The word ‘rebrand’ gets thrown around a bit too easily. I have to admit, at The Pull Agency we do it too. We should be more careful. Why? Because we don’t really believe in rebranding, although our job is brand development.
There are only 3 times that you should consider a rebrand.
Your brand has had an unfortunate ‘accident’
Your brand equity is negative and you need to start again
Your identity is so poor, confusing or mis-matched with your brand’s actual personality that it is seriously holding it back.
There is arguably a 4th – and to be honest it is the most common cause for rebrands. This I would describe as neglect. This is one step worse than just a failure to progress your brand - the responsibility of all brand managers in our view.
Most of the rebrands that Pull gets involved with are not so much rebrands as an extensive initiative to progress a brand. The longer you fail to progress your brand for – the more dramatic will have to be the progression when you finally come to it.
The reason rebrands should be so rare is that they are always effectively a signal of failure. To be fair that failure may not be one of your making – hence the story we have chosen to illustrate the ‘accident’ scenario – but however you look at it, something has gone wrong.
I’m going to give examples for all three scenarios, and tell you what you can do to avoid getting to the stage where you need a rebrand. A brand should always be moving forwards and evolving. And by the way – I am talking the wider sense of ‘brand’ here. As in the business and not just the identity. So this means R&D, consumer research and insights, manufacturing, competitive marketplace performance – and identity.
So prevention is generally better than cure. This means constantly assessing your brand against your long and short-term objectives, KPIs, market share, share of voice etc. And also asking yourself the following questions:
1. Is my brand as distinct as it could be?
2. Does my brand’s identity reflect its actual personality?
3. Is my identity dating?
4. Is my customer base aging? (see my Substack on how Triumph Motorcycles reversed the average age of their customer – whereas Harley Davidson’s aged a year every year)
5. Is my brand salient enough?
6. What is happening to the category my brand is in, and those adjacent?
As a brand manager, it is your responsibility to keep your brand moving forward. However, your brand might have an unexpected accident. Like a war.
So my first example is of a brand that had a war unleashed on it.
1. Brand accident - Stolichnaya Vodka
Though it has been produced in Latvia for more than two decades now, Stolichnaya vodka has kept its Russian branding — until now, that is. On the heels of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the founder of Stolichnaya announced a major rebrand. Stoli Group's founder, Yuri Shefler, was born in Russia, but was exiled in 2000 for standing against Putin. So the last thing he would have wanted would to be boycotted as a Russian brand – or even worse, be seen as a Putin stooge. The brand had nevertheless included some ingredients sourced from Russia despite Yuri’s experience with Putin.
The brand was re-named Stoli (already known as that by its fans, especially in the UK thanks to Eddy and Patsy’s infamous ‘Stoli-Bolli’ cocktails in the British sitcom ‘Absolutely Fabulous’).
So Stoli also announced plans to use only Slovakian-sourced ingredients, and released a limited edition charity bottle to benefit Ukraine. Proceeds from the special blue and yellow bottle were donated to World Central Kitchen, a charity that feeds millions of refugees — and one that was bombed in Kharkiv.
Difficult to argue with that one.
2. Hermes rebrand to Evri.
A less uplifting story is that of UK courier company Hermes.
Three lockdowns in response to Covid across 2020 and 2021, created an explosion in demand for parcel delivery. One brand that seemed to fail to cope was Hermes. Hermes became a byword for missing, mislaid and otherwise problematic deliveries. Clearly brand sentiment got into negative territory during this period.
The owner’s response in March 2022 was to change the brand name. Yes really. Then all that negative sentiment will be magically unattached. The problem is that everyone who had any interest saw straight through it.
Hermes became Evri
Evri’s website proudly describes the rebrand as:
“. . . more than just a name change, it’s a signal for the next stage of our evolution and a statement of intent: “delivery made for you”.
However in a MoneySavingExpert’s 2023 user poll Evri was voted the worst parcel delivery firm, with 62% of voters rating its service as “poor”. A year previous as Hermes, 48% classified it as poor.
Evri’s performance has even been raised in parliament following 40,000 complaints. There is also a Facebook group for Evri ‘victims’. My personal experience with Evri has been infuriating. They have never taken less than two weeks to deliver. Nevertheless they have never failed to send an email a week after the order has been ‘despatched’ claiming that a delivery attempt was made (always untrue) but failed because they need ‘more information’ on my location (something my daughter colourfully calls ‘victim-blaming’).
Have Hermes escaped their reputation by rebranding to Evri? It will have cost millions of pounds. All a total waste.
3. Andertons Music and GAK
I’ll keep this short and sweet as I have already dedicated an article to the Andertons rebrand. Andertons was a much-loved brand with a stellar rock and roll heritage but an identity that belonged more to Kwikfit or Euronics.
The Pull Agency won 3 Transform International Awards for this rebrand which got the attention of Brighton-based music retailer GAK.
So two years later GAK had a makeover. The story is comparable to Andertons – a much loved brand with an iconic Brighton store, strong founder’s story and personality not reflected in how it looked. The Pull Agency created a completely new look, which reflected the breezy, vaudeville, steeped-in-music vibe and tradition of their home town of Brighton.
Clearly another success as in March 2023 Pull was awarded 2 further gold Transform International Awards for the rebrand.
So the moral of these stories is this: Progress your brand over time. Constant progression keeps the rebrands away. If something unexpected and out of control taints your brand - move quickly and decisively. And don’t use a rebrand as a disguise. it will cost you in many ways and consumers will see straight through it.
Posted 25 September 2023 by Chris Bullick