A successful rebrand is, more often than not, tied to a number of different metrics. It is woven into key components that ultimately make it work: a change in corporate direction, a product overhaul, or even a shift in demographic focus.
Rebranding can be a powerful tool, helping align corporate values, giving stakeholders and staff a unified image to stand behind, and creating a clear, relevant voice with which a company can speak to its audience. But it never works in isolation, and is most powerful when embraced by a business looking to make real, meaningful change.
Following are three examples of brands that changed their image – for very different reasons – and did it extremely well.
In 1972, Blue Ribbon Sports changed their name to Nike. Up until that point, Blue Ribbon had acted as an importer – bringing shoes from Japan to the US and selling them there. Onitsuka were looking to ditch Blue Ribbon and move their product line to a larger distributor – forcing Blue Ribbon to either change their business model or go bankrupt.
The company moved from distributor to manufacturer, and a change in name and new logo* gave the company just what it needed to shake off the past and embrace what it was always meant to be – a company that cared most about giving athletes the winning edge.
Market pressures forced Blue Ribbon to overhaul its business, but the company embraced that change and ran with it. Nike was a brand people could believe in. They were different to other brands and continually out-innovated their competitors, launching new footwear technologies that athletes had never been exposed to before.
People believed in the Nike brand because it continued to deliver what it promised: innovative, fashionable athletic footwear.
*The Nike logo was created by Carolyn Davidson, a design student at the time, for $35.
Old Spice has been around for a long time – since 1938. For as long as I can remember, Old Spice has been one of those brands reserved for the older among us. Before 2008, no man under the age of 50 would ever consider buying Old Spice.
That all changed when Unilever decided it wanted to shift Old Spice’s user demographic. Axe had entered, and captured, the market like no other brand at the time. Axe was positioned as a product that helped men gain success with the ladies; Old Spice was a brand that your grandfather used. The divide between the two brands couldn’t have been bigger. Working with Weiden+Kennedy, Old Spice repositioned itself as a brand associated with legacy and male confidence. The campaign, featuring the new face of Old Spice, Isaiah Mustafa, launched in the US on superbowl weekend, and the rest is history.
Watch ‘The man your man could smell like’ here
For Old Spice, the product remains almost unchanged. The brand’s image, however, underwent a radical transformation. To shift the public’s perception of the brand in the way that Old Spice did required aggressive advertising and deep pockets.
In the mid-nineties, when I was studying, we were being taught to use design software on old grey macs that didn’t look too different from other computers of the time. In 1996, it didn’t look like Apple was going to be around much longer.
Fortunately for Apple, Steve Jobs came back to the company and redefined what the company stood for.
Watch the ad here
Apple’s ‘Think different’ campaign connected the brand to a new generation of tech lovers and separated them from the IBM’s and HP’s of the world. If Apple had continued to produce the same grey machines I used in varsity, that advert would’ve just been another advert. What made the ad so powerful, is that it stood for a new corporate belief, one led from the top down and manifested itself in every product and decision that the company made.
The result was a brand that became much more than the products it sold – it became a lifestyle for the people who embraced it.