Rebranding appears to be a marketing strategy that is on the uptick across the world. It’s not so much the number or volume of organizations that are seeking to reidentify themselves, as it is the icons of industries that are finally undergoing a makeover after decades of staying the course. Together, visible brand elements such as design, color, and logo are a visual identity of who they are, what they do, and often what they believe. In today’s socially sensitive and technologically accelerated environment, many well-established companies are realizing the importance of keeping the company’s image more closely aligned with a more dynamic consumer. It’s no longer just about a brand that represents a historic core competency, but one that establishes trust and credibility with prospects and customers alike.
“There are moments in history when everything changes,” said General Motors Corporation (GM) Global Chief Marketing Officer Deborah Wahl. “We believe such a point is upon us for the mass adoption of electric vehicles (EV). Unlike ever before, we have the solutions, capability, technology and scale to put everyone in an EV. Our new brand identity and campaign are designed to reflect this.” Prior to this year, GM had not changed its corporate logo for 56 years. Perhaps it is because the brand was identified as an historic icon, one that was seen as a leading economic indicator that spawned the saying, “what is good for GM is good for the country”. While graphically redesigned to perform better in digital media platforms, the new logo still closely resembles its five previous upgrades. It remains to be seen if the new image and marketing campaign can convince consumers that GM has the solutions, capability, technology, and scale to compete with Tesla and other established car companies awakening to a future populated by electric vehicles.
Rebranding can work wonders for any business that needs to modernize and differentiate itself from the competition, particularly when the brand logo no longer reflects the company’s new reality. Restaurant Brands International is embarking on significant changes to drive-thru service at more than 10,000 Burger King (BK) locations. The modernizations include digital screens with predictive ordering and double drive-thru lanes. In comparison to the bright, new physical and technological changes in its presence, Global Chief Marketing Officer Fernando Machado said the current BK logo felt “old.” Burger King plans a prolonged rollout of the new, modern version of the classic BK look, with a plan to integrate the new design across all marketing collateral over the next few years.
A PR crisis is sometimes the driving force behind a business decision to reinvent or redefine public image. In a summer of social media backlash and racial tension, PepsiCo announced that it was changing the name of its iconic Aunt Jemima’s brand and abandoning its historic logo after 130 years. An attempt to update the brand has been ongoing since 1989 but the efforts appear to have stalled. After investigating numerous possible names, PepsiCo announced that it was rebranding Aunt Jemima as Pearl Milling Company, the name of the original company founded in 1888. Kristin Kroepfl, Chief Marketing Officer for Quaker Foods North America says the new name “reflects the dignity, the respect, and the warmth that we stand for.” Pearl Milling Company opens up the possibility of developing new products, which was challenging to do with Aunt Jemima, Kroepfl concludes. The Aunt Jemima brand represented over $350 million in sales last year. Its syrup and pancake mix have grown 18% and 23%, as consumers took to eating at home more often during the COVID-19 pandemic. The company removed the Aunt Jemima image late in 2020 and will introduce the new name and logo in June of 2021.
Other brands looking to shed images that have become associated with slavery and racism in the coming year are; Uncle Ben’s, Eskimo Pie, Geechie Boy Mill, The Washington Redskins, Cream Of Wheat, Mrs. Butterworth, and Land O’ Lakes. Products whose brands have any potential negative links to important social issues will continue to be highlighted and marked for change in the coming year.
Regardless of the reason for rebranding, businesses will continue to keep consumers’ needs and perspectives in mind as they consistently represent the company’s core values and cultural beliefs in an authentic way.