By taking responsibility for the beheading of two American journalists, the radical group now identified as ISIS by most in the media has turned the name of an Egyptian goddess into a dirty word. Unfortunately, several companies also have the same name.
CNBC’s Jane Wells tackled this topic in her report today. She reported that Isis Mobile Wallet already changed its name to Softcard, and is now benefitting from the publicity surrounding this quick re-brand in response to fallout from the radical organization.
Jane reported that Isis Pharmaceuticals discussed changing its name as well. However, the company decided it could afford to keep its 25-year old name because it’s mostly a B2B business as opposed to retail. On a more personal level, one father who named his daughter Isis told Jane that his co-workers had teased him that he might lose his head if he grounds his 3 year old.
For anyone with Isis in their name, this is no laughing matter. The name by which you are known, whether you are a company or a person, says a lot about you. That is why branding is considered such an important part of any company’s formation and growth. Having the same or a similar name and/or a logo that is similar to another better-known company can sabotage the development of a company’s brand.
One of our clients, for instance, was originally known as the Research and Education Institute or REI. This is, of course, the name of a much larger and better-known company that sells sporting goods. Its leaders at the time changed the name to LA BioMed.
Another client that appealed to environmentalists was concerned that its logo looked too much like BP, the oil company’s, logo. This became an issue after BP took responsibility for one of the largest oil spills in history. The logo was similar, but not the same, and still became a cause for concern. Moreover, the financial considerations surrounding rebranding prevented the development of a new brand.
Branding and re-branding can be an expensive process if done right. The successful development of a new or refreshed brand takes time. With a new company, once the brand is developed, the remaining costs entail getting it out to potential customers in a memorable way.
With re-branding, though, the challenge is getting the staff and all other stakeholders to adopt and use the new brand. Successful re-branding also requires everything associated with the brand being updated with the new images and/or name—from social media to signage. Invariably, something slips through the cracks, and the old brand will continue to pop up on old materials and in other unforeseen places.
Re-branding can be essential to the success and growth of companies whose brands no longer fit what they do or that have become tarnished by forces beyond their control, such as the use of ISIS to describe a radical group, or by their own actions. So when do you know when you need to re-brand?
Here’s our list of the Top Five Reasons for Re-branding:
- The brand is tarnished or taken over by others: This is the ISIS scenario and should be considered when your brand is damaged beyond repair. But don’t react too quickly. Already, President Obama is trying to get everyone to call the radicals ISIL instead of ISIS. If he’s successful, the current stain on the name may be erased. The client with the logo that looked like BP merely awaited the shift in attention from BP and avoided the cost of re-branding. When you get that letter warning you that you’re infringing on another’s trademark, though, it is certainly time to consider re-branding.
- New audience: If you are looking to reach a new audience, it may be time to re-brand. The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, for instance, is trying to move beyond just appealing to parents of kids with diabetes. It’s also trying to acknowledge that Type 1, or juvenile, diabetes strikes adults as well as children. So it’s re-branded as JDRF, and it’s working on rebranding juvenile diabetes as ‘T1’ to appeal to today’s audiences. McDonalds is another example. It increasingly uses ‘MickeyD’s’ to appeal to a younger market.
- New line of business or a new market: Depending on the name, this can be a clear-cut time for re-branding. One of our clients is in the midst of changing what it does and is currently working on an entirely new name and brand. It likely will keep some components of its existing brand (as JDRF did in keeping its initials) to keep current customers informed, but it will add to that brand to reflect its expanded services. Or you may still be using a name that no longer fits because you’ve expanded beyond the geographical location associated with the company name.
- Mergers, acquisitions and growth: In the case of mergers and acquisitions, the new company often will keep the name of the stronger brand. For instance, Bank of America remained Bank of America even after it was acquired by another, lesser-known bank. But sometimes new names will emerge to reflect the combined operations, such as PricewaterhouseCoopers. Law firms may change their names to reflect the addition of new partners. At some point, though, the list of partners gets too long, and they have to make choices. One of our clients, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP, re-branded as WilmerHale, a much shorter and easier name to use that still reflects its roots.
- Lack of differentiation in the market: When sales are flat or falling, it may be time to re-brand. An assessment to determine the cause of the market failure is essential. Is the problem the product, the brand or both? If the problem is the brand, then a successful re-branding and market re-positioning should help improve sales.