When should a brand change its name and logo?

The recent decision by Bonnie Brooks, President and chief executive of the Hudson’s Bay Company, to rebrand The Bay has caused a great deal of controversy.

Screen Shot 2013-03-25 at 9.18.22 PMBusiness watchers and marketers following her decision to replace The Bay logo with an updated version of the company name (in use prior to 1965) fall into one of two diametrically opposed camps.

In one camp there are those that believe that the change is not cost justified because the company is unlikely to benefit in the short term and the high levels of recognition of the current logo doesn’t warrant this [mis] allocation of scarce resources—the “if it isn’t broken don’t fix it” position.

In the other camp they argue that Bonnie Brooks’ decision to change the name and logo is essential to support her strategy of repositioning the company within the Canadian retail landscape and change the lingering perceptions in the minds of some consumers—The Bay is a middle-of-the-market department store chain selling middle-of-the-road family fashions—to one that reflects the new Bay experience: The “new” Bay is a department store chain which is more refined, upscale, and fashion forward.

In my opinion the decision to change the name and logo is not only a smart decision but also a crucial one.

The Bay’s new branding­–Hudson’s Bay–clearly signals a brave new direction for the company and a return to its roots as A LEADER–AN ADVENTURER.  This is coherent with the groundbreaking actions taken by Bonnie Brooks and her team during the past four years to reinvent this venerable department store chain as a leader once more within the Canadian retail landscape.

TheBay_logo

The decision by Ms. Brooks to rebrand The Bay in support of the company’s new and radically different business strategy provides an excellent example for business watchers and marketers of one context when a brand should change its name and logo.

About ashleykonson

STRATEGY CONSULTING | EXECUTIVE COACHING | CORPORATE TRAINING | KEYNOTE SPEAKING | Ashley Konson is the Managing Partner of Global Brand Leaders Inc., a new kind of brand consulting company dedicated to making brands and their teams leaders across the globe. He is a Brand Leader, Business Consultant and Award-Winning Educator, and a recognized thought leader and fervent advocate of the premise that strong brands and businesses achieve and sustain their market positions because they are strong Inside out™.
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15 Responses to When should a brand change its name and logo?

  1. Great insights! The battle for owning a distinct positioning in the Canadian retail market is getting fierce as Target spreads it wings and it does seem apt for Hudson Bay to move out of the middle market and aspire for laddering up to a more distinct and unique positioning. However, i wonder if you can throw some light on how brands can/should do a cost benefit analysis of rebranding initiatives

    • ashleykonson says:

      Hello Ankit, my thanks for your comment on my blog.

      The cost side of this exercise is clearly much easier than the revenue side as it is possible to do an inventory of every branding element that will need to be changed and then solicit estimates for this work. The revenue side is less easy to forecast and will be likely based on key executives estimating the upside and downside of not taking this action. Certainly, their opinions would be informed by market research into the perceptions and attitudes of Canadian consumers with respect to the brand.

  2. I couldn’t see the old/new logos here to comment, but brand marks should be tended to over time, to remain contemporary. Many times the change(s) may be small enough that consumers may notice something fresh, without even being able to verbalize exactly what it is they notice (think gent who shaves his mustache). It’s when “white knights” come in and completely overhaul a mark and it’s resultiing style guide, that disruption and confusion may occur in the consumers’ mind. Is the brand/company different? As a loyal patron, why didn’t I know about it? Who is this brand now? You certainly wouldn’t want your core customers disenfranchised abruptly. The cost is too dear.

    • ashleykonson says:

      Hello Patrick, my thanks for taking the time to comment on my blog post. I believe that we as marketers and brand builders are often too precious about these issues. The one thing…or three things that a retailer has going for it…is location, location, location. The challenge that The Bay–The Hudson’s Bay–has been dealing with is the legacy associations in the mind of many consumers, especially those who have not been into The Bay for some time. It seems that, notwithstanding the efforts of Ms. Brooks and her team, these consumers seem not to have been attending to the communication in the market about the changes at The Bay, probably because they have deemed it, consciously or subconsciously, as being inconsistent with their perceptions and beliefs of this retailer. That’s why I’m so convinced that the name and logo change is the right decision in this case.

