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Rebranding: An Ongoing Effort to Ensure Racial Equality

Rebranding: An Ongoing Effort to Ensure Racial Equality

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By Dr. Samantha Bietsch
Faculty Member, School of Business, American Public University

Do you ever refer to a tissue as a Kleenex or to a lip balm as a Chapstick? Without even realizing it, you often genericize many popular household items and refer to them by their brand names, due to the brand’s popularity and value.

Start a management degree at American Public University.

It is not a big mystery that marketers spend a lot of time, energy and focus on building brand image. There is a level of value created strictly by being a clearly identifiable brand. Forbes contributor Bernhard Schroeder defines this value as “Brands whose value to consumers comes primarily from having identity value are said to be ‘identity brands.’”

Brands Are Much More than Just Image and Identity

For companies, their branding is their reputation and is not something that is developed overnight. A brand is certainly not something that is easily changed. Most of us take years to develop a positive reputation, and this is no different for brands in the business world.

Understanding the significance of brand image or reputation, you may wonder why any seasoned marketer would dare to alter a brand image with high value. However, this is exactly what many iconic brands are doing right now.

Companies Are Reconsidering Their Brands Due to Increased Pressure for Racial Justice

When you think of popular breakfast syrup brands, Aunt Jemima and Mrs. Butterworth likely makes the list. They have built positive brand image and have seen market success for over 50 years.

These two brands are currently undergoing an attempt to rebrand themselves. USA Today reports that other popular brands such as Uncle Ben’s and Cream of Wheat are also undergoing review for racial stereotyping.

The rebranding efforts are not limited to food items, either. After years of criticism, the Washington Redskins football team will review its name, according to the BBC.

Given the importance of brand image, value and recognizability, why are these changes occurring now?

These efforts to rebrand come after increased consumer pressure for racial justice. AdWeek reports, “The month of June saw an unprecedented push for racial justice that impacted brand marketing like never before.”

The pressure is not just coming from consumers, either. BBC notes that “Last week, 87 investment firms and shareholders wrote to FedEx, along with fellow Redskins’ sponsors Nike and PepsiCo, calling on the firms to sever ties with the Redskins, according to trade publication AdWeek.”

More Rebranding May Occur in the Future

With both consumers and shareholders demanding racial justice, we may see rebranding efforts from iconic brands, some of which have over a century of market success.

The question remains, however: Will these new efforts match their previous success? Will the attempts to rebrand ultimately be the demise of these once iconic brands?

While rebranding is not considered an easy task, it is not impossible. Business Insider reports popular brands such as J. Crew, Burberry, Harley-Davidson and McDonald’s have all successfully managed to rebrand themselves.

Rebranding Must Be Done Properly

Proper rebranding takes consistent effort, quality and messaging. When your organization changes its brand – especially an iconic brand – it is a time to be crystal clear on who you are and what you stand for.

New leadership, direction and influencers can assist with the branding efforts. Additional help comes from paying careful attention to consumer response and measuring the equity of your new brand.

While the companies with iconic brands have their rebranding work cut out for them, they should not be discouraged. Success stories from rebranding prove that changing a brand can be done.

About the Author

Dr. Samantha Bietsch is currently an Associate Professor in the School of Business. She has an M.B.A. in finance from American Intercontinental University and a D.B.A. in marketing from Argosy University. Prior to entering into higher education, Dr. Bietsch held numerous roles in the financial services industry.

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