Below are five lessons learned from those who got it right…and wrong.
Lesson 1: Don’t fix what’s not broken.
Coca-Cola learned not to tamper with a beloved brand in 1985 when it decided to re-stage its iconic brand with New Coke. The public was outraged and made their voices heard. They wanted their old Coke, literally a quintessential icon in American pop culture. Coke responded within a few months and brought back Coca-Cola classic.
Lesson 2: Expansion may require a bigger umbrella.
International Harvester changed its name to Navistar International in 1986 when it sold its farm equipment business and entered the truck, diesel engine and bus markets. Although the name is made up, it broadened the brand and has strong connotations of movement and direction.
Lesson 3: Respect your heritage but don’t let it get in the way of making you brand relevant and compelling.
Miller Felpax, a railway industry manufacturer, has been family owned since its inception more than 50 years ago. The family changed one word of their name to encapsulate the aspects of its culture, operating philosophy and service to customers: “Ingenuity”. The new Miller Ingenuity logo strongly asserts that it is a company that invents solutions to customers problems but contains a classic locomotive, a symbol of the company’s heritage.
Lesson 4: Names have to be understandable, accessible or at least intuitive in meaning.
In the beginning it was unclear why Jeff Bezos would name a bookseller website “Amazon.” The story is told that he named it after the river, of course, because of its size. Bezos’s ambitions were as large as the company name and he eventually developed a business model that would include far more than books. The name Amazon continues to fit this e-commerce giant. Two companies that got a name wrong? Kraft split off its snack division in 2012 and named it Mondelez (which is hard to pronounce and hard to figure out a meaning). Similarly, Philip Morris renamed itself Altria.
Lesson 5: Avoid initials
Unless you are a big player with an enormous marketing budget, avoid brand names that are merely initials. If your initials are well established, like those of SAP, GE or IBM, still ensure your tagline delivers a branded proposition or benefit.
Source: Adapted from Miller Ingenuity CEO Steve Blue’s “Rebranding Mistakes and Marvels” artilce published in the June 2014 issue of PPB.