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Rebranding - some mistakes to avoid

08/08/2013

Marketers taking on a new client or chief executives hoping to stamp their mark on a new role by changing a company's image often turn to rebranding in a bid to change how their business is perceived.

It's an attractive idea, offering the prospect of a tabula rasa on which new leaders can write. However, the history of failed rebranding attempts highlights the fact that taking this approach can lead down a path filled with pitfalls.

Marketing expert Mark Ritson, writing in Marketing Week, highlighted the patchy legacy generated by the UK's top four accounting firms' attempts to change their brand.

This was recently highlighted when newly installed chief executive Mark Weinberger tried to switch the staid and old-fashioned sounding Ernst & Young to the more dynamic, engaging company name of EY.

"Shortening our name will provide consistency and ease of use for EY practices and clients around the world," explained Mr Weinberger in the press release announcing the move.

Surely, one of the biggest audit firms in the world would have carried out diligent checks on any problems this switch in marketing could bring about?

Well, you would think so. Unfortunately, nobody appeared to have typed EY into Google Images - if they had done they would have realised there appears to be some confusion between the accountancy company and Spanish magazine EY!, which boasts a series of covers featuring handsome young men in swimming costumes.

Amy Call, a communications director for the accounting firm, brushed off any concerns. "It will be apparent to individuals looking for EY, the professional services organisation, that the images are not related to us," she declared. This is probably true, but the fact remains that EY has received some unwanted publicity over the last few weeks.

However, EY are not the only major company to make a mistake in their branding over the last few years - the attempt to market 'New Coke' springs to mind.

While rebranding can be a positive move in the right circumstances, EY's travails emphasise the fact that marketers should do their research before making a decision.