Facebook is now a meta: 8 other companies that tried to rebrand
Renaming a business in times of crisis or as a way to signal a change in direction has been a popular business strategy for decades. But does it really help businesses get rid of their image issues, or do customers see a name change as a facade?
Rebranding is often used to update a business name to reflect cultural shifts in consumer behavior or values, such as when Kentucky Fried Chicken became KFC, ditching ‘fried’, expert says. as consumers increasingly sought healthier choices. In other cases, brands rebrand themselves after mergers or acquisitions, to signal new direction or to distance themselves from negative publicity.
âThe success of a name change depends on companies that educate existing clients about the rationale for the name change in a compelling way,â said Jill Avery, senior lecturer at Harvard Business School who focuses on management of the brand. âIf the name change seems illegitimate, inauthentic, or done for the wrong reasons, businesses risk damaging their relationship with consumers. “
In the case of Facebook, which said Thursday it was changing its corporate name to Meta, the downside risk was minimal for the company, she said, as it changed its corporate brand and not its product brand.
Here’s a look at some of the major corporate rebranding efforts over the decades and how they’ve evolved.
Dunkin ‘Donuts â Dunkin’
The company aimed to breathe new life into the brand in 2019, when it removed the word “Donuts” from its name. Customers would still recognize its colors and font, but the company wanted to give a nod to the chain’s beverage sales, which made up more than half of its business.
The popularity of its long-standing slogan, ‘America Runs on Dunkin’, was also a compelling reason to simplify the brand’s name.
But the company said its focus on donuts remains in place.
Neeru Paharia, an associate professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, whose research focuses on branding, said the rebranding allowed Dunkin ‘to diversify its product offering. âThere was a huge opportunity in the breakfast market,â she said. “And yet, at the same time, everyone knows that if you want a donut, this is where you go.”
Just before the name change took effect, Tony Weisman, then Marketing Director of Dunkin ‘Donuts in the United States, said the relationship the company had with customers was similar to that between friends who are ” on the basis of the first name â.
Philip Morris â Altria Group
In 2001, Philip Morris announced that he was changing the name of his parent company to Altria Group, as part of an effort to shake up negative associations with the lawsuits against his cigarette brands.
Steven C. Parrish, senior vice president of corporate affairs for the parent company at the time of the name change, said on Friday the company knew a name change would not solve its problems.
“We knew changing the name wasn’t going to make all lawsuits go away – it wasn’t going to change the addictive fact that people get sick and die from smoking,” Parrish said. “But we thought changing the name would help us explain what the company was, which was a large consumer products holding company, and not just a tobacco company.”
Google â Alphabet
Companies change brands for reasons other than to turn a new leaf after public relations nightmares. In 2015, Google reorganized under a new name, Alphabet, in order to separate its lucrative assets from the unprofitable parts of its business. The company is now worth $ 1.5 trillion more than it was when it was called Google, DealBook reported. But it’s hard to distinguish how much of that increase may be attributable to its name change versus its changed corporate structure.
Alphabet’s name change wasn’t the first time Google had changed its name. In 1996, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin named their business BackRub, after its ability to analyze the links that take users from one site to another.
British Petroleum â BP
In 1998, British Petroleum PLC announced its intention to acquire US oil company Amoco for $ 48.2 billion. Under its new name, BP Amoco became the largest producer of oil and natural gas in the United States. After the merger, a new brand approach aimed to position the company as an eco-friendly retailer.
The slogan âbeyond oilâ was born, accompanied by a new sunburst logo.
In 2001, BP Amoco became BP. The simplified name became loaded with political and environmental connotations after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, when officials in Washington used âBritish Petroleumâ and âBPâ interchangeably.
Invoking the old name was seen as a “backslash on Britain” at a time when 39% of the company was owned by American shareholders and half of its board of directors was American.
IHOP â IHOb
Some name changes were temporary gimmicks to promote a new product. In 2018, IHOP, known for its pancakes, played with its name, claiming to change it to IHOb in a marketing campaign for a line of Ultimate Steakburgers.
The “b” stood for hamburgers. It attracted a lot of attention.
“We thought people would have fun with it, but we never imagined it would get America’s attention the way it did,” an IHOP spokeswoman said. , Stephanie Peterson.
Valujet â AirTran
In May 1996, a Valujet Airlines crash in the Florida Everglades killed all 110 people on the plane. A month later, the Federal Aviation Administration shut down the airline indefinitely, citing “serious deficiencies” in its operations. But an airline spokesperson said he would return.
As its public image struggled, Valujet announced in 1997 that it was purchasing AirTran Airways and that it would drop the Valujet name. The name Valujet fell further when Southwest Airlines announced in 2010 that it was purchasing AirTran.
Aunt Jemima â Pearl Milling Company
The line of pancake and syrup mixes formerly known as Aunt Jemima, which had long been the subject of criticism that her name and image were rooted in racist imagery, replaced her 131-year-old name with Pearl Milling Company. The name comes from the St. Joseph, Missouri company that pioneered pancake mix.
The change was initiated last year, after the murder of George Floyd sparked protests against racial injustice and a nationwide awareness of the symbols of the Old South and their meanings.