Also Known As: A lesson in rebranding

November 13, 2017

I know a medium amount of music history. Actually, no – medium seems too high. I know some music history. Ugh. My knowledge is basic, who am I kidding? Well, at the very least, I feel confident in saying that I’ve kept up with the many name changes of some of my favourite artists. From Snoop Dogg to Lion – from Puff Daddy to P. Diddy to just Diddy and *NOW* to – wait, never mind. Puff just punked me. Though he had announced via Instagram that his stage name was changing to “Brother Love”, it seems he was trying to pull a fast one on us. Which, almost worked on me, that’s for sure.

In any case, keeping up with the Joneses and their many stage names got me thinking about the rebrands and name changes that we’ve seen popular Canadian companies navigate through the years. As Kraft Dinner is now KD, popular fast food chain Kentucky Fried Chicken was officially known as K‘ehFC in Canada for our sesquicentennial year – many brands have undergone name changes.

At Environics Communications, we have guided a myriad of clients through complicated business and brand changes that can include changing the names of commonly recognized and loved products. As trusted partners, we understand the reasoning behind these choices, but sometimes consumers aren’t so supportive – which can make communicating these types of changes tricky. Luckily for us, we’re a group of expert communicators who’ve learned a few things through the 20+ years that we’ve been at it.

Interestingly, some of the approaches we use mirror Puff – uhh, I mean Brother Love’s – uhh, I mean Diddy’s – most famous lyrical phrases.

1. ‘Better now than never, business before pleasure’ (Victory – Puff Daddy feat. Biggie & Busta Rhymes)

Smart marketers don’t fix something that isn’t broken just for fun. When navigating a change in a brand name, one of the first questions we ask our clients is “why?” – the context as to why a change in name is occurring is extremely important in communicating that change. It is vital that a company be transparent and honest with its core audience about these types of changes, sharing a strong narrative and brand story with them. Through doing this, they showcase to their core audience that a change is being undertaken for a logical business reason rather than just for pleasure. When Chapters Bookstores became Indigo – they painted an engaging and inspiring narrative that explained they were shifting names to keep up with the needs and changing interests of their customers, who they considered central to their reason for being.

2. ‘Nothing but big things, check the hit list … what change but the name?’ (Bad Boy For Life – Puff Daddy feat. Mark Curry & Black Rob)

Have changes occurred to the makeup or production of the product itself? Is the company restructuring or renaming each of its offered products or services? Again, on the importance of transparency, we always work with clients to ensure that the stories being told are comprehensive and authentic for their audiences. Often, name changes occur to modernize a product or company – and keep them relevant to their customers. Think of the Hudson’s Bay Company – there is no way that the company would have lasted 150+ years without a few name changes (HBC, The Bay). As Canadians have changed through the years, the name of this national retail institution has followed suit.

3. ‘You was the greatest, you’ll always be the greatest’ (I’ll be Missing You – Puff Daddy feat. Faith Evans)

If you’ve built a strong loyalty and affinity with your consumers, it’s likely that they’re going to continue to be loyal to you through a name change. If your core brand values continue to align with those of your consumers, and the change is communicated with transparency, strong narrative and logic, consumers usually follow their favourite brands through their journey of change.

Change is a scary thing. Sometimes it’s necessary and unexpected (ahem, The Weinstein Company) and sometimes it’s not. But with the right reasoning and a little help from your friends (or your favourite rap / hip-hop titan), it’s not impossible.