2. At one point or another, there comes a time when company executives will embark on
a rebranding initiative whether to gain a competitive advantage, simulate growth,
increase market expansion, integrate a merger and acquisition, introduce new product
lines, reposition their portfolio, overcome negative publicity or simply to communicate
new management. All companies evolve or have a need to evolve -- and often -- as
there is a need to continuously stay relevant within target audiences, or lose the risk of
being left behind.
Rebranding a company’s core statements, messaging, architecture, identity and other
components presents many challenges and can come in varying degrees of difficulty.
By looking at some successful and unsuccessful rebranding initiatives, we can learn
the value rebranding offers as well as how off-strategy rebranding can negatively
impact a business in a major way.
Apple has come a long way since 1997, when it came close to bankruptcy. Today, Apple is truly an iconic brand and
leader in not only the computer market but in mobile and media technology. Steve Jobs helped take the company to
the next level by designing well-made products and creating a user experience that was unlike what any other brand
was doing at the time.
At its critical time, Apple decided to focus its attention on a few things and do them well. The rebrand began with a
“Think Different” and “To the Crazy Ones” campaign that got people talking and put the brand back up on the radar
screen. The tagline “Think Different” helped promote a creative counter-culture that was a big supporter of Apple
throughout its time. While other computer brands such as IBM featured traditional ad campaigns with imagery of
computers, Apple decided to pair “Think Different” with black and white photographs of revolutionary people and
events including Einstein, Gandhi and protests of the Vietnam War. Creating a thought-provoking ad campaign helped
to give Apple the necessary boost and set the stage prior to rolling out its new iMacs. The new computers had a
revolutionary design that stood out from competition and became some of the top-selling computers in the world.
The second part of the rebrand was removing the colors from the logo to give the identity a fresh lift and removing
“Computer” from the name as to not limit the scope of the company’s offerings. A new, more modern sans serif
typeface also helped to give the company a clean freshness. Simplifying the look and messaging helped prepare the
brand for new growth and opportunities. Apple has built their brand by maintaining a highly consistent design and
identity across packaging, websites, store environment and product, which creates instant recognition. There are
many lessons to take away here, but something to consider is simplicity is key. Taking something complex and
streamlining it, whether it’s product design, brand identity or user experience, will go a long way.
Today, General Electric (GE) is a multinational conglomerate that operates in energy, technology infrastructure,
capital finance, consumer and industrial markets. GE is known as a leading innovator within ecologically responsible
businesses including wind power, clean water, health and safety. However, it wasn’t too long ago that GE was listed as
the fourth largest corporate producer of air pollution in the United States with additional allegations surrounding the
creation of toxic waste. Legal battles cost the company millions of dollars and tarnished their reputation even more.
Under the guidance of CEO Jeff Immelt, GE began to change their actions and messaging to reflect a more
responsible business strategy. Beginning in 2002, GE entered the renewable energy industry which to this day has
expanded greatly to include solar power and wind power.
In 2005, GE launched a campaign called “Ecoimagination” focused on promoting the company’s efforts “to develop
tomorrow’s solutions such as solar energy, hybrid locomotives, fuel cells, lower-emission aircraft engines, lighter and
stronger durable materials, efficient lighting, and water purification technology.” The rebranding effort was also
intended to unify the diversified business under one masterbrand. Changes were made to the corporate color palette,
fonts, identity and tagline. The old tagline “We bring good things to life” was replaced with “Imagination at Work” to
show that GE is continually innovating and making a difference in unexpected areas. The result has had a profound
effect on the company with current brand value at more than $40 billion. In recent years, GE has been voted at the
top as one of the most innovative, green, and admired companies. The lesson we can take away from this rebranding
effort is that thinking holistically about your brand is important. People want to be able to relate to a brand and it’s
necessary to create messaging that resonates with the end-user. Brand stories and messaging that tie back to one
central message helps unify the brand and build credibility. Additionally, extending the message across various
touchpoints will ensure a consistent brand message is communicated.
A pioneer in overnight deliveries, FedEx is a shipping giant with an identity that is recognized worldwide. In 1994, the
company realized that it had outgrown its brand image and desperately needed to rebrand to embrace its growth
plans. The project consisted of brand repositioning, brand architecture, naming and logo change.
A major part of the rebranding was how to reposition the brand as the industry’s global leader. This consisted of
several moving parts, one of which was changing the name. The name “Federal Express” represented original
company focus of domestic delivery and nationwide service, whereas the new company vision included global
shipping. After extensive research, the name FedEx was the perfect fit as it was already widely used by employees
and customers and alluded to speed.
In this case, the development of the name and identity happened in tandem. The company needed a logo that
represented the new global vision. The result was a simple, clean, wordmark with use of bold colors for instant
recognition. A hidden arrow is also used in the logo which is a subtle approach that alludes to moving things from one
place to another quickly. Development of a complementary tagline “The World on Time” delivered on the promise of
global scope and scale.