  3. Jeff Lin says:

    Growing up as a kid in Canada I always thought the “B” in the Bay logo looked more like a sad abstract clown face. I did not see the letter “B”. It may have been hip in 65 to call the store “The Bay” but so many years after I still get the impression only old people go there to shop. Using the full name does help with upscaling the brand but I really wished they had styled the typesetting more or use some newer form of logo. Whatever the case I welcome change as they need that makeover more than 20 years ago.

    • ashleykonson says:

      Hello Jeff, my thanks for taking the time to comment on my blog post. Seems that you agree with the need for this change. Your observation about the logo is an interesting one for sure.

  4. Ramesh Thapa says:

    As goes a cliche “Change is only thing that’s permanent”. Yes the change is necessary today but its quite interesting to see how they manage this change……..i.e with the loyal customers they have. Its not that easy to make people think the way you think….so a very careful and accurate marketing is needed for them to capitalize the change …..and to keep what they and acquire what they don’t have.

    • ashleykonson says:

      Hello Ramesh, my thanks for taking the time to comment on my blog post. Fortunately, the “marketing” efforts of Ms. Brooks and her team with respect to introducing new fashion forward merchandise and improving the shopping experience in some stores provide tangible evidence of this repositioning effort.

  5. Karen says:

    Sound reasoning Ashley. They had to change the brand logo to complement all the new store merchandising. And staying close to their historical roots is smart. I already see their customer base changing. I well remember the unveiling of the Bay logo, what a storm it created. The company continued onward from that point to have many successful years. These changes will yield the same.

  6. Percy says:

    This is a welcome change. It’s about time the oldest company in North America leveraged their heritage in the branding exercise. But a logo/name is just that. They sure have pumped up the # and quality of brands between the four walls, but their customer service levels and consistency in service delivery (shopping experience at flagship store vs regular store is still very different) still needs some improvement. Always a pleasure reading your blog Ashley.

  7. Great article. I agree that changing brand identity (eg logo, color palette, etc.) is something that should scrutinized before embarking upon. Successful companies stand to risk considerably more by altering their logo’s than a company that is foundering. Usually, when a company is foundering, there are deeper issues than mere brand architecture. However, as branding sits as a central element to a companies identity, it can be a critical element to a larger strategic initiative. As branding communicates “who you are” as a company, changing your outbound marketing aesthetic sends a signal to potential customers that the company is “new and improved.” Of course, if nothing else has changed (product mix, price, distribution) then the company merely attracts more customers that will likely be disappointed. Of course this assumes that the issue was more than merely targeting the wrong customers. In the Bay example, if the perception from the previous branding was that the company targets older segments, but the product mix is for younger demos, then they can either rebrand to younger demos, or bring in product for more mature segments. Alignment of the marketing mix is the critical issue, in my opinion. This is another reason why rebranding for successful companies can be detrimental. If a company is successful, it usually has a marketing mix that is cohesive. Thus, the rebranding effort risks disrupting this cohesive strategy (and this is not what we seek when we say “disruptive technology is good :)”

  8. yomi says:

    I think re-inventing oneself every few years is apt (for an individual or a small organisation), it is similar to re-inventing yourself. However, for a large company like Hudson’s Bay, it may take more than a name change for clients and potential clients to fully appreciate the bold initiatives already undertaken by Bonnie Brooks and her team. I think the management should also ensure more potential clients are aware of their bold initiatives and thus drive up sales per customer visit to their stores.
    We may not have to wait much longer though for the market to pass judgement on this logo change or is it logo reversal?

    • ashleykonson says:

      Hello Yomi, my thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my post. I agree with your thinking that Bonnie Brooks must move faster in her efforts to realize the the potential of this brand and business. Especially with Nordstrom about to enter the market.

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