Nisha Qureshi

Rebranding is in vogue, but does your brand actually need it?

We talk to experts on why suddenly, many brands have taken the rebranding route and the things one must be careful about, when rebranding. 

Many iconic legacy brands, like Nokia, Castrol, and Ghadi, have rebranded themselves recently. Last year, Toblerone, Baskin-Robbins, and Mahindra also took this route. It almost seems like rebranding is the latest advertising trend.

While rebranding may be important, it’s also important for it to land with audiences. If not done the right way, then it may impact the legacy of an already established brand. Hence, a rebranding exercise is like a double-edged sword for brands.

We talk to some experts about this new trend, and what are the dos and don’ts of the exercise.

The need for rebranding 

According to Neha Tulsian, founder and creative director at NH1 Design, a change in brand identity usually signals a strategic shift in vision or positioning.

She says that the rebranding of Nokia was the result of a shift in focus. From a mobile to a B2B company, the new identity was created to announce and signal this transformation. Google created a parent brand ‘Alphabet’ when it wanted to expand its business verticals beyond a search engine, adds Tulsian.

“The iconic detergent powder brand Ghadi refreshed its identity and packaging to connect with audiences in regional markets. It unified its product packaging. Craft beer brand Bira 91 made a slight change in its identity to communicate its flavour positioning. For British luxury brand Burberry, the new leadership had a vision – they wanted to bring its legacy back,” she shares.

“Mergers and acquisitions, changes in consumer behaviour, and product portfolio diversification are some other reasons for businesses to rebrand themselves. Rebranding exercise, if done merely for an aesthetic transformation without being backed by a great product or service, or story, will lead to failure. Think Yahoo!.”

Campa Cola's revamped identity
Campa Cola's revamped identity

Lulu Raghavan, managing director at Landor and Fitch India, mentions that it’s the season of strategic changes, not rebranding.

She says when a brand wants to communicate a shift in its strategy and approach is when they can think of rebranding. "Another reason could be to change the perception of the brand when it has made significant progress," she says.

Raghavan takes the example of Mahindra and how it rebranded itself to suit a new narrative, as people’s perception of the brand was still limited to trucks and tractors.

Mahindra & Mahindra new logo
Mahindra & Mahindra new logo

Ashwini Deshpande, director and Co-founder of Elephant designs said rebranding is a significant exercise that requires clearly defined purpose (success parameters) and adequate resources to move towards that. According to her, over a period of time, brand senses loss of business or loss of opportunity when there is a gap between the intended image and landed perception.

"Rebranding is meant to align both. This gap may have surfaced because of number of reasons at different life-stages of the brand. It could be an emerging competition, an evolving audience with a strong societal shift, it may be a change in offering or technology, and it may just be a tired, off-trend visual identity," said Deshpande.

Azazul Haque, CCO, Media.Monks, says that when it comes to legacy brands, there’s a bit of brand fatigue that happens at the thought level of both the audiences as well as employees.

“Many restrictions may come up, because the brand may have exhausted all the options that could be used with the old brand thought.”

Dos and don’ts of rebranding exercise 

According to experts, it’s important to conduct thorough research before rebranding. Does a brand even need it in the first place? A good example of a rebrand based on consumer insights is that of the fast food giant Burger King. It revamped itself to suit the needs of contemporary audiences.

As per Tulsian of NH1 Design, at the core of rebranding is a robust brand strategy - who you are, what you do, why you do it, your brand DNA, etc.

“This is delivered through all brand touchpoints and experiences. Then comes advertising. Distinctive brand assets, when used consistently in advertising, help to build memory structures and drive instant brand recognition. Like when you see the colour blue and Bauhaus font, you think of IndiGo airline.”

Haque of Media.Monks mentions that as the audiences keep evolving, so will brands. He said brands are trying to catch on to the same speed at which the audience is evolving which is why most of them are rebranding.

“Tata Tea was a great rebranding exercise when it dropped the ‘Jaago Re’ initiative, something the brand had held for over a decade. Another great example is that of (American footwear giant) Nike. Its logo, taglines, and designs have become contemporary, but the core of the brand remains the same. Brands should look at Nike when repositioning themselves. They should know what they stand for.”

According to Deshpande of Elephant designs, one has to remember that the brand is a multi-senatorial, multi-dimensional entity. It is never just the logo.

"Today, technology can give us sound, movement, dimension and even smell to associate with a brand. Branding or rebranding is an exercise in consistency and it takes time to establish the change. It is not a quick fix for a poor balance sheet," she stated.

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