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The past few years have brought countless changes to our lives. After the outbreak of the pandemic, many companies have adapted and converted to a new business model at an unprecedented pace. Others took it upon themselves to shake things up, giving themselves a new name, look, and sometimes domain name in the process. And many were in both categories, adjusting their public-facing side to reflect internal changes. Among these companies were Facebook – now Meta – and mobile payment company Square – now Block.
Why now? While companies are changing their brand names for many reasons, there are a few catalysts behind this recent wave. Below are possible explanations for the shifts, along with takeaways if you’re looking to build on the momentum of the present moment and rename your own business.
Rebranding that reflected internal changes
Companies tend to rebrand when their name or image becomes obsolete due to external or internal changes. Internal changes that drive companies to rebrand include a different customer base they want to attract, new products/services, or a merger or acquisition.
In October 2021, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that the media titan would turn into Meta, a nod to the emerging metaverse. Block, formerly Square, also changed its name to better encapsulate its extensive product portfolio and growing interest in blockchain technology. Both rebrands signal to investors that the companies will devote more resources to exploring these new frontiers, demonstrating that they are more than the technologies synonymous with their former names. Once positioned as standalone platforms, Meta and Block are now key players driving the technology industry forward.
Mergers and acquisitions that tend to trigger internal realignments also force companies to rebrand. 74% of the S&P Global 100 companies rebranded an acquired asset within seven years of the acquisition — and for good reason. Brand Finance examined all public acquisitions from 2015 to 2020 with transaction sizes greater than $500 million and found that acquisitions that were not renamed had a 56% greater chance of serious business loss for the acquirer. Rebranding in the wake of a major internal shift can help establish a new corporate culture and refocus both employees and customers.
Related: When to Consider a Rebrand (and How to Do It Right)
Rebrands fueled by social shifts
On the other hand, external societal shifts can cause companies to question their long-term relevance, which also drives them to rebrand. The Dunkin Donuts rebrand Simply Dunkin, for example, can be explained by a greater shift in Americans’ perspectives on food. Research of Archer Daniels Midland found that 77% of Americans plan to take steps to become healthier in the future. Hoping to stay relevant during this shift, marked by an increase in the plant-based diet and a growing wariness of sugar, Dunkin Donuts decided to drop the word Donuts from its name in 2019 and simply become Dunkin.
While Dunkin’s rebrand can be attributed to increased health awareness, a shift in social awareness may explain the changes to the brands formerly known as the Washington Redskins and Aunt Jemima. In the summer of 2020, the Black Lives Matter movement continued to spark more intense conversations around race. Both Aunt Jemima and the Washington Redskins were criticized for using language and imagery rooted in racial stereotypes and changed their names to Pearl Milling Company and the Washington Commanders, respectively. Brands that traded on unflattering racial stereotypes ran the risk of appearing deaf or downright abusive as public awareness shifted about racial issues. What was once tolerated or ignored became unacceptable and obsolete.
But perhaps the pandemic has ushered in the biggest changes of all. According to McKinsey, 75% of Americans have changed shopping behavior and brands as a result, and countless brands have had to change their brand or value proposition to adapt to new audiences and consumer needs. While the Meta rebrand was both a way to capitalize on an emerging market and to distance ourselves from the controversy surrounding the Facebook name, it’s hard to imagine this strategic move would have been taken so quickly if we didn’t have a very had been at home for years. Commenting on the benefits of the metaverse, Zuckerberg said it will be “like we’re there with people, no matter how far apart we are,” showing a clear link to previous months of social distancing.
Related: Important Lessons I Learned From a Rebrand
Takeaways for your brand and business
As the brands above show, rebranding can be a smart strategy to stay relevant and reflect company-wide change for customers, but it can also be a huge undertaking. Fortunately, a little forethought can go a long way. If you’re considering renaming your own business, here are some considerations to keep in mind:
Determine the magnitude of the change: First, determine how much change your audience can tolerate. While some companies are making minor changes, others, like Block, have completely overhauled their name and branding. Block decided to give their parent company a new name, look and feel, but they kept their products the same. While the change was important to the company itself, it had little effect on the people who use their products and services — which is why they didn’t alienate customers.
Devise a communication strategy: A communication plan is critical to maintaining customer confidence. Clearly explain the rationale behind your rebranding and leverage all the channels you use to connect with your customers and audience. Reassure them that their experience with your company will not change – or only change for the better – as a result of your new identity.
Reconsider your domain name: When rebranding, your domain name is an essential tool to communicate your new focus and values. By aligning your domain with your new brand name, you can create a consistent digital identity. Make sure to choose a domain that is short, memorable, and descriptive — without confusing prefixes, suffixes, or hyphens. A descriptive domain, which uses meaningful keywords to the left and right of the dot to tell your audience who you are and what you do, is a good option. It helps your new brand name stick in the minds of your audience and customers. Some examples are oat.haus and switchboard.live.
Think critically about your digital identity: Your rebranding should set you up for success in our rapidly changing world, while considering potential disruptions on the horizon. With the rise of the metaverse, it is critical for brands to have a cohesive identity that encapsulates who they are and why they matter. Tune in to your voice, your image and your domain name – and what each of them communicates to your customers.
Related: Behind the Scenes of a Company Rebranding
Embracing change in uncertain times
As we simultaneously recover from the pandemic and embrace new economic and societal shifts – from the rise of blockchain to greater social and health awareness – brands will continue to reshape their image.
The world will continue to change, and those who seize the opportunity to capture new customers, audiences and markets will remain top of mind, while others risk being left behind. Some will face change with resistance, while others will embrace a new normal and take advantage of new opportunities. Which group do you end up in?