Establishing a unique and memorable brand is vital in today’s digital era. A quality brand identity and reputation can directly result in repeat customers, loyal traffic, and higher customer lifetime value. If you don’t get it right the first time though, you can always consider a rebranding strategy.
One of the most common phrases that bounces around in the start-up world is “just start.” The main ideology here is that taking the first step is the hardest, and the sooner you start, the sooner you can get where you’re aiming to go. The other half of this equation, however, is about being flexible, adapting, and learning along the way.
In other words, no one gets it exactly right their first time around, but that’s okay! Once you’ve taken the first steps to get started, you’ll have a framework in place that can be altered and adapted to fit new strategies and market tactics. This is where rebranding strategies can be extremely effective.
Rebranding can inject new energy and new life into an organization. In fact, sometimes a little bit of fresh branding can quite literally save a company.
To learn more about how to approach a rebrand tactfully, we’ve reviewed a few of the largest rebrands in recent history below.
Whether you’re rolling out a new brand image or you’re gearing up for end-of-the-year sales, you can find valuable tactics that fit any campaign in Impact’s eBook, The Ultimate List of Marketing Resources for Any Campaign.
Behind the BP Rebranding Strategies
BP is one of the major players in the gas and oil industry. As such, they tend to come under a lot of fire – especially in the midst of the worsening climate crisis. However, the first BP rebrand we’re going to look at happened in the early 2000s.
BP, originally British Petroleum, had some forward thinkers in the early 2000s who wanted to take active steps toward combatting the climate crisis. In this vein, the London-based oil company rebranded from British Petroleum to Beyond Petroleum, a statement of commitment to moving past non-renewable energy.
However, the benchmarks for their energy initiatives were fairly vague, renewable investments fizzled out, and in 2006, the company was responsible for one of the largest oil spills in Alaska to this day. Then in 2010, there was another historic incident.
“In 2010, an explosion on its [BP’s] Deepwater Horizon oil rig unleashed the largest marine oil spill in history.”
After mostly abandoning the 2002 rebrand, BP declared another set of climate initiatives in 2020, heading in the direction of yet another rebrand for a cleaner, greener company. These initiatives included things like cutting emissions by 35%-40% by 2030, and being carbon neutral by 2050.
However, with oil companies seeing record profits all across the globe, these initiatives have already been pulled back as well.
“On Tuesday, February 7th, [BP] said it was now targeting a 20-30% cut, saying it needed to keep investing in oil and gas to meet current demands.”
The Major Takeaway
When you’re heading into a rebrand, big ambitions and big goals aren’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it’s often good to dream big. As the old saying goes, however, you need to walk the walk after you talk the talk.
Consumer trust plays a huge factor in purchase decision making, so it’s important to keep in mind when you’re making promises during a major rebrand. If you end up not following through, it can hurt your brand reputation in the long run and breed distrust in consumers.
To increase your chance of success, you can come up with two sets of goals leading into a rebrand. Come up with goals you’re fairly certain are achievable, and then create a second set of goals in the same vein that are a bit more ambitious, more like stretch-goals if everything goes exactly to plan.
This is a good way to stay ambitious while giving yourself realistic benchmarks to hit that are aligned with your future vision for the company.
Domino's Cooks Up a Fresh New Brand
The Domino’s brand is truly a testament to a strategic rebrand executed almost to perfection. The pizza giant we know today was almost a non-factor in the industry a little over a decade ago. Owning a measly section of the market share and, at least according to public opinion (my Chicago-born-and-raised-self included), having really bad pizza.
In 2010, though, Patrick Doyle took over the ship as CEO, and started steering the company in the right direction with one of the most successful, impressive, and strategic rebrands we’ve witnessed in recent history.
Two of the pivotal steps that Doyle took to address the failing pizza brand included leaning into digital transformation and acknowledging customer feedback through a public medium; specifically, an ad campaign.
