Rebranding is all over the news these days as brands deal with changing audiences, shifting priorities and, in some cases, dramatically altered landscapes. I was reading a story in Kent State Magazine about my alma mater’s rebranding, when a quote caught my eye.
“A brand articulates our aspirations and elevates us to where we want to be — a distinguished and thriving research university, full of remarkable scholars, students and staff.” -Kent State President Beverly Warren
The first part of President Warren’s quote nails what a brand is, but there’s also a second part to the equation. A brand’s customers, or target audiences, have to buy in to those aspirations. Brands live in the real world, not a vacuum. If your customers (or potential new customers) don’t buy what you’re selling, so to speak, your aspirations and where you want to be don’t mean much.
Let’s look at two high profile examples. Budweiser tried to boost its summer sales by temporarily renaming its beer, America. That’s right, the popular beer manufacturer ditched its memorable ad campaigns and iconic Clydesdales to put our country’s name on its label for the summer. Who’s up for an ice cold America?
While this odd move probably won’t hurt the company’s sales (summer is beer-drinking season), it’s been met by mockery online and seen as an attention grab by the press. Even worse, it’s brought the company’s Belgium ownership into the conversation, which is not something that a brand marketed on patriotism and American ideals wants to discuss.
Budweiser, err America, isn’t the only well-known brand to freshen up its look lately. Instagram felt its logo was outdated, so the company unveiled its new, modern look this week. While the previous logo represented a camera, the fast-growing social platform “wanted to create a look that would represent the community’s full range of expression — past, present, and future.” (Read more on the rebrand here.)
That makes sense. Why hasn’t the Instagram community (and world) embraced it? The company is right that most people (outside of professional photographers) don’t use stand-alone cameras to take the pictures they post on its platform today, and you can now post videos too. But Instagram is still a visually-inspired platform, which is what the camera icon represented to so many people.
Sometimes brands are so focused on short term sales or attention, they forget the essence of who they are or why consumers love them. As KSU President Warren notes, “Our brand is not a tagline, logo or glitzy website. Rather, it is what people think and feel when they hear the name “Kent State.” It is about the big idea. In essence, it is about defining and sharing the heart of Kent State.”
I’m proud that my alma mater has handled its rebranding process so well and that brands everywhere, from beer manufacturers to social platforms, could learn a thing or two from a university where I learned so much.
A Lesson on (Re)Branding
What do you think about Budweiser’s temporary name change or Instagram’s new look?
What other brand has handled the rebranding process well?
What brand needs to rebrand?
A proud KSU alumna (and fan of great branding everywhere),