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June 8, 2016

Can changing your name fix your reputation?

There are various reasons why a company may decide to rebrand and indeed change their name. A business may proactively rebrand in order to refocus or reflect changing trends, or acknowledge a merger, for example. Reactive rebranding however may follow negative press, dwindling sales or following a reputational crisis.

Some companies change their names after a reputational crisis with hopes of refreshing their image. But at a time when customer trust is notoriously low, this can often be the worst time to change names. Businesses should really be considering what has gone wrong and looking to show transparency and consistency in an attempt to regain the core customer base.

Toxicity travels across brands, and restoring the reputation of your damaged brand requires time, resource and dedication in order to regain consumer trust.

Reputational crises

Every year, countless brands and individuals are hit by a serious blow to their reputation. Whether it’s from a misjudged business decision, a risk that didn’t pay off or just rotten luck, when something goes wrong it takes more than a name change to put things right.

If the intention of the name change is to start afresh, be aware that it’s impossible to hide previous names and business identities online, so the new brand will always have ties with its history. Potential customers, employers and marketers are always able to find out your details with a little research.

RBS changes to Williams & Glyn

Take the recent case with RBS changing to Williams & Glyn. It would be fair to say that the RBS marketers felt they had ‘run out of road’ and the name change in 2017 is a last resort for damage limitation. But the move has been criticised for the time and money it has taken to make the switch.

Rebranding

A simple name change is not classed as a rebrand, but may form part of the new solution. If you’re looking to rebrand, you should consider the following:

  • Is a name change essential? – Reputation will remain regardless of the name, and the change will only mask over the larger problem. You’ll still need a rebrand following a reputational crisis, and this should be done with a clear marketing strategy so don’t haze your customers’ vision.
  • See how it can be done successfully – International brands such as Perrier, BP and McKinsey have all overcome near-terminal brand crises. In all three cases an apology and acceptance of all wrong-doing was essential. It was several years before consumers were able to forgive and forget. Big brands typically take longer to bounce back, but it is possible regardless of the size of your company.
  • Invest – You need to put every effort, pound and minute into meticulous improvement in every aspect of the product-service spectrum. Rebranding is more than a name change; it’s a revamp from the very core in order to improve your corporate reputation.
  • Communicate – Find proof that customers have welcomed the change and emphasise it with well-judged communications. Consider a refreshed visual identity to mark the transition and ensure transparency regains the trust of consumers.

Take appropriate steps

Branding should always reflect the business as a whole and encompass including company values and communication with customers as well as the products and services themselves.  A name change alone will not fix a company reputation which is in tatters. There are companies who have successfully recovered in recent times, notably Tesco following the horse meat scandal, as well as those which have not. Take the appropriate steps for your business to recover from a reputational crisis.

Understanding what went wrong and why, active change and communication of this are key to brand recovery after a reputational crisis. Is a name change really the best way to communicate with your target market and come back stronger? Only if it is followed by some strong, core changes as part of an effective overarching strategy.

You can find out more by downloading Igniyte’s free Guide to Building Your Company Reputation Online or contact me on tel: +44 (0) 203 542 8689 or email simon@igniyte.com. All enquiries are dealt with in confidence.

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