Rupa Singh, Sr. Brand Strategist, ABND B2B Practice
Branding can consciously and unconsciously create a range of perceptions about a brand through multiple points-of-contact and communication (or even lack of it). Some are tangible, many are intangible.
Speaking of B2B brands in this context, some have proactively kept themselves in line with the market norms of branding of their services or offerings. This has kept them contemporary throughout generations. Others have had a passive push to rebrand from time to time through competitors' growth or due to internal change of management.
Talking about the need to rebrand legacy B2B players, the major one arises from mergers or acquisitions.
At times, it is the extended need of a valuable stakeholder that can waver your ledgers (yes! Microsoft can demand its authorized reseller to rebrand). So that’s where established retail brand, distributors may need to rebrand.
Sometimes, when a legacy B2B company is shifting into the consumer space, it will need to look at branding. For instance, a bottling company catering to an established organization like Coca Cola venturing into the market with its own beverages.
Another strong reason can be the need to have a ToM (Top of Mind) recall with the end consumers of the customers of B2B brands. It pays off. A long shot of an example will be a movie certification board that rebranded itself by making the platform seamless for the direct customer and interesting for the end consumer.
There are century-old brands that have seen a hyperbolic shift in the noise they decided to create. That reflects in the image perception, and eventually in the sales. A 170-year-old brand like SIEMENS decided to rebrand itself to incorporate the wide array of services it provided. The visual identity change incorporated the traditional brand colors to maintain the salience and retain the traditional values. AirBnB on the other hand changed its logo to showcase its inclusive business model that benefits all the stakeholders including the hosts and end customers. The new logo with the heart encapsulates the message of inclusivity and the fact that it is all about people, irrespective of race and ethnicities.
Yahoo's story is the first that comes to mind, whose rebranding was so subtle that it went unnoticed, not to forget the continuous 30 odd days of logo changing to finally reveal the very minutely different logo in the end.
The history of branding is rife with such trials and errors.
When we discuss legacy brands, in many cases rebranding is proposed to celebrate the golden or platinum or sometimes even the sesquicentennial anniversary of a brand. But like mentioned above, sometimes the second most probable reason for rebrands is the change in management that wants to leave its impact on the brand. This is many times unnecessary. Shell Oil has maintained its broad visual identity since 1904 now to name.
But to answer the question - is rebranding always an answer - it is possible (and more than OK!) to not rebrand your brand. This is normal, especially since in B2B, vintage or nostalgia can be a very strong selling point.
In essence, a strong reason should be a must for legacy B2B rebrands. One may want to look at the recent GE rebrand as an example.