Deciding to rebrand or not

REBRAND   |   POSTED ON 18.11.2014

Deciding to Rebrand or Not – Is It Beyond Your Control?

Often the decision to rebrand is not something a company chooses, but a matter of circumstances beyond their control. Some recent events have highlighted this issue and offers us an idea into the thought process involved in whether or not to rebrand.

Italo Suisse – ISIS – Libeert – affecting sales

For 90 years a Belgian chocolate company traded as Italo Suisse in homage to the two countries in which the founder learned his craft. In 2013 the company decided to rebrand in order to better engage and reach the current market and here’s where things began to take a turn for the worse.

The name ISIS was selected, the already used name for its pralines and tablets. Now unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few months, you’d be aware of the other common user of this name – the Islamic State.

According to media reports the company’s marketing manager Desiree Libeert decided on the move last year, months before ISIS took shape in the Syrian conflict.

She says, ‘We chose ISIS as that was the brand name of our pralines and tablets. Had we known there was a terrorist organisation with the same name, we would have never chosen that. We had international customers saying that they could no longer stock our chocolate as consumers had only negative associations with the name.’

For this reason the company has taken steps to again rebrand, this time under the name of Libeert – the name of the current family that owns the chocolate making business.

ISIS Equity Partners – affecting reputation

London-based private equity firm, founded in 1995, Isis Equity Partners have also moved to rebrand in light of recent events.

Given ongoing events in Syria and Iraq, it will come as no surprise to you to learn that we have decided to change our name. We are no longer prepared to share it with a terrorist organisation.

Isis – Softcard – affecting start ups

Competing with the likes of PayPal, Google Wallet and Venmo is hard enough for a new startup but also dealing with a name now synonymous with terrorism is potentially catastrophic in a business sense. While stemming from the Egyptian goddess of love, marriage and health, the decision was made to rebrand, as Softcard.

‘We have no interest in sharing a name with a group whose name has become synonymous with violence, and our hearts go out to those who are suffering.’ – Michael Abbot, Chief Executive.

ISIS Group Australia – affecting staff

After 25 years in the industry, ISIS Group Australia is considering a rebrand – and not because of their suppliers, reputation within the industry, or financing – their decisions surrounds the safety and wellbeing of their staff. Already they have taken steps to reduce company signage on worksites and instructed staff not to wear branded uniforms. Recently site workers have been abused by passers-by and angry messages have been left on the business’ office line.

Isis Pharmaceuticals – standing firm

Associate Professor Rachel Kennedy, marketing specialist and associate director of the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, offers that ironically the confusion between established businesses and the terrorist group presents an opportunity. ‘Use it as a talking point – it’s really hard for companies to get their brands noticed at all, so they could say ‘yeah, it’s crazy isn’t it, but we’re just furniture fitout specialists. It’s not a situation that you would ever intentionally put yourself in, but getting your brand noticed at all is a hard task, so build up the link between the brand and the work you do.’ She urges companies to stand firm against a name change believing very few people would form a link between the terror group and a company.

Isis Pharmaceuticals has no plans to rebrand believing that their target market (doctors and medical staff) knows them very well and has not been confused by recent news coverage.

Deciding to rebrand is a complex and costly exercise but often the choice is made for us; if your target audience and sales will be affected then rebranding may be the only viable option. If your industry, customers and market can overcome any negative conations then perhaps rebranding isn’t necessary. If you are unsure about rebranding and your options, talk to your local branding agency Liquid Creativity today.


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