Brand management

Rebranding strategies
An insight into the salient aspects of rebranding in India and the major factors that drive rebranding decisions by the business firms
brand is essentially a seller’s promise to deliver a specific set of features, benefits, and services consistently to the customers (Kotler and Armstrong, 2010). It helps enterprises to communicate desirable images about the quality, features, and uniqueness product offerings (Keller, 2003). A brand should be able to communicate that it is better than the other brands on parameters that customers evaluate; equally important, it should match with the customers’ personality (Ailawadi and Keller, 2004). Branding is a critical means through which firms align their strategy, culture, and identity, too (Rao, Agarwal, and Dahlhoff, 2004). In India, brand names and logos were traditionally used to communicate the identity of the seller rather than associating them with the distinguished benefits of the product. As quoted by Anand Halve, cofounder of Chlorophyll India, brand names and symbols in the past often did not represent something that the brand stood for (Khicha, 2009). Due to the government’s protectionist policy, competition was low before the economic liberalisation in the 90’s and marketers were able to market


their products effortlessly (Khanna and Palepu, 1999). Thus the incentive to implement branding in its true meaning was comparatively low. With the economic reforms of the 90’s, domestic firms began to face stiff global competition and the availability of multiple options made Indian consumers choosier. Over last one and a half decade, marketing observers in India have seen notable changes in the way marketers attempt to create or rebuild brands (Kumar, 2003). Branding for survival has paved way for branding for excellence. However, given the unique set of conditions in India under which the practice of branding has evolved, brand development and management did not strictly follow the patterns prescribed by the Western theories of branding (Rajagopal, 2001). For a country like India, unique cultural considerations are central to any brand’s strategy that connects consumers with the brand’s proposition, observes Kumar, Guruvayurappan, and Banerjee (2007). The present paper conceptually explores the dynamics of rebranding in the Indian context and highlights how similar or dissimilar its trajectories have been via-a-vis elsewhere. It also





Brand management

Features BENEFITS Se rv i c e s


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proposes a blueprint for successful rebranding based on what we learned as part of this research.

Brand communication, the process of examining the relevance of such meanings and symbolism and adjusting these to the mission and vision of the enterprise and to the market realities, has become a key marketing activity of most business organisations (Eagle and Kitchen, 2000). It plays a vital role in informing, guiding, and helping to develop, nurture, and implement the

firm’s overall integrated mass communication (IMC) strategy. Brand communication has a significant effect on customer satisfaction, brand attitudes, and brand reuse intentions (Grace and O’Cass, 2005). Rebranding, the process of associating a new brand, trademark, image, or appearance with a product is a vital aspect of an organisation’s IMC. By means of rebranding, marketers redraft brand manifesto and communicate to change the consumers’ perception about the brand to rejuvenate brand. Rebranding gives a brand a new identity; positioning it in a way that may involve fundamental changes to the brand’s



logo, its name, image, marketing strategy and advertising themes. In other words, rebranding is also the process of adjusting the positioning and personality of a brand as part of a firm’s IMC effort. Rebranding corresponds to the creation of a new name, term, symbol, design or a combination of them for an established brand with the intention of developing a differentiated position in the mind of stakeholders and competitors (Merrilees and Miller, 2008). Firms do not have a choice but to rebrand under situations such as mergers and acquisitions or due to legal issues or when the brand gets caught up in a controversy leading to a tarnished image. However, at times, the associated perception behind the brand is so strong that it becomes difficult for the business to change the existing image to make its products stand out from the pack in a meaningful way (Melewar, Hussey, and Srivoravilai, 2005). A central task in rebranding is to envisage the future clearly and predict if the new brand will live considerably into the future. With consumer behaviour becoming increasingly chaotic and life cycles drastically shrinking, putting bets on any single brand manifesto is fraught with challenges.

The present study was carried out in the following manner: ■ First, an extensive review of literature on rebranding theory was undertaken. Singnificant portions of this literature review are intersperced with the findings of the study included in this paper. ■ Second, the rebranding practices of a variety of business organisations in India were surveyed. This stage mainly included the review of various marketing communication materials. ■ Third, the observations from the second stage was compared and contrasted with the theory of rebranding gathered in the first stage. This analysis is presented in the forth-coming section.

