Rebranding is a process of changing the way a company or a product is perceived in the market. This can mean, for example, a new brand name, or an updated imagery like logos, colours, fonts, and so on.
Companies may choose to rebrand for various reasons, including changing consumer trends and values, or even legal issues. One of the most common reasons for rebranding is that the company’s old brand becomes outdated and no longer resonates with consumers. In such cases, rebranding can be an effective way to attract new customers and improve brand loyalty among existing customers.
Rebranding is not always a smooth process, and it can be challenging to get it right. For instance, when a company changes its brand, it risks losing its legacy recognition, which is the familiarity and loyalty customers have developed towards the old brand.
Additionally, companies may face legal challenges when rebranding if they inadvertently choose a name or logo that infringes on someone else’s trademark rights.
Reasons for rebranding
There can be many reasons for rebranding.
Outdated brand: A brand may become outdated when it no longer appeals to the target audience or when market trends shift. For example, a fashion company may rebrand to stay current with new trends or to target a younger audience. Rebranding can also help companies differentiate themselves from their competitors by creating a unique image and voice.
Morally problematic brands: Sometimes brands become morally problematic over time, particularly when social values and cultural norms shift. For example, the Washington DC football team REDSKINS faced intense criticism for its racially insensitive name and logo, ultimately leading to a rebranding effort. The same happened to Uncle Ben’s. Similarly, companies that engage in unethical practices or have a negative public image may choose to rebrand to distance themselves from their past and establish a new beginning.
Trademark conflicts: In some cases, companies may need to rebrand due to trademark conflicts with other companies or individuals. If a company’s brand is too similar to another company’s trademark, they risk infringing on their rights, leading to legal issues. In extreme cases, courts can order a company to stop using a brand. For example, Burger King operates as Hungry Jack’s in Australia.
Considerations for your rebranding
When you rebrand, there are many issues that you need to decide.
Legacy recognition versus a clear start: One of the critical considerations when rebranding is whether to retain some elements of the old brand or to start from scratch. Retaining some legacy recognition can be beneficial for companies that have established a strong brand identity and loyal customer base. However, it can also be limiting, as it may not provide the flexibility to change and evolve over time. Starting from scratch, on the other hand, provides a clear start, allowing companies to create a fresh, unique brand that resonates with their target audience.
If the brand name must be changed for legal reasons, but there is nothing else wrong with the old brand, it is probably a good idea to keep many existing brand elements intact. These could include the fonts, colours and imagery. This helps to preserve the recognition and brand value built in the old brand.
If the brand has become outdated, morally questionable, or has suffered a crisis, it might be necessary to start from a clean slate. This is what Lufthansa did for their Germanwings brand after the 2015 crash that killed 150 passengers and crew. The Germanwings brand was discontinued and replaced by Eurowings.
Choose a distinctive brand name: If you need to rebrand, make sure that the new brand name is distinctive. Descriptive names make bland brands, and they also suffer from not being legally protectable. So choose a name that is unique and does not describe your product or service. Invented names, like Pepsi or Kodak, are always a good option.
Conduct an availability search: Before deciding on a new brand, it is crucial for companies to conduct an availability search to ensure that the brand is not already in use or infringes on someone else’s trademark. An availability search involves researching the existing trademarks and other relevant intellectual property rights to determine if the proposed brand is available for use. This process can be complex and time-consuming, but it is critical for avoiding legal issues down the line.
If you’re rebranding because of the trademark issue, you probably understand the importance of this step.
Registering the trademark: Once a new brand has been selected, it is essential to register the trademark to establish legal rights in it and to be able to prevent others from using the same or a similar brand. Trademark registration provides the owner with exclusive rights to use the brand in connection with their goods or services, which can be invaluable in establishing a unique brand identity and protecting against copycats. Trademark registration can also provide a competitive advantage, making it easier for companies to expand their brand globally and protect their brand from infringement.
Rebranding can be a valuable tool for companies to stay current, differentiate themselves from their competitors, and establish a unique brand identity. However, it is critical for companies to take legal considerations into account when rebranding, including the importance of legacy recognition versus a clear start, conducting an availability search, and registering the trademark. By carefully considering these factors, you can rebrand successfully and avoid costly legal issues that come with a poorly chosen brand.