Creating a new identity through rebranding


Manish Shah is the former president of Midwest Law Printing in Chicago. He also worked at Intel, PwC and Motorola. He has an MBA from Kellogg Graduate School of Management, and a MS in Computer Science from Illinois Institute of Technology. He can be reached at

By Manish Shah
Rebranding involves creating a new name, term or symbol for an existent brand to develop a new position in the mind of the stakeholders and the competitors.

There are several reasons behind rebranding. One is to distance a company from the negative connotations associated with the previous brand. The BP brand has been tarnished due to the company’s poor handling of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The management at BP is seriously considering rebranding its gas stations as Amoco.

Mergers and acquisitions often trigger rebranding. When Sprint merged with Nextel, the company eliminated the angular logo and replaced it with a more fluid logo that was indicative of new the company’s flexibility. When SBC acquired AT&T, the SBC management adopted the AT&T name for the new company because the AT&T brand was recognized internationally.

When a brand is firmly established but needs to be refreshed, companies resort to a partial rebranding approach. When AT&T was challenged by Verizon’s advertisements. it responded by  redesigning its logo, adopting a new color scheme and unleashing  a new advertising campaign.

Not all rebranding efforts are successful. In 1985, the Coca-Cola Company decided to discontinue its most popular soft drink and replace it with a new formula. This formula was marketed as New Coke. A large percentage of the US population, which was loyal to the Classic Coke, immediately revolted and boycotted the new product. Coke realized its blunder and reverted to the original formula.

For rebranding to be successful, management should  leverage the existing brand equity, put the right people in charge of the messaging, ensure that the company’s internal processes are consistent with the new message and get employees on board so that they can generate buzz in the marketplace.

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