a challenging project to rebrand yourself – to create you own new identity – and we have recently done this in becoming Spearhead Creative. We have embraced the change and now have a new name and new logo and with that, new stories to tell and new branding opportunities to explore. So we know first hand what’s involved – and how exciting it can be.

Andy Engel
Head of Creative