A company rebrand is, ideally, a fantastic opportunity for businesses to reinvent and/or refresh themselves within the marketplace, to reinforce and reflect their core values and, above all, to reconnect with consumers.
In reality however, a rebrand often leads – particularly in larger, public companies – to consumer backlash and fierce debate about what a new brand ’says’ to consumers.
Larger rebrands raise questions about the time and money spent on strategizing, designing and then rolling out a new brand versus the perceived benefits to shareholders. In short, getting a rebrand right can be risky business.
BHP Billiton knows this better than most. When the mining and resources giant unveiled its new corporate identity in 2001 – and subsequently revealed the cost associated in the development of that new identity – the wolves were out.
The logo was popularly referred to as a ‘few blobs of oil’ and raised broader questions about the company’s motivations for rebranding.
Then BHP Billiton chief executive Paul Anderson, speaking on the ABC’s Inside Business program in March 2004, said the new identity was reflective of “how we want to project ourselves to the outside world and how we want the outside world to look at us.”
Futurebrand managing director Tim Riches – who assisted in the creation of the new BHP Billiton brand and who spoke alongside Anderson on Inside Business – made an interesting point when he said, “If one of the reasons for making a change of this sort is to get people to question their conceptions about who you are as an organization, then that really should be viewed as a positive rather than a negative.”
Great point; a rebrand, whether initially received positively or negatively, does indeed lead to consumers questioning their conceptions of a brand, which is a good thing.
The danger, however, is when negative reaction about a company’s rebrand continues past the initial roll-out phase and potentially leads to the bottom line being affected; think Kraft and their iSnack 2.0 schmozzle (which may or may not be one of the year’s most effective publicity stunts).
In the case of BHP Billiton, we all know profits certainly haven’t dipped, but it is a consideration businesses must make. Creatives and strategists may wax lyrical about what a rebrand represents but for the layperson on the street, an instant judgement is made on whether a new brand lights their fire or not. Coca Cola’s botched ‘New Coke’ campaign of the mid 1980s is another good example; consumers decided they hated the ‘new’ Coke before they had even tasted it, prompting an eventual back flip by Coke.
ANZ are the latest company to walk the tightrope. Initial reaction to their $15 million rebrand has been mixed, with their new logo supposed to present ANZ as a less ’fragmented’ bank and designed to focus on its three main markets of Australia, New Zealand and Asia. Their new strap line is ‘We live in your world’; time will tell whether that truly is the case!