Ultimately, what gave FedEx authority was moving to a masterbrand strategy and consolidating all of its products and
services under the FedEx umbrella. For FedEx, simplified brand architecture was necessary to maintain a consistent
brand image throughout its portfolio. By having a unified presence throughout different markets, FedEx makes it
easier for customers to find and do business with them across geographic boundaries and product lines. The success
of the FedEx rebranding effort is evident today some 20 years later as the company has bought out office supply
brand Kinko’s and expanded offerings to ground service, thus competing directly with UPS.
One can spot various celebrities wearing a pair of Havaianas flip-flops that come in a wide array of styles and
colors. The Brazilian brand has gained a cult following all over the world from moms to executives. However, it
wasn’t too long ago that the brand’s notable flip-flops were considered a commodity, a workday staple of the
The company was introduced in 1962 and had an initial strategy to sell as many pairs of flip flops as possible to
keep production costs down. There wasn’t a focus on design, innovation or marketing and the brand offered only
a few basic designs. This proved fine until in the 1990’s when competitors began to eat away at the market share.
Havaianas, which means “Hawaiians” in Portuguese, knew it needed to shift its business strategy.
There was a complete rebrand of Havaianas from a basic shoe to a fashion accessory. Company execs noticed
that many wearers of the shoe transformed them by flipping the shoe to show color. This key research discovery
cued the team that customers were looking for simple ways to express their individuality. In 1994, Havaianas
introduced several new colors and the brand took off. The brand now carries more than 23 shades and has
expanded to other shoe styles. To support its new image, Havaianas launched a cutting edge advertising
campaign that promoted the shoe’s laid-back chic style.
Success has been paramount with 210 million pairs sold in 2011 and distribution to several countries. To not
push away some of its key customers, the brand keeps prices for basic styles low, but has expanded product
offering to include limited edition and collaboration designs at a higher cost. The lesson to take away is to always
pay attention to your core customers and don’t be afraid to embrace change.
J.Crew was always known for casual, comfortable clothing, but in the early 2000’s, sales began to drop.
Competitors such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Gap and American Eagle, among others had a stronger voice and were
taking away market share. The company hired former CEO of Gap, Millard Dexler, who in turn helped transform
the company into a trendsetting fashion brand and increased revenues over 100%.
Part of the rebranding was figuring out its voice and how to stand out from the competition. The brand focused its
vision on quality, luxury, comfort and customer service. At the time there wasn’t a mainstream brand that offered
luxurious fabrics and fashionable designs that could be worn both day and night. J.Crew also did not want to
follow other retail chains with a low-price strategy. It was more important to stay true to quality. By conducting in-
depth research, the company also found out there was an opportunity to develop a bridal line as customers were
purchasing J.Crew dresses to serve as bridesmaid dresses. It was important for the brand to remain true to its
core, but reinvent their image and product line to meet customer needs. Conveniently, the Obama family also
wore the brand during the presidential inauguration and Michelle Obama appeared on “The Tonight Show”
wearing a J.Crew ensemble which gave a big boost to the company’s stock in addition to media coverage.
Our takeaway here is that it’s never too late to revaluate focus and to do something your competitors aren’t doing.
Also, engaging with customers and building those connections will help create brand empathy as well as lead to
new brand ideas.
8. Unfortunately, not every rebranding initiative has positive results.
Changing critical parts of a brand such as its name, identity, messaging,
tagline or packaging can have major impacts on both internal and
As people form deep emotional bonds with brands, it’s important to
conduct detailed research to confirm whether the change is warranted.
We can learn from a couple major corporations on why their rebranding
efforts failed and the implications.
In hopes of staying relevant, Netflix decided to rename their DVD rental-by-mail business to Qwikster. Netflix
would remain as the brand for online movie streaming while DVD rentals would operate as a separate brand
called Qwikster. What the company didn’t realize is that having two separate brands and two different pricing
models would cause more chaos with customers having to go between the two websites to manage their profiles.
Additionally, there wasn’t any due diligence done to obtain all the necessary social media profiles prior to the
launch and to the company’s dismay, the @Qwikster account on Twitter was already owned by a high school
individual who represented himself as a drug-using Elmo.
Realizing the damage, the CEO of Netflix decided on getting rid of Qwikster, but conversely it was too late as many
customers already got rid of Netflix. The lesson here is research, research, research.
Maintaining a dialogue with customers is at the forefront of research while conducting in-depth research into a
potential brand name is also paramount. Creating a plan for a brand launch is another critical step that can’t be
Tropicana was looking to contemporize its packaging, but to consumer dismay, ended up completely redesigning
something that customers had an attachment to.
The company had to succumb to a public outcry against the 2009 Tropicana Pure Premium orange juice packaging
redesign. Consumers claimed that the new design looked generic, unattractive and not the Tropicana they knew and
Due to consumer pressure and in hopes of winning back their support, executives had to discontinue the new
packaging and bring back the previous version to supermarket shelves.