A rebrand is a public expression of your company’s evolution. It can be as obvious as a new name or logo, but it can also be a subtle shift in messaging to communicate a more relevant brand promise. If your current brand has outlived its ability to tell your story, it may be time to consider a rebrand. Some reasons to do so are proactive: You want to signal to your market that you’re ahead of the curve in serving their needs, or that you’re striking out into new territory. Others are reactive: When you’ve suffered a setback or weathered a crisis, a rebrand can be a good way to show you’re committed to a new direction. It can tell a new story that allows you to reassure your audience or effectively strike back at competitive influences.

Change the Way You Do Business

A successful rebrand can help you make inroads into new market segments and provide room for your next big growth spurt.

Take CVS: In a strategic move to redefine itself as a health-care destination, the drugstore chain recently rebranded as CVS Health. “CVS is really trying very hard to position themselves as the winner in that marketplace,” Forrester Research analyst Skip Snow told The New York Times. But CVS didn’t just change its name, it changed how it does business: It harnessed the power of anti-smoking sentiment by banning sales of all tobacco products. “If they can be perceived as a place to go to receive health care, and buy health care products, as opposed to the place to go to buy a bottle of whiskey or get your film developed, then they can capture more of the retail medicine dollars,” said Snow.

Consolidate Your Business Lines or Enter a New Market

Maybe you’re not entering a new line of business, but you’ve thrown more new products or lines of business into your brand than it can keep up with. Rebranding allows you to create a unified brand, bring together fragmented audiences, and clear away promotional clutter.

Great-West Financial’s transformation into Empower enabled the company to unify disparate divisions after a series of acquisitions. “All three brands meant something different in the marketplace,” Great-West Financial chief executive Bob Reynolds told Investment News. “We want them all under one brand; we want to be in the marketplace as America's retirement company.” Empower’s new logo, with flowing red stripes that evoke the American flag, effectively projects that aspiration.

The Empower rebrand also signals that the company is on top of the general trend in the retirement industry, away from accumulation to deaccumulation. Carpenter Group’s EVP, Creative Strategy, Claire Taylor explains, “Today, with the wave of baby boomers reaching retirement, the focus has shifted to retention of these clients through retirement, and brands are competing to steward these assets into the next generation. This sea-change requires that companies take a look at how they are perceived, and how they would like to change that perception.” Empower president Edmund F. Murphy III, tells Plan Advisor, “We think this name signifies how people are going to think about retirement.”

In a bid to capture that same territory, ING has rebranded itself as Voya, a name that evokes “your voyage or journey to and through retirement,” says CMO Ann Glover.

Rebrands affect employee morale as well. ING’s rebrand was part of a deconsolidation program, and the name change helped its FAs navigate the transition, according to Tom Halloran, president of Voya Financial Advisors. “The advisors that are here are amazingly excited about the exposure.”

Weigh the Pros and Cons

And while you should seriously consider the rewards of rebranding, you ignore the risks at your peril — especially given the significant investment you can expect to make.

Consider Qwikster. In 2011, Netflix reactively rebranded as Qwikster to counter a customer backlash against price increases. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, that’s because the ill-conceived rebrand of the company’s DVD rental service was dropped like a hot potato in the wake of yet more customer discontent.

That’s the worst-case scenario for any brand, whose success depends on making sure that the brand not only tells your story, but that it’s the right story to tell. “Both the Qwikster and Netflix teams will work hard to regain your trust,” Netflix CEO Reed Hastings wrote in the aftermath. “We know it will not be overnight. Actions speak louder than words. But words help people to understand actions.”

We couldn’t agree more. But it’s best to get it right the first time.

Comment