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The most instructive rebranding case studies of all time – part 1

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Rebranding should never be a decision taken lightly. It costs money, is time-consuming, requires years before any benefits can be seen and often ends up as a PR nightmare. Rebranding combined with the launch of a new name is even trickier. It’s even more expensive and tedious, and its ROI is virtually impossible to calculate.

However, time and again, companies make this call (primarily for the reasons we’ve described here) and rename themselves. There are many examples of well-known brands whose original names we don’t even remember: Google used to be called BackRub; Pepsi was Brad’s Drink; Nissan – Datsun; Axa – National Mutual; eBay – AuctionWeb; Nike – Blue Ribbon Sports.

In this series of posts, we will be writing about what we believe are the most instructive rebranding case studies of all time, each for a different reason.

1. Santander

Santander, before entering the UK market in 2010, had been operating in Spain for 160 years. In the UK, however, it was a completely new player on the market with no brand awareness. The brand wasn’t introduced as a new entity and built organically. Instead, three British banks: Abbey National, Bradford & Bingley and Alliance & Leicester were combined and rebranded as Santander. In the US, Sovereign Bank was also renamed as Santander in 2013.

Why is it an interesting case?
On the one hand, Santander managed to build its brand awareness relatively quickly thanks to the solid retail presence of its rebranded institutions. On the other hand, the brand inherited the problems of the three banks it acquired (mostly regarding customer service) as the rebranding happened before the integration and unification of all business processes. As a result, Santander, a totally new brand on the British market, was for some time perceived as one of the worst banks for customer service.

What’s the key lesson?
If you don’t want the new brand to acquire the problems of the company being renamed, fix them before rebranding.

2. Accenture

Before 2001, Arthur Andersen was a well-respected name in one of the so-called “Big Five” accounting firms. Andersen Consulting was a business consulting unit within Arthur Andersen, which was growing much more quickly than the rest of the company. For more than a decade, there was increasing tension between the two entities, as Andersen Consulting was unhappy with the fact that it had to pay up to 15% of its annual profits to its parent company (had Arthur Andersen been doing better than Andersen Consulting, they would have been obliged to do the same). To make things worse, the parent company set up a new consulting department, which was in direct competition with Andersen Consulting. As a result of this prolonged dispute, the two officially split in 2001 and Andersen Consulting was required to change its name. It then rebranded as Accenture.

Why is it an interesting case?
Soon after the split, it emerged that Arthur Andersen had been involved in one of the biggest financial scandals in recent history, convicted of shredding documents related to its audit of Enron. Even though the conviction was later overturned, the company’s reputation was ruined and one of the most valuable brands in accounting was thereby destroyed. In the meantime, Accenture was unaffected and continued to grow. It is now one of the most successful consulting organizations in the world, providing services for 94 of the Fortune Global 100 biggest companies in the world.

What’s the key lesson?
If you believe in your offering and your team’s ability to build your business under a new, unknown name, go for it. Spin-offs, after all, have a better track record than mergers.

Santander and Accenture are two of the most instructive rebranding case studies of all time. Read part 2 and part 3.
We will be continuing this series with more examples.

If there are any particular rebranding case studies you would like to read about on this blog, let us know at brandstruck@brandstruck.co.

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If you want to hire Magda for a brand strategy-related project, email her at: magda@brandstruck.co

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Magda Adamska is the founder of BrandStruck.

BrandStruck ithe only online database of brand strategy case studies.
This is a tool that is dedicated to brand and marketing professionals, allowing them to better understand the positioning of the world’s most admired brands, the similarities and differences between them and to learn more about certain categories.

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