The Perils of Rebranding

Here at Baby, we believe in maximising our client’s assets, and recognise that occasionally this requires a rebrand. We helped the UK’s biggest childrens charity ‘National Children’s Home’ become ‘Action For Children’, giving them a dynamic new identity that told the public: ‘There for as long as it takes’.

We have also had the privilege of working with this incredible organisation:

This fantastic charity has previously been known only by it’s lengthy, clinical title ‘Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture’. In the words of Chief Executive Keith Best, ‘Our new name shows our double aspiration: to free people as much as possible from the effects of the torture they have suffered, and to see a world free from torture.’

In our humble opinion, these two campaigns are excellent examples of successful rebranding, where the identity of the product is not lost, but the organisation is given a chance to reword the way they communicate with the public about their work. But rebranding is a dangerous game and is not for the fainthearted. We thought we would take this opportunity to look at some of recent history’s most succesful and unsuccessful rebrands.



In the 1980s, after consumer research revealed that people preferred the sweeter taste of Pepsi to Coca Cola, the drinks giant made a move that would go down in marketing history: they changed the recipe.

‘New Coke’ was introduced, and production of the old drink ceased. The backlash from consumers was enormous, with many US customers boycotting New Coke. Within just three months Coca-Cola reverted to its original recipe, which they released as ‘Classic Coke’ which outsold both New Coke and Pepsi. Conspiracy theorists reckon this was their plan all along.


FAILURE: Tropicana

It is customary for large corporations to occasionally reinvigorate the packaging they use, particularly after a decline in sales, as a way of reminding consumers about their product. But when PepsiCo redesigned Tropicana cartons the negative reaction from consumers, who described it as looking too ‘own-brand’, was so strong that they reverted to the old cartons within two months. No wonder, as sales fell by a massive 20% during those two months.

NB This was one of the first instances of consumers using social media to express their views.



When the powers-that-be at Gap decided to abandon their famous blue logo they drastically underestimated the the passion of their clientele. Disgruntled customers took the the internet in their droves in 2010 to complain about the new logo, with one person even setting up a facebook account as the ‘dumped’ logo. Literally within days of its launch the management had to announce that they were reverting the old logo, apologising for having ‘gone about the things in the wrong way’ with regards to informing their customers.


FAILURE: Post Office to Consignia

Dubbed by one critic as ‘nine letters that spell fiasco’, the rebranding of the Post Office to become Consignia was a disaster. After moving away from state control the Post Office wanted a new name to recognise its many business divisions. The name Consignia was chosen as a combination of ‘Consign’ and ‘Insignia’, supposed to convey trustworthiness.

The rebrand cost £2 million but was very quickly abandoned and the company promptly reverted to being called Royal Mail.



Sometime rebranding misteps take years to reveal themselves. When BP spent $7 million in 2000 on brand strategy and a further $200 million supporting the rebrand, they were criticised for spending more money on this than on actually researching renewable energy. But it wasn’t until the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in 2010 that the new green and yellow flower logo, meant to reflect their green credentials, was revealed for the folly it was. The logo was defaced by protesters, and Greenpeace ran an embarassing competition to redesign it.


SUCCESS: Norwich Union to Aviva

When Norwich Union went about rebranding themselves as Aviva in 2008, they actually already operated under that name in over 20 countries. The ads featured celebrities who had changed their names before becoming famous and successful, totally facing up to the rebrand and turning it into an instrument of positive change. Although the campaign set Aviva back £9 million and included some of the most expensive adverts ever made, the proof is in the profits, which rose by 26% to £2.6 billion in 2010.


SUCCESS: Marathon to Snickers

In 1990 Mars rebranded the Marathon bar as the Snickers, the name it was already known by in international markets. It is reported that ‘Snickers’ was the name of the Mars family’s favourite horse. At any rate, UK customers may have complained but the Marathon/Snickers remains the best-selling chocolate bar of all time with annual sales worth $2 billion.


SUCCESS: Opal Fruits to Starburst

Mars invented Opal Fruits back in 1960, before they were launched in the US as Starburst in 1967. Eventually Mars realised they would save money on promotion if the product was known under one name across its worldwide markets. Although the rebrand wasn’t cheap, costing Mars £10 million, Starburst curently brings in about £83 million worth of annual sales.


SUCCESS: Jif to Cif

Though the idea of Unilever spending £2 million substituting one letter for another back in 2000 might have seemed ridiculous to some, Jif/Cif demonstrates how the benefits of a rebranding exercise can be two-fold. Not only do you save money on marketing by having a universal product name, but you have a chance to raise brand awareness and get people talking about what is, in relative terms, a pretty unexciting cleaning product.

The consistent packaging reminded customers that whilst the name had changed, the quality had not, and overall the rebrand coupled with some product innovations has made Cif the world’s best selling abrasive cleaner.


2 responses to “The Perils of Rebranding

  1. aaaaah the power of the consumer … aka the customer is ALWAYS right 🙂

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