This week tech conglomerate Google shocked the public and investors alike when it announced a restructuring of its assets and rebranded itself as “Alphabet”.
As expected, when you’re one of the world’s most prolific companies, a name change is shocking.
Though there are mixed reviews as to whether the fallout will ultimately prove positive or negative, it just goes to show how sensitive the art of rebranding can be.
With the Google-Alphabet restructure dominating the topic of rebranding lately, we’ll use it as a jumping off point to parse out the do’s and dont’s of rebranding a company.
Don’t adopt a merely descriptive or generic name for your company. It’s one of the weakest forms of trademark. It would be like Lays rebranding to simply ‘chips’. In Google’s case, the holding company ‘Alphabet’ is creating some trademark headaches as hundreds of US business like Alphabet Bar in NYC, Alphabet Energy, and a BMW subsidiary by the name of…you guessed it…Alphabet, gear up for possible litigation.
Don’t ignore established brand loyalty or alienate existing customers. These things make up your ‘brand equity’, and can damage your reputation in the wake of a needless image overhaul. For instance, Google is the world’s leader in search with companies like Bing and Yahoo paling in comparison. If Internet users were to assume that Google is more interested in developing say, driverless cars than search, they might go elsewhere to find “Dallas’ Top PR Firms” or “2015’s Hottest Diets”.
Sometimes a shiny new coat of paint instead of a complete rebuild is all you need to refresh your image.
Don’t proceed without a well-thought out plan. Everyone on your team from CEO to customer support should be well-briefed leading up to your rebrand. Peter Henning, professor of law at Wayne State University Law School, said it best when he spoke with The Guardian in early August 2015: “It’s a very complex structure – they’re setting it up for something else down the road. It is form over substance, but you have to have the form in place before you can do the substance. It gives them a lot of flexibility for financing and for spin-offs.”
Do use a rebrand to increase transparency. Investors and your market share will appreciate it. For example, Google has said its new holding company with help their overall business become ‘cleaner and more accountable’. This spiders out to its investments, delineating a transparent line of spending on new projects and available opportunities, including its drone delivery efforts. In fact, during the aftermath of Alphabet’s launch, shares grew more than 5%!
Do use a rebrand to increase your company’s relevance and perception as a leader of industry. A rebrand can help you keep up with changes in your industry…or in Google’s case, set the trends in your industry. In a blog post Google explained that they’ve “long believed that over time companies tend to get comfortable doing the same thing, just making incremental changes. But in the technology industry, where revolutionary ideas drive the next big growth areas, you need to be a bit uncomfortable to stay relevant.’
Or as Google co-founder Larry Page put it, technology is revolutionary, not evolutionary.
Do rebrand when shifting focus. This can come in conjunction with a modification to your products and services, change in leadership, or to help promote a new identity or mission statement. In short, Google has made it clear they are not shifting focus from search, but merely expanding their product offerings to include every letter of the alphabet—aka: the foundation of language.
Ultimately, while the jury’s still out on Google’s decision to rebrand as ‘Alphabet’, the restructure gives businesses lots to chew on when it comes to their own rebranding efforts—a decision that can prove to be an invaluable element when carried out properly.
Dos and Dont’s? Really. Its “Dos and Don’ts.”