Rebranding: When is it time?

Sidian Bank CEO Titus Karanja and during the recent unveiling of the bank’s new name and look at its headquarters in Nairobi


During his reign, the King of Prussia, Fredrick the Great, better known as ‘Old Fritz’ by his people, was constantly looking for ways to feed his growing nation. In order to reduce the price of bread for his people, he picked the potato and tried to make it the staple food. However, at the time the people were not fond of the potato and so they were reluctant to adopt it.

Believing in the vast potential of the potato, Fredrick the Great decided to trick the people by planting a large potato farm and highly securing it so no one could steal the potatoes. However, his aim was to make the public see the potato as a very valuable commodity so that they would steal it and grow it. In the end his gamble actually paid off, the people fell for the trick and stole the potatoes, grew them and made them very popular.

At the time this only looked like a trick but today it has become a marketing strategy referred to as rebranding. If Fredrick The Great were alive today, he would be an excellent marketer as he successfully rebranded the potato. Nowadays, rebranding has become quite popular all over the world especially in the corporate scene where it has been used extensively.

Rebranding is perceived differently throughout the world. In some countries, it refers to the change of a name or image while in some, it is the change of a product and yet in others, it is the change of view of the product (like in the King of Prussia’s case when he rebranded the potato). However, normally, rebranding entails all these aspects as it is described as giving a commodity or an organization a new look, which in turn changes the way the customers view it.

Successful organizations go as far as to ensure that apart from the customers, the investors, shareholders and the public as a whole are also inspired to view them in the most positive way possible. For example, football fans must have noticed the new premier league logo that includes a modern take, which creates an identity that brings the viewers into the modern era while still staying true to the history of the league.

In Kenya, rebranding was the in-thing in 2016 as many of the companies used the marketing strategy. According to a report by the Kenya Company Registration Services, an online company that deals with company registration, almost 300 companies rebranded by changing their names. This was an increase as compared to 2015 where only 250 companies did the same.

For instance, CFC Stanbic bank was among the companies that rebranded last year as it changed back to Stanbic bank. The move was meant to align itself with its parent company, the Standard Bank Group which is a major player in the sector across the African continent. The change also affected the CFC Stanbic holdings which rebranded to Stanbic holdings Plc.

Pan Africa Insurance Holdings is another example as it rebranded to Sanlam Kenya. The company decided on rebranding in order to entrench their partnership with their major shareholder, the Sanlam Group. This aimed at reassuring the public that they were in safe hands thanks to the successful long serving record of the parent companies. Due to the fact that consumers are fickle in nature, organizations usually take up rebranding in order to regain the confidence of the consumer in them or their product.

Consumers are also on the lookout for organizations that are innovative as the well being of a business and technology are now inseparable. In this digital era, companies are expected to keep up with new improved brands and techniques. Failure to embody this, a company is at risk of losing customers because it does not reflect its level of innovation. Therefore, there is need for rebranding in order for a company to re-invent itself and be able to keep pace with the industry.

Mergers and acquisitions are common in the corporate scene although most of the times when they take place consumers are not confident of the change thus creating a different set of audiences. In case of such a paradigm shift, a company can decide to rebrand in order to communicate to the public of the new direction they are taking.

A brand being the face of a company, it is important to communicate whether they are changing to a new brand or going on with one of the already available brands. For example, in 2015 the Paynet group that owns the PesaPoint brand merged with a company called Interswitch. As a result, the Paynet group was rebranded to Interswitch East Africa.

Other than rebranding because of merging, sometimes organizations decide to start offering new products and services after the shift. On the other hand, companies can also change their market from time to time mostly because of increased growth.

This move necessitates the need for a rebrand as ones market changes, requiring the need to change the image of the organization so as to better suit the new clientele. This can be seen in the case of K-rep bank that recently rebranded to Sidian bank. The move was not only because the bank was largely acquired by Centum investments, but it also meant to communicate to the public that the bank was now able to not only serve small entrepreneurs, but would be continuing to serve them even when they grow big. As its single lender limit to a single customer approaches Sh1 billion, the organization is now opening its doors to all entrepreneurs.

Another example is that of National bank, which changed its colors to yellow, and brown from its previous green and red. The rebrand was brought about by a need to break away from its past which included a major reliance on businesses from government institutions. The rebrand showed a new focus on the corporate scene, which they identified as a major boost to propelling them back to the top tier banks.

In the 21st century, the image of a company is very important, people are more likely to buy a commodity depending on whether a company has a good reputation or not. In case of a bad reputation, there is need for rebranding to change the public’s position. This is actually considered the major reason for rebranding as it helps by breathing new life to a company and doing away with the negative views.

For instance, after two of their airplanes crashed, the Malaysian Airline System Berhad (MAS) got into a crisis as many of the people were scared of boarding it. This gave it a bad reputation. As a result, in 2015 the company rebranded by changing its name to Malaysia Airlines and also hired a new CEO in order to reinvent its image. This eventually paid off as it is now gradually regaining its previous position in the market.

Successful companies know rebranding is essential to help them grow and be able to keep up the pace in the industry. In addition, they understand the importance of carefully following the right steps in order to rebrand successfully. As the new way of life, rebranding requires an organization to first do thorough research. There is also a need to communicate with the employees and train them on the new culture and policies. Therefore, when one does rebrand, together with the support and expertise of the employees, one will be able to win customers over and increase the growth of their business.