Despite some rather public branding disasters, such as The Post Office’s Consignia debacle, there are also countless examples of rebrands that have led to business success.
BT Cellnet rebranded as O2 when the network demerged from the telecoms giant in 2001. Following its £18bn purchase by Spanish firm Telefonica and an exclusive deal with Apple, it’s one of the most popular networks in the UK.
So how can you be sure your rebrand is an O2, not a Consignia? To find out, we spoke to three entrepreneurs who have changed their business name, along with a couple of branding gurus.
Why rebrand your business?
Rebranding is not to be undertaken lightly. When asked when a business shouldn’t undergo a full rebrand, Kevin Roberts, chief executive worldwide of advertising giant Saatchi & Saatchi, replies: “Almost all the time. Often it’s not the brand that’s the problem, but the service, execution, product, delivery, or value.”
There has to be a bulletproof business case for a name change. Peter Shaw, founder of branding consultancy Brand Catalyst, believes there needs to be a radical change in the area you’re operating in. “If you’re going through a structural change, or you think there’s a real reason why your business isn’t growing because people perceive you to be something that you’re not, then that’s a good reason to shift.”
James Knight found himself in this situation. Although his business, Lawyers’ Direct, was growing healthily, he felt the name was giving the wrong impression. While his company does offer more affordable services, he felt that the emergence of the ‘no win, no fee’ firms meant his business was beginning to sound too much like a value proposition. This was prompted by the type of customers that were responding to its marketing. “We began to believe the name was holding us back,” he says. “We wanted a brand identity that more closely reflected the commercial law firm that we were.” A rebrand to Keystone Law did the trick.
For Ryan Notz, who launched the online marketplace for tradespeople Buildersite.co.uk in 2007, the business had outgrown its name. “I’d intended it to be a business-to-business service for contractors hiring subcontractors,” recalls Notz. “But then it became more consumer-facing, with homeowners finding tradespeople, and we needed to speak to them more.” He feels the new name, MyBuilder, reflects this.
The name game
If your business is growing well, simply not liking the name is not a good enough reason to change. First, you need to research and gauge people’s perceptions of your brand. “Talk to your audiences and ask: ‘What do you think of this name?’ It may well be that they are quite neutral,” adds Shaw. “Look at Carphone Warehouse. It doesn’t sell carphones; it’s not a warehouse. It has gone way beyond that.”