brant colours in its logo aimed at creating an image of a fresh, contemporary, brand. It positioned itself as ‘Brighter Living’. This was necessitated due to the change in the competitive structure: In the olden days, Godrej could survive merely by highlighting its core utility oriented benefits. But, cut throat competition from all around forced them to communicate the augmented intangible benefits of owning Godrej products as well. ■ Changes in the product portfolio: Philips Electronics India Ltd, which has been present in India since 1930, do enjoy high brand equity: But, the brand was mainly associated with its traditional product category of lighting and consumer electronics. Of late, Philips has successfully rebranded itself as an apparitional brand for the youth that provides a ‘sense and simplicity’ solution around its new product categories. Another example comes from UTV movies, which started as content developer for Doordarshan (public television broadcaster of India), but later expanded its business into online games, movie production, broadcasting, etc. They also undertook a massive rebranding exercise to reflect its new range of business portfolios. ■ Emerging segments: India’s big pool of young customers is a newfound treasure for business in India. This group is characterised by their sheer numbers and reasonably high disposable income. Bank of Baroda (BoB) has undertaken rebranding in 2006 and repositioned itself as a youthful brand to be more relevant to this emerging segment. As a result of this, BoB has increased its depositor base from 5 million to 30 million (John, 2008). ■ Changes in the product/service quality: Many Indian companies have made substantial improvements in their technologies and service processes. Union Bank of India has engineered a great deal of image makeovers to reflect its innovativeness in products and customer service.
■ Mergers and acquisitions: Air Deccan, a

Some of the India specific drivers of rebranding that was identified as part of our study are: ■ Changes in the competition structure: One case in point is the Godrej group, an Indian conglomerate established in 1897, which has undergone rebranding by adding vi-

low cost airline, after been acquired by Kingfisher airlines, has undergone rebranding twice to ‘Simply Deccan’ in 2007 and then to ‘Kingfisher Red’ in 2008. It also repositioned itself to erase a widely held negative perception about low cost airliners by bringing in Kingfisher’s culture to Air Deccan. Likewise, to create a common identity in tune with other entertainment services under Reliance Big Entertainment like




Brand management

Ailawadi, K. L. and Keller, K. L. (2004). Understanding retail branding: Conceptual insights and research priorities. Journal of Retailing, 80(4), 331-342. Eagle, L. and Kitchen, P.J. (2000). IMC, brand communications, and corporate cultures: Client/advertising agency co-ordination and cohesion. European Journal of Marketing, 34(5/6), 667-686. Grace, D. and O'Cass,A. (2005). Examining the effects of service brand communications on brand evaluation. Journal of Product and Brand Management, 14(2), 106116. John, N. (2008). List of Rebranding Banks Grows. Last accessed from www.sify.com/finance/listof-re-branding-banksgrows-news-defaultjeglOIdifae.html on 25 December 2010. Keller, K.L. (2003). Brand synthesis:The multidimensionality of brand knowledge. Journal of Consumer Research, 29(4), 595-600. Khanna,T. and Palepu, K. (1999). Policy shocks, market intermediaries, and corporate strategy:The evolution of business groups in Chile and India. Journal of Economics and Management Strategy, 8(2), 271-310. Khicha, P. (2009). Rebranding Looking Beyond Logos in India. Last accessed from http://www.brandchannel. com/features_effect.asp?p f_id=487 on 31 December 2010.

■ Change in customers choices


■ Expanding market to new target segment ■ USP being copied by the competitors

■ Study of changes in brand evaluation criteria of customers

new set of value proposition
■ Gap analysis to identify points of improvement to fit into


customers new set of value proposition
■ Competitors analysis to identify points of pariy and potential

points of differentiation
■ Select value proposition capable of giving long-term

competitiveness. Test market before finalisation


Inclusion of selected values in the product to ensure positive customers’ experience in synchronisation with the rebranding message

■ Match the rebranding time with the launch of

■ Ensure wide and speedy publicity of rebranding using

suitable advertising message and media


Brand equity, market share and sales

Big FM and Big TV, Adlabs Cinemas was rebranded to Big Cinema. Other popular rebranding due to M&A was of Hutch to Vodafone in the telecom sector and Trinethra to More in the retail sector. ■ Demergers: Trident Hilton hotel which was a part of strategic alliance between The Oberoi group and Hilton International Co. was rebranded as Trident hotels by The Oberoi group after termination of the alliance. Similarly, after the split of UTI (a government institution), its subsidiary UTI Bank (a private sector bank) was allowed to use the name UTI till January 2008, without royalty payment to UTI. However, UTI rebranded itself with the name ‘Axis’, probably to remind customers of its centrality. The universal appeal of the term ‘Axis’ was taken into consideration in view of its global expansion plan. ■ Global expansion: Airtel, a leading Indian

telecom giant, has quite swiftly expanded itself globally into two scores of countries. Aware of the need to highlight a unity amidst the diversity it has to grapple with, Airtel rebranded itself in November 2010. This created a uniform identity by changing Airtel logo and signature tune. Another example is that of Hindustan Liver Ltd (HLL) to Hindustan Unilever Ltd. Inclusion of the term Unilever was to get the leverage of the global reputation its parent company ‘Unilever’ enjoyed globally.

