Yesterday, I read a headline that said, “Dunkin’ is dropping the ‘Donuts’ from its name.” At first, I thought to myself, “Well that’s stupid.” But then, I started thinking, “Is it though? Am I the idiot? Is it really a genius marketing move?” (3 minute read)
Re-branding is a tricky business… for any company. When a company is looking to grow, attract a new audience, bring in more business, they generally consider re-branding first. And if done right, it can lead to success. However, if done wrong, it can go very wrong.
Rob Frankel of Method Inc. says it best, “Why would anyone throw away decades of brand value (which actually shows up on the balance sheet as an intangible asset) just to try to be cool for a few minutes?”
There are several great examples of companies pouring millions of dollars into a re-brand and later having to roll it back once the launch was deemed unsuccessful. Two of the more memorable (and unsuccessful) re-brands is Radio Shack and Gap.
In 2009, Radio Shack launched a massive advertising campaign in which it re-branded itself as “The Shack” in an attempt to seem hip… even though nothing about the company was changing… not their products or internal identity. As you can image, consumers became outraged and the company had no choice but to abandon their brand new “look” and revert back to their old identity.
Gap went through a similar situation just a few years ago as well.
In October of 2010, Gap attempted to “refresh” their look. However, it was met with a backlash so extreme that it returned to its original logo in just one week.
You know a re-brand is bad when fake Twitter accounts are created just to mock your terrible decision. Here is just one example of what people were saying about Gap’s expensive new logo:
“This is what happens when you take a company field trip to a screening of Helvetica. Damn you Gary Hustwit!”
AdAge wrote that critics’ “most common sentiment [was] that it looks like something a child created using a clip-art gallery.”
Not all re-branding can be bad though. There have been several successful re-brand such as Old Spice and Target, but for the most part, re-branding can be messy and companies shouldn’t make the decision lightly (or without a UX study for that matter).
After a lot of thought on whether Dunkin’ Donut’s re-brand is genius marketing move or not, I’ve decided… it’s not. Not in the least.
An interview with CBS states that the reasoning for the name change is because Dunkin’ wants to be known first and foremost for its coffee.
But, to build off of what Rob Frankel said, throwing away a decade of brand recall is crazy. You are known for donuts… which often times includes coffee as well. When people want donuts, they remember your name. The idea is simple, if the word is in your name, you must be pretty confident about your product… right? If you’re pretty confident, your donuts must be pretty dang good, right? Own it! …just be good at coffee too.
There have been a lot of companies who have been the industry experts, but later tried to expand their product line and become more of a jack-of-all-trades sort of thing. Alongside “Dunkin’,” “Domino’s” is also currently in the process dropping their specialization for something a bit more generic. However, if either of these companies would have examined what Pizza Hut went through a few years ago, they might have thought twice about trying to re-brand.
In 2009, Pizza Hut considered changing its name to “The Hut.” When consumers found out, there was a lot of negative backlash surrounding the name change. Fortunately, due to receiving enough negative reaction early on the company moving fairly slow with their re-brand, only a few stores signs were changed and they were able to save their long-standing brand.
Re-branding can be tricky… and companies who have tried to re-brand without revamping their menu/products/services in an attempt to seem cool, haven’t found a lot of success. However, brands that promote their expertise with a certain product/service have shown to have more success.
The moral of the story… specialization helps consumers recall a brand. If a certain word is in your name, then obviously, that’s what your good at. If that’s what your good at, why would I go anywhere else and get mediocre?
For any companies that are looking to re-brand, the most important things to remember are to not lose your identity and if it’s not broke don’t fix it.
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