So You Think You Know What Rebranding Is?


By Julia Koh & Syira Junaidi
April 2019
Dunkin’ Donuts has done it. Bank Simpanan Nasional has done it. MasterCard, Uber, FoodPanda, Pepsi and even Apple have all done it. It’s a rite of passage every business will eventually go through. In some cases, rebranding can even become a necessity.

To put it simply, rebranding is a process of changing your brand’s assets to influence the perception of stakeholders of your brand. Since branding is all about perception, rebranding is an effort to influence how your audience perceives your brand.

Isn’t rebranding just a change of brand logo?

It’s not as simple as that. A brand logo is an emblem of the brand and the business. It doesn’t stand by itself. Rather, it represents the key messages that you had crafted in your brand strategy. Therefore, making a change to the logo – major or minor, needs a rationale and a goal.

Rebranding means more than a logo change. Often, it also involves a change in brand positioning, corporate identity and the whole brand experience. We’ll look into some good examples about what rebranding is all about and why they choose to rebrand.

Why Do Companies Rebrand?

In the simplest terms, you rebrand to be more relatable and relevant to your target audience. Essentially, everything you do should be because of the customers. Rebranding is no different. Let’s look at more specific reasons for rebranding:

  1. Adapting to Changes in Technology & Culture

    One of the most common reasons for a rebranding is to adapt to change. Just as how your iOS or Android software needs updates every so often, your brand needs an update too. Society and trends changes over a few years, as well as their needs.

    A good brand update can deliver a fresher look, create attention and buzz, and relate better to your customers.

    Mastercard: Getting Digitally-Oriented

    Mastercard’s two overlapping circles of red and yellow are synonymous to payment services around the world for decades. So when the company rebranded, they had to figure out how to achieve their goal while retaining their ubiquitous identity.

    Mastercard’s rebranding came from their need to be more digital-friendly, especially on mobile devices. As more customers pay and transfer money using mobile application, Mastercard found the need to change their brand logo to fit better into mobile interfaces and the overall customer experience.

    So they changed the position of the logotype (the word) to be below the logomark (icon). The font of the logotype was changed and the stripes where the circles overlapped were removed. All these allow Mastercard to use the logomark separately without the logotype. It works well on mobile apps, social media profile icons, websites as well as on their usual collateral like brochures and signboards.

  2. Repositioning to Compete Better

    Many companies rebrand to change people’s perception of where the brand stands among competitors in the industry. Brands reposition themselves to get a better fighting chance after losing market share, or to be a more formidable competitor. A logo change might or might not be necessary, depending if it will help the brand’s new positioning.

    Apple Inc: Repositioned to Become An Icon

    If you’re old enough to remember, Apple had desktop computers called the Macintosh back in the ‘90s. It had trouble catching up to Microsoft, whom with Windows 95 and 98, dominated the market with their operating system and software.

    When Steve Jobs became CEO in 1998, the first thing he did was repositioning Apple as a brand that is about ‘think different’. Apple was rebranded with cooler product names like Macbook and iPad, new user experience, new colour scheme, even a new retail experience. All of which are packaged into a sleek new Apple icon we’re seeing everywhere today.

    Though Apple might not be the first to sell touch screen devices, the brand certainly made it mainstream. And after 20 years, Apple is consistently the most valuable company in the world, with a brand value of USD 182.8 billion.

    On that note, we had worked with Sicao to effectively reposition their brand. Sicao is an international chocolate brand with a weak presence in the Asia Pacific. Through strategic positioning and consistent brand communication, we helped Sicao chocolate better communicate their brand differentiation and appeal to their target customers.

  3. Entering a New Market

    Companies also find the need to rebrand when they face new types of customers in a new market. Some expand into new industries relating to their core business, others go through mergers & acquisitions (M&A) that result in a new company. In both cases, they might need to rebrand to present themselves appropriately to the target market.

    Mailchimp: Going Beyond Emails

    Mailchimp started as an email-automation startup in 2001. After 18 years, they went from delivering emails to being a holistic marketing platform. Mailchimp had to communicate to clients about their new abilities or they’ll be perceived as just an email company and lose valuable clients.

    Taking quite a huge leap, the company decided to adopt an expressive shade of yellow as their official brand colour. They also have new design concepts, new logo fonts, and a new icon. All these brand elements indicate to customers who the new Mailchimp is and how they have grown.

    An example of rebranding due to M&A in Malaysia is Sapura Energy. They were previously named SapuraKencana Petroleum, a result of a merger in 2012 between SapuraCrest Petroleum and Kencana Petroleum. In 2017, SapuraKencana was rebranded into Sapura Energy as an integrated oil and gas company.

    The brand logo in 2012 represented the new merger, but the 2017 version encapsulated them better using a more modern design.

  4. Eliminating a Negative Brand Image

    Having a negative brand image has been shown to affect both sales and brand value. But rebranding doesn’t necessarily have to happen every time a customer is angry. It’s a big deal to rebrand, which is why it’s not often that brands have to change if some PR nightmare happened. United Airlines, for example.

    However, if it has to come to a complete branding overhaul, the main goal would be to persuade the audience to see the brand in a better light.

    Uber: Restarting Again

    Uber rebranded twice between 2016 and 2018. The first rebranding in 2016 was done to appeal more to professionals and city-dwellers. They developed a sophisticated icon while changing their user interface and animations. That time, Uber aimed for a classy and exclusive look.

    However, after facing a lot of bad press due to scandals involving the CEO, the Uber brand became less exclusive. It also didn’t help that they lost market share in Russia, China, and Southeast Asia in two years.

    To combat a chronically-ill branding, Uber rebranded again in late 2018. Their brand logo now has a more friendly feel as they ditch the uppity, all-caps look. They also changed the logo font, brand voice, and personality to look more down-to-earth and simple. Uber understands that if your customers don’t think you’re that cool anymore, you might as well adapt to it instead of trying too hard.

In conclusion

Rebranding is more than a logo change. It digs deeper to tell stakeholders that the brand is changing, expanding or adapting to serve them better. As a brand agency, we worked with clients from numerous industries to help them develop a strategy that improves their brand, and visualise that change through a rebrand of their physical identity.

When a rebranding does require a new brand logo, the logo has to be relevant and representative of the new brand. As time changes, the logo might require an update to stay fresh in the perception of your target customers, employees, and all your stakeholders.