Three popular themes on which products and corporations are being rebranded in India that we identified are: ■ Health and environment: Increase in health and hygiene consciousness and changing lifestyles etc have resulted in a change in product consumption. Dalda, a



75 years’ old quasi-monopoly brand of Hydrogenated vegetable oil, has responded to the increasing demand for refined oil from health conscious customers. Dalda launched refined oil and rebranded itself to ‘Husband’s Choice’. It changed its logo design, colour combination, and packaging to reposition itself as healthy and fresh. ■ Eco-friendly: Indian consumers are increasingly becoming eco-conscious, forcing companies to become eco-friendly. Videocon, a major industrial conglomerate that has gained significant presence in the consumer electronics and home appliance segments, has adopted a new logo and a positioning statement ‘Experience Change’ in the mid-2009. This is with an objective to showcase as a younger, fresher, eco-friendly and a ‘with-it’ brand. ■ Lifestyle: Increasing urbanisation, impact of global mass media, social networking, etc have introduced a consumption driven lifestyle into India. Given that around 30 per cent of the total population of India is of the age group 10-24years, it is just natural that trends are an easy sale. Capturing youth’s interest ensures long term success and branding around youth lifestyle is a sure recipe for success. Yet, lifestyle branding is not entirely about youths: other lifestyle segments such as working women, retired couples, geeks, etc have also become targets of marketers. Some other themes that require mention are: Quality, trust, consumer saving, simplicity in use, customer service, emotional appeal etc.

and signature tune, has yet to prove that the rewards exceed the `3,000 crore ($67.20 million) it invested into this exercise. Kingfisher’s decision to rebrand Air Deccan twice in two consecutive years is one of the craziest decisions by the loss making company. Poor rebranding decisions like these can dent a company’s financial position and result in reduced stakeholder confidence. Based on a review of the extant literature and anecdotal evidences from rebranding exercises that took place recently, we have prepared the following flowchart that highlights some of the essential conditions for rebranding success (See figure).

Kotler, P. and Armstrong, G. (2010). Principles of Marketing (13th ed.), NJ: Pearson. Kumar, S.R. (2003). Branding strategies in a changing marketing environment (Indian context). Journal of Brand Management, 11(1), 48-62. Kumar, S.R., Guruvayurappan, N., and Banerjee, M. (2007). Cultural values and branding in an emerging market:The Indian context. The Marketing Review, 7(3), 247-272. Melewar,T. C., Hussey, G., and Srivoravilai, N. (2005). Corporate visual identity: The re-branding of France Telecom. Journal of Brand Management, 12(5), 379394. Merrilees, B. and Miller, D., (2008), Principles of corporate rebranding. European Journal of Marketing, 42(5/6), 537552. Rajagopal,A. (2001). Thinking through emerging markets: Brand logics and cultural forms of political society in India. Economic and Political Weekly, 36(9), 773-782. Rao,V. R.,Agarwal, M. K., and Dahlhoff, D. (2004). How Is Manifest Branding Strategy Related to the Intangible Value of a Corporation? The Journal of Marketing, 68(4), 126-141.

Rebranding is not just a change in name, logo, or colours: It is an attempt to create a new and more rewarding brand reputation amongst existing and potential customers. To make customers swap their credit cards, it is very important to provide differentiated benefits in the offerings and communicate the same strategically. However, changing old perception and establishing new perception is not easy; moreover, frequent rebranding has the undesirable consequence of confusing customers. Rebranding is important not just to give a contemporary meaning to the brand ahead off competitors but also to manage and expand product life cycle. Thus there is a need to keep a finger on the pulses of customers and competitors to ensure that the message which brand is communicating is not losing its adhesive power. Yet, over a period of time, customers create strong perceptions about the attributes of the product and consequently it becomes a herculean task to make them derive a different meaning by twisting its name or a symbol. In many cases, companies have just brought out changes in names, logos, or colours as part of rebranding. Failure to associate these with the perceived changes in the product offerings makes rebranding a futile exercise. To create competitive advantage through rebranding, it is absolutely important to make customers experience the changes in the product offerings by means of corresponding changes in branding.

Lessons learnt
The study has led us to a number of interesting observations about successful and failed rebranding exercises. While these observations have not yet been statistically tested, they could still be valuable as the starting points of more rigorous investigations. In particular, we have noticed that rebranding would be futile if carried out as a cosmetic or superficial exercise, or just because ‘everyone else is doing it’. Many a time, firms respond too enthusiastically and commit fundamental mistakes by myopically assuming that rebranding is a mere change in logo redesign, or stationery and corporate colours. It needs to be highly associated with the current and future objectives of the company and customers’ enduring expectations. Some examples are eye openers: Airtel’s rebranding, which as of now seems to be only a change in logo

Jayashree Dubey is assistant professor, Indian Institute of Forest Management, Bhopal, India. She can be reached at jayashree@iifm.ac.in. Babu P George is an assistant professor at University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, MS USA. He can be reached at babu.george@usm.edu




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