Tuesday, October 14, 2014

To Rebrand or Not to Rebrand, That is the Question

By Megan Quinn

It’s funny how a new look can change the entire feel of a company. Sometimes a business wants a change – whether it is a flashy or subtle one. Starbucks made a slight change to their logo in 2011, but it’s barely noticeable (in my opinion). They opted to keep their signature mermaid symbol, while making some updates to it, and removing the words “Starbucks Coffee” from their logo. In short – their company name in the logo was unnecessary because their brand is internationally recognizable.

Sometimes logo changes are not enough. That was the case with Hotmail. Launched in 1996, this email service has been around for almost 20 years and was one of the first web-based email services. However, Microsoft decided to reinvent Hotmail during the summer of 2013 to become Outlook.com. Hotmail users still got to keep the “@hotmail.com” address, plus their contacts and passwords, but significant external changes took place.

“Today, we’re excited to announce that we’ve completed upgrading all Hotmail customers to Outlook.com. Coupled with the growing organic excitement for Outlook.com, this has pushed us to over 400 million active Outlook.com accounts, including 125 million that are accessing email, calendar and contacts on a mobile device using Exchange ActiveSync,” Microsoft said in a blog post on the day it finished the upgrade. The Outlook.com integration process took only six weeks and was completed on May 2, 2013.

Not only did Microsoft’s Hotmail rebrand, but they also backed up their decision with plenty of ways to keep their customers happy and loyal while gaining new ones. Sounds like rebranding and updating was their key to success.

Not every company needs to rebrand. Sometimes it only requires a surface change. In this case, Microsoft’s Hotmail was due for a huge upgrade – and the company delivered.

Another lesser known success story is that of Burberry, the clothing, scarf and handbag brand. Their infamous checkered pattern actually was digging them into a deep hole. The pattern had become associated with hooligans in the UK who acted violently at soccer matches. A pattern that was once seen as a status symbol was now outlawed, so to speak.

Burberry was in serious need of a rebranding effort to keep their customers. They decided to hire young celebrities to endorse their products and also revamped their trench coats. By staying in the loop and realizing their brand was being connected with the wrong crowd, they kept their successful name.

Sometimes rebranding doesn’t fit in with the company's ultimate needs and goals, or maybe it’s just not necessary, if customers are so accustomed to the old logo. Business won’t exactly improve or could stay the same. There are currently some new brand logos out there that I’m not too fond of, but I still give those brands business because I like their products or services.

Are there any new rebranding efforts you feel made a critical difference for companies? Are there any branding schemes you wish had never changed? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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