To Rebrand or Not to Rebrand?

How Do You Know When It’s Time to Rebrand?

Just like people, brands at times need to freshen up their appearance, have a more substantial makeover or even go through a complete transformation in order to remain relevant, different and credible in their marketplace. Occasionally, a rebranding effort involves a name change (like when United Telecom became Sprint in 1992, or when Allegheny Airlines became US Air in 1979), but typically a rebranding project involves a change in the brand’s look and feel.

There’s no rule of thumb regarding how often a brand should rebrand. Some brands have gone through many rebrandings over the course of their lives. For example, take Fiat with 16 rebrands and Pepsi with 11. In contrast, other brands have gone through far fewer rebranding projects: American Airlines and BMW each rebranded four times and Audi only twice over comparably long periods.

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Some rebranding efforts are very successful. For example, when Subway used everyman Jared to tell the Subway story, sales quickly escalated from $3 billion to $11 billion. And when Old Spice dusted off its tired old brand image with a sassy new image campaign featuring a buff athlete, website traffic jumped 300 percent and sales doubled. On the other hand, some rebranding efforts have failed. Witness Gap’s recent introduction of a new logo that lasted a mere six days before the company was forced to revert to the old one. Or Tropicana’s ill-fated 2009 change away from its classic and well-loved packaging, resulting in a 20 percent decline in revenue and an outcry on social media.

Why do some rebranding efforts fail? They usually fail when there is no good rebranding rationale for the public to understand (e.g., Gap) or when core equities of the brand are simply abandoned for no good reason (e.g., Tropicana). People relate to brands and express themselves through the brands they buy, own and use.

Old Spice
Tropicana Orange Juice

So how do you know whether it’s time to rebrand?


You should think about rebranding under any of the following three conditions.
  1. When Your Brand’s Image Has Become Outdated

You simply may not have freshened the brand in a very long time – something which is frequently accompanied by stagnating or even declining market share due to loss in relevance of the brand to target audiences and/or loss of differentiation against competitors. Consider the heavy, tired and old image of Olive Garden (below, left) compared with its lighter, more contemporary look and feel (below, right).

Olive Garden

Your business vision also may have outgrown your brand image, which could be due to organic planning, new management or ownership, or merger and acquisition activity. Consider CVS Caremark overtly refocusing on health with CVS Health.


Other examples include Boston Chicken rebranding to Boston Market to convey that it offers more than chicken, or Verizon emerging from the merger of Bell Atlantic with NYNEX.

  1. When Your Branding Has Become Inconsistent, Complex or Fractured Over Time

Google’s recent rebranding to Alphabet helped to clarify the picture concerning the businesses that Google – oops, Alphabet – is in.


Furthermore, consider all of the vehicle brands that General Motors was supporting before its bankruptcy in 2009 versus the much leaner and meaner GM brand that emerged after its bankruptcy.

  1. When Your Brand’s Image Has Turned Negative in the Market

Philip Morris rebranded as Altria, a coined name that sounds life-affirming and positive, to escape the negative associations of tobacco and smoking.


Andersen Consulting also rebranded as Accenture in the wake of the Enron accounting scandal that was a disaster for Arthur Andersen.


These three core reasons cover most of the scenarios under which you may want to rebrand. For help determining whether rebranding is right for you, contact us at Six Degrees.

For the success factors associated with rebranding, see our other post Success Factors for Rebranding: How to Make Your Rebrand Successful.


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Frank Schab
An experienced marketing and branding strategist, Frank has been helping clients optimize the value of their brands through insightful analysis and effective strategy for more than three decades. Along with holding positions at General Motors and Pfizer, Frank served as a Managing Partner at Interbrand New York and VP of Global Brand Research at Opinion Research Corporation before co-founding Six Degrees. His brand-building work in various sectors including hospitality, medical device, pharmaceutical, automotive and technology has taken him to 17 countries on four continents. Frank holds a doctorate in psychology from Yale University and speaks fluent German.

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