What’s the right time and the right reason for rebranding a company?
Example: It will come as no surprise that some service station owners would like to go back to the Amoco name they used before the American Oil Company merged with British Petroleum — BP.
And what about BP’s decision — way before the oil gusher debacle — to use its initials instead of its full name?
A recent article in the Harvard Business Review (HBR — the publication uses it for its URL and on its website) calls that decision into question. BP sought to position itself as “beyond petroleum.” However, after the Gulf spill, many poked fun at the acronym, saying it more accurately stood for “burning the planet” or “billionaires playing.”
Despite BP’s questionable decision, shortening corporate names seems to be in vogue right now.
What was originally the Young Men’s Christian Association, then the YMCA, now wants to be known as just “the Y.”
National Public Radio says it’s more than just radio, now that it’s moved onto other platforms to deliver news and entertainment, such as the Web. So, for now on, it’s just NPR, please.
Kentucky Fried Chicken became KFC, corresponding with the fast food chain’s desire to be known for more than just fried foods. But the change at the colonel’s eatery may have had more to do with new licensing fees from the Commonwealth of Kentucky on anyone who uses the state’s name.
You may not have heard of this one, unless you live in the upper Midwest. The Wisconsin Tourism Federation actually used its acronym, “WTF,” in its logo. You’ve probably guessed that the organization made a change to the Tourism Federation of Wisconsin, which allowed it to use the acronym “TFW,” that didn’t refer to a four-letter word.
The HBR article suggests some rules of thumb for rebranding:
- Could rebranding help distance the company from a tainted brand?
- Do customers already use the initials? That was the case with the Y, NPR and KFC.
- Could the acronym we’re considering embarrass us?