Should you re-band and change the image?

Whenever a company is not performing or when product sales appear in decline, one of the choices of remedial action is for a product “re-launch” or image change. For the newly appointed executive responsible for business income, the idea of “re-banding” a product or a company has its attractions in showing that the executive is making a mark on the business and pursuing new actions.

But the road to hell is full of good intentions. For while “Re-Branding” may be the right answer to falling sales income in some cases, the reasons for declining sales is rarely the result of an “old” image. In the majority of cases, when products and services fail to meet the planned sales and income projections, there will be a number of underlying and usually quantifiable reasons.
But what is branding? It’s not just a logo or new packaging design. To a business organisation, the image of its brand is a symbol that defines it for trust, innovation, and quality. Based on their aspirations, imagination and association with their own self-image, the perception of a brand image creates a customer loyalty. Organisations use brand image to convey an identity and value, with which customers will want to be associated. Customers also want reliability and consistency, which the image of long established brands helps to convey. Thus customers associate themselves with brands which they think define in part the image that they believe others have of them, in terms of fashion, quality, money and status. Any change in the brand image will therefore affect the customer’s relationship. The image of successful brands is in effect “owned” by the customers rather than by companies.
An established brand image is not a prime factor in producing profitable income, but it is a supportive one. The level of profitable income is dependent on the quality and reliability of the product or service on offer, as well as the price, the communication with the market and the ability to deliver to the customer in a manner that meets their needs.

The objective of a commercial manager is to maximize profitable income while minimizing costs and the use of assets. To do this effectively, commercial managers require careful analysis of quantified performance data from all the activities involved in anticipating and satisfying customer demand. Only by careful analysis of performance data may proper conclusions be drawn on the strengths and weaknesses of the business operation, and proposals made for improvement.

Where does brand image fit into this? Image helps sales but only indirectly. While advertising helps to initiate or re-enforce brand and company awareness with the customer, with established brands and companies, image should promote confidence in the customer of continuity and standards. Any change in the brand or company image may therefore affect the confidence that the customer has in the continuity and standards of the business. Thus any change in that image may affect the relationship that the customer has with the image and the loyalty that they have to it.
There have been many misconceived image changes to established and successful brands, for often no more reason than a desire for change, that have proved wastefully expensive and unnecessarily damaging.
In 1985 in an apparent attempt to appeal to younger consumers, Coca-Cola rebranded its flagship soft-drink with the introduction of “New Coke”. However, a strong consumer backlash forced the company to bring back the original formula under the name, Coca-Cola Classic.
In 2010, clothing retailer, Gap abandoned its ubiquitous logo consisting of a blue box with “GAP” written in white inside, for a slightly altered new version. However, the subsequent volume of online criticism by customers forced the company to revert to its original logo within a week.
Ill-conceived changes to a company’s packaging or logo aren’t the only ways to generate criticism. In 2001 the Post Office disastrously changed its name to Consignia, in preparation for operating independently from state control. Consignia was picked because brand researchers believed it conveyed trustworthiness and honour. However, the public though otherwise and the name was changed that of Royal Mail, which had public approval.
The temptation to tinker with logos, names and strap-lines can lead firms to ‘fix’ what isn’t broken. It cost British Airways’ £60 million to repaint the tail fins of its fleet of aircraft with a variety of ethnic themes designed to reflect its international reach. However, the down-playing of the British flag as part of the paint scheme, was seen to have undermined the “British” identity of the brand, and within four years, the artwork was quietly dropped. 
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Radical change of an established brand image should only be contemplated as a last resort. Any changes to brand image ideally should be incremental and carefully done. If the business and product are producing profitable income as planned, why do you want to change the image?

Before embarking on a re-banding or a change to logos, names and strap-lines, commercial managers need to ask:

* If the product or business is meeting its planned projections, -Why change? – If profitable income is in line with the business plan, the image cannot be an adverse problem. If a business is not performing as it should, the answer will lie in the analysis of business performance measurements.
* How will such a change help? What will it achieve? How do you know?
* Why do you want to change?
* How will it improve the sales income? – How do you know?
* What will it cost to effect the change?
* Is there a budget to do this?
* Are all the risks known and understood?

Changing an established image is frequently an unnecessary cost, which may actually harm customer relations and reduce income. The only people who really benefit from changes to logos, names and strap-line are the design agencies whose business is to promote and sell expensive change to businesses that should know better.

© N.C.Watkis, Contract Marketing Service 29 Apr 13
reband and change the image

May 2, 2013   Posted in: business development, business efficiency, Business Marketing, business performance improvement, business performance indicators, business performance management, business performance measurement, marketing development, marketing management, marketing metrics, marketing performance measurement, marketing ROI, performance management, performance measurement indicators, Uncategorized