Sooner or later the time comes when your corporate identity is no longer up to scratch. Recognising when this is the case may seem difficult, but in the life of a business various moments arise that lend themselves very well to a change, or even necessitate one.

Out with the old, in with the new

On average, organisations and brands change their corporate identities once every seven to ten years. This often involves restyling logos, colour palettes, visual language and the photographic style. In a small number of cases, the name of the organisation is also changed during this process. Although there is usually one main reason for making the change, the motivation behind a rebranding project is often a combination of several factors. Here is an overview of the ten most common reasons for a corporate rebranding:

1. Mergers, acquisitions and demergers

For the most part, changes of business ownership, such as mergers, acquisitions and demergers, result in an immediate rebranding. The aim here is not only to make the change visible, but also to comply with legal requirements. In the case of demergers, the party that has split off is obliged to develop its own brand. This makes clear that it no longer forms part of the organisation. Over the past few years this process has taken place at grid operators, which were obliged to split off from their energy company. This resulted in the companies Enexis, Alliander and Stedin. There are several possibilities when it comes to mergers and acquisitions. The new company may develop a completely new brand (as in the case of @home, Casema and Multikabel, which together became Ziggo). In other cases the name of one of the parties is used (e.g. Getronics, which continued under the KPN brand following its acquisition by KPN).

2. Repositioning

If implemented properly, a change to the positioning and brand promise of a company has major consequences for the organisation. Everything is adapted in line with the organisation’s new strategy and promise: its products or services, HR policy, customer contact, corporate identity, etc. Rebranding makes this change visible for all stakeholders. We saw an example of this last year with Gamma, which repositioned itself by moving away from traditional home improvements (DIY) and towards interiors (enjoyment).

3. Internationalisation

In some cases, rebranding is necessary so that a brand can also be used internationally. This may be because the brand name is too specific to a particular country (e.g.: NS Internationaal, which has become NS Hispeed). In certain countries a brand name may also conjure up the wrong associations. Organisations that sell the same products in several countries, but under different brand names, are also increasingly opting to use one brand internationally. Famous examples include the rebranding of Jif to Cif, Smiths to Lay’s, Raider to Twix and Postbank (which was only used in the Netherlands) to ING (the brand that is used everywhere internationally).

4. Changing markets

For some companies, changes in the market situation mean that their very existence comes under threat. The digitisation of society in particular is making it necessary for certain sectors to reinvent themselves. Different requirements call for a different product to be offered. One example here is the Free Record Shop, which adapted its logo, corporate identity and retail environment in 2008 to give its brand a boost.

5. Bad reputation

If a brand has a bad reputation and this is having a serious impact on its operating result, rebranding can ensure that negative associations with the brand are ameliorated or dispelled. It is important here that not only the exterior changes, but that the change is also implemented in all other aspects of the organisation. This is the only way that a rebranding project can remove any negative associations with the brand and therefore be successful. The rebranding of VendexKBB to Maxeda is one example of this.

6. Conflict with stakeholders

Developing a brand may in itself also lead to a rebranding. This may be because the new style is too similar to an existing brand, for example. Such a situation was faced by Multimate, which, after its rebranding, lost a lawsuit against Ikea as the two brands had become too similar. Multimate had to make sure that its new logo was no longer visible in any shape or form within a period of six months. Another reason is that a rebranding can sometimes be so negatively received by internal and external stakeholders that it stands in the way of the organisation’s success. An example of this from last year was the rebranding of clothing company Gap, which decided within the space of a week that it would keep its old logo after all.

7. New CEO

A new CEO often brings a new lease of life to an organisation. This may result in (major) organisational changes that also influence the course the company takes. Such a situation arose at Apple, for example, following the return of Steve Jobs in 1997. At that time Apple had to change in order to survive. Jobs himself took a hand in choosing the new logo, which changed from the rainbow-coloured apple to the more modern metallic variant.

8. Outdated image

One of the most common reasons for undertaking a corporate rebranding project is modernisation. Trends mean that over time brands come across as old-fashioned if they have not been updated. Although in many cases it is not the main reason, a more modern image is often one of the motivations behind a rebranding project.

9. Changing brand portfolio

Over the years, an organisation has to deal with the development and acquisition of numerous new brands. In time this results in an extremely diverse and broad brand portfolio that is no longer logical for anyone and is therefore only still understood by a handful of people. Furthermore, carrying many different brands often leads to high costs when it comes to maintaining and promoting the brand. In such cases, rebranding ensures that the entire brand portfolio is brought into line and tells a clear story about the organisation. A number of years ago, USG People rationalised and coordinated its brand portfolio in this way.

10. Further development of corporate identity

A few years ago, for the majority of organisations a corporate identity consisted of just a logo, a primary colour palette and typography. Brand elements such as a photographic style, visual language and a secondary colour palette had not been defined back then. This meant that there was a great deal of freedom when it came to applying the corporate identity, with the result that the brand’s visual image ultimately became something of a mess. In such cases the further development of an organisation’s corporate identity is a must to ensure the creation of a consistent and recognisable brand.

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