Johnson Banks – Why brands change
When is a good time to re-brand?
One of the most powerful and legitimate reasons to change is a fundamental change in business circumstances – a merger, or a takeover, for example. Recently two London based property companies, Development Securities and Cathedral Group merged, and rather than subsume one into the other they created a new brand, U+I (United and Industrious). When Singapore airlines sold their majority stake in Virgin Atlantic, there was a point at which the Delta board would have looked at the Virgin brand and had to decide – do we keep it, or do we ‘fold’ it into our brand? Thus far, they have established clear links between the brands without formally merging them.
Sometimes an organisation’s core market changes. This might mean that a brand that was created to ‘fit’ with one product or market no longer works. So Shelter’s previous symbol used a piece of typewritten, ‘angry’ type, which matched their original mission to concentrate on the homeless. But a gradual switch in focus to bad housing meant that needed to be reflected in their rebrand.
When is a bad time to rebrand?
When the original commissioning team moves on, branding’s biggest biggest problems arrive. The first issue is boredom. After about three years, an internal team, their agencies, their advisors – everyone – has had enough, and people start to tinker. Yet, paradoxically, about two-to-three years in is precisely when a new brand has just started to seep into the public consciousness, and arguably that’s exactly when a brand should become more consistent, not less.
The next big problem is ‘not invented here’ syndrome. New teams, often new directors arrive, and the human desire to ‘make a mark’ kicks in. Someone lets the internal team tinker, and slowly things unravel. Every new business manager for every major branding company in the world keeps an eye out for changes at the top of major organisations – because this is when existing branding schemes are at their most vulnerable, new brooms are brought in, and the sweeping starts.
With some recent rebrands there’s also a sense of if in doubt blame the brand. At launch in 2007, the previous Southbank design scheme seemed like a powerful and flexible idea that could flex and modulate across the institution’s communications, but within five years had been relegated to just the ‘logo at the bottom of the poster’.