By investing in technology and tech professionals, Doyle effectively improved the customer experience from a digital perspective. This included a more user-friendly delivery app, incorporating chatbots, and using all of the innovative technology at his disposal.
After improving processes, though, he knew he needed to improve the product as well. This is where the legendary Domino’s ad-campaign featuring real-life customer feedback came to fruition.
“Even if delivery was the essential part of its business, the pizza mattered too—and the pizza was bad. Soon after he took over, the company launched an ad campaign that has become legendary for its boldness, sharing comments from focus groups about what people thought of the product.”
The Major Takeaway
Domino’s had a failing brand, poor customer experiences flooding the gates, and self-admitted bad food. Today, Domino’s is the largest pizza delivery brand in the United States, has a share price closing in on $400/share.
The pizza delivery brand has continued to soar since Patrick Doyle parted ways with the company. But it was his leadership, investment in customer feedback, commitment to improvement, and ability to see the comprehensive rebranding strategy that catapulted them into the number one spot that Domino’s enjoys today.
HBO Max Rebrands to "Max"
The last recent rebrand we’re going to examine here is the transition that HBO’s streaming platform underwent in which they added the Discovery+ content library and dropped HBO from the title. Initially known as HBO Max, the platform is now simply Max.
While other rebranding strategies come about in a period of brand turmoil or underperformance, this rebrand seemed more random, especially in the eye of the consumer.
First and foremost, the HBO brand is one of the most respected in all of television, evidenced by their domination at the Emmy Awards since the 90s. In fact, HBO received 127 Emmy nominations this year in 2023, tying a record last held by NBC in 1992. Built over the last half-century, it boasts incredible and historic programs that have pushed the envelope for what TV can be.
Including HBO in the title of the streaming service lent a certain amount of immediate clout for the content to be found within.
In the initial reports, it seems the rebrand is driving some subscribers away.
“The switch from HBO Max to Max has led to 1.8 million subscribers ditching the streaming service.”
According to executives at HBO, Warner Brothers, and Max, this was expected as some subscribers canceled altogether while others simply converted to the more affordable Discovery+ option offered by Warner Brothers.
Despite the loss in subscriber base, profits are actually increasing for the company and they’re hoping to be in the black financially by the end of the year, accelerating their earlier goal of 2025.
While the HBO Max rebrand feels random, the main drivers for the decision involved expanding the content library to include a broader range of content, specifically more kid-friendly and Discovery+ content. Max boasts an additional 35,000 hours of content compared to its predecessor.
This move will certainly test the longevity and authority of the HBO brand.
The Major Takeaway
While Max has lost nearly two million subscribers following their rebrand from HBO Max, their profits have actually begun to increase. Additionally, they’ve added a significant amount of content to their library for a larger range of viewers and have been able to accelerate their timeline to net profits from streaming services; a rare feat to accomplish.
The right time for a rebrand isn’t always obvious, and sometimes the best long-term strategies look poorly planned in early days.
By simplifying HBO Max down to Max and following through on their promises, the streaming company opened doors for additional growth opportunities, has taken a step towards modernizing their image, and has effectively taken the ultimate bet on the strength of their brand recognition and the quality of their content.
“It’s the content that we’ll go out of our way for, and it’s the competitive edge that the brand needs to thrive and gain new subscribers.”
-Sarah Ratinetz, Creative Director, Forsman & Bodenfors-
Wrapping up on Strategic Rebranding
There are an abundance of reasons for companies to consider a strategic rebrand to freshen things up, re-define the image, or shift operations entirely.
Whether the brand is in hot water, or there’s just a better, more aligned direction for the company to take, rebranding strategically and tactfully can overhaul an organization and elevate it to become an industry leader.
Planning for your strategic rebrand is one thing, but announcing it to the marketplace is a whole different game. Get everything you need from Impact’s eBook, The Ultimate List of Marketing Resources for Any Campaign.