Radhika Joshi
Jan 14, 2011

Opinion: Understanding when re-branding is truly that...

Rajesh Pant is an ITES worker with some experience in Advertising

Opinion: Understanding when re-branding is truly that...

There’s a lot of hoopla, brouhaha, acres of newspaper columns and loads of e-comments. Otherwise precious little. Nothing happens to the sales or customer behaviour. Witness the recent Airtel episode. To start with it’s not a ‘rebranding’. The brand continues to be Airtel. Now if the parties concerned and the professional media dub it so, they need to examine themselves very closely indeed. I repeat – the brand continues to be Airtel, the only thing they have done is to change their logo; its typeface, followed by some new advertising and their signature tune. That’s all.

It does not impact or affect their customers one bit. If Bharti decides to change the way their logo looks or its colour or songs they sing then it’s their business...as long as they maintain great pricing, they have no call drops, they respond to customers quickly and their mobile service is of high quality all over. That is why customers buy a service or a product. They are not led away by the way an ‘a’ looks on a red/crimson background. And let me emphatically say that a ketchup kind of song orchestrated by an Oscar winning composer and endorsed by paid ooohhhs and aaahhs from Film stars does not add to the customer experience.

It adds to the bucks raked in by the Design company and the Advertising Agency who ‘relaunches’ this effort. It also gives a chance to pundits to air their views (with philosophical overtones). Witness the eminent protagonist in an eminent economic daily “brands are built by conversations....and brands should be felt”; the equally eminent antagonist retorted that the differentiated and enriching philosophy of the brand was missing. This was only one such encounter, surely this exercise must have spawned thousands. In Facebook, Twitter...and in this august publication too!

Designing a new logo etc. is a song & dance, razzle dazzle exercise practiced in many corporations. The bosses feel that a ‘new look’ will re-energize the troops and the bottom line. Think of Air India. Once upon a time they had a mascot of the Maharaja. Now truth be told, he always looked like a bit of a ‘durwan’, but never mind. They said it’s the Airline that treats you like a Maharaja – and so they did. Their planes were flying palaces and the gracious hostesses added to the charm. It was a great airline. Great service, great food, on time arrivals and departures. No rebranding is ever going to make it profitable again...or attract droves of highly paying customers because it lacks the basics. Maharaja or no Maharaja!

Do people buy more Colgate or less because of the way CP is written or because of their familiar Colgate brand? What is the logo of P&G? If Tata were to be written with a lower case‘t’ would people think less of them? So many public sector banks have changed their Logos and symbols. Has this had a material impact...or is it the automation and computerization that has made the difference. To my mind even a huge cutover from UTI Bank to Axis Bank failed to deter customers – because they had no other choice anyway! In the mobile space itself there are examples – Hutch became Orange became Vodafone. Sure they crafted the changeover beautifully. BPL became Loop. And to be very fair – the credit goes to the customers. They figured it would be a greater headache to switch numbers, and in any case the Hutch/Orange/Vodafone service is as good as anyone else’s. So there are many many pertinent factors which effect and impact Brand choice – the least of which is the way the Logo and symbol looks. Certainly it is recognition, it is an evocative shortcut to such recognition – but it’s rarely worth the effort spent on it. It has much more meaning for its owners than for its audience or customers. Customers are a selfish lot – they will pick and choose what they want, when they have the opportunity. If they figure (rationally or irrationally) what they want then a fancy logo, logotype or symbol is hardly going to be a reason for or against purchase.

Unless of course every organization invests its quality, money and sincerity on creating something akin to ones National Flag, our anthem and our symbol. Only then is it worth saluting.

Think about ‘rebranding’ that way!

Campaign India

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