is it rebranding if you go back to the original brand?


Indeed’s Paul D’Arcy:

‘Great marketing starts with a great product.’

brands and plants—–

When I talk of this company, I am not thinking just of a legal or business entity. I am using the word in the older sense, as in a company of scholars, as a company of adventurers, or a company of voyagers.

There had to be something special about this enterprise to attract the talented and venturesome people who have come together to exercise their considerable talents and to derive from it the things that make for full and satisfying life.

The whole staff must have a proprietary feeling about the company’s work.

We are a permanently dissatisfied company and so far as I can see, we shall not run out of things to be dissatisfied about.

I think our work, in most instances, is the best of its kind in the world – and yet not good enough. Not as good as it is going to be. There has not been and there should never be a year when it is not better than the year before.

Our audience is getting more demanding all the time – it is not a question of talking down to them.

The problem, the opportunity, is to talk far enough up to them.

“We must be dynamic for purposes bigger than ourselves.“

Sam Meek past CEO J. Walter Thompson in 1965


sell-your-soul how notOk. I almost called this ‘de-branding’ <a new concept I am suggesting for the branding blowhards> but I imagine this still revolves around the idea of re-branding.

Rebranding may be one of the most overused and misused tactics in marketing & positioning today.

It is a misguided panacea for bigger issues.

I thought about this the other day with regard to a company I worked for, a company I loved and what I would have considered one of the most valuable and valued brands in marketing & advertising – J. Walter Thompson.

They have announced they are officially “rebranding.”

How? To their original logo.

In summary … they began as J. Walter Thompson <within the die hards in the ad business over cocktails they were called JWT or ‘Thompson’> … ‘rebranded’ to JWT <believing all that cocktail conversation was indicative that everyone referred to them that way anyway … and that ‘shorter permits us to reposition ourselves as nimbler and more contemporary’> … and now they have elected to ‘rebrand’ to … uhm … J. Walter Thompson.

<insert image of me scratching my head with a weird puzzled look on my face>

If you rebrand a rebrand and end up with your original brand … I am not sure what you call that … but I am fairly sure I couldn’t call it rebranding. It is quite possible what they are actually doing this time is … well … de-branding.

Anyway. I am not going to get hung up on discussing J. Walter Thompson <although I would love to because it is maybe one of the most mismanaged great brands in the marketing business with incredible potential if not mismanaged>.

Instead I will simply make an observation with regard to this whole rebranding thing.

Suffice it to say that most of the time rebranding is bullshit.

Look. To be clear. No business can afford to stand still even if it has been, or is, successful. In addition. A business may be keeping up with economic and market changes but one always has to make sure the brand is keeping pace. And I also believe that sometimes in all the buzzword bingo re-positioning a business and rebranding get confused <or blurry>. And I have also seen some incredibly good & smart re-imaging efforts <see original Banana Republic as a safari specialty store to today’s chique classic contemporary cool … see ATT absorbing Cingular and all of a sudden no longer being an old archaic brand to a younger more contemporary brand>.


perception booksThis all may sound like ‘managing perceptions’ and soft fluffy stuff, but perceptions do matter especially when you are trying to get people to even consider you.

If no one considers you, because they are thinking something, you don’t even get in the game to where you get bought, used or interacted with.

Now. Rebranding is one of those big amorphous business bullshit words. And that is scary because, under this huge bullshit heading, a business could be trying a complete wholesale change with no, or minimal, connections to its legacy all the way to doing things significantly less dramatic.

The intent is pretty much all the same …

– The business: we don’t like the way people see & think of us and I want them to stop <insert: “because we are REALLY this”>.

– The consumer: they look, act and speak like ‘this’ so we think of them as ‘this.’

Suffice it to say, no matter the degree of your rebranding, you will affect how people think. Unfortunately most of the time it is “WTF. Quit trying to fool me … you still is what you is … even with the fancy schmancy new logo and website.” And while I will not suggest how you look <the logo, website, ads, etc.> doesn’t matter I will suggest that true rebranding <or what I typically call re-imaging> kind of needs to be pounded out in a bunch of little steps over a relatively longer period of time.

Re-imaging is a grind <unless you have one HUGE vivid demonstration that creates a ‘whoa!’ imprint in people’s minds>. But I want to talk a bit about this de-branding that J. Walter Thompson is doing.

De committing to some of the crap they tried to convince themselves about … and then tried to convince us.


JWT to Bring Back the Classic J. Walter Thompson Name

jwt Identity_Guidelines_signature_1997 … carefully laid plans have been laid by the giant JWT advertising agency to announce later in the year that it would bring back its longtime name, the J. Walter Thompson Company. After noting that JWT is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, Mr. Sorrell told the audience that the agency has been “talking about rebranding,” and praised “the J. Walter Thompson Company brand” as “immensely powerful.” 

Going back to the J. Walter Thompson name would be “a slick and a good move,” Mr. Sorrell said. The timing would coincide with the exact anniversary of JWT’s opening; the agency traces its roots to a newspaper space brokerage that began operation on Dec. 5, 1864. “We felt it would be a perfect time to return to the J. Walter Thompson name”.  

The genesis of the decision to revive the J. Walter Thompson name is that “this is a year of reigniting the values and soul” of the agency, he added. 


 Now. I would argue the ‘classic’ aspect, but I fully embrace the “reignite the values & soul.” In fact … I would recommend going back to the 1965 Sam Meek speech as a positive strong foundation for values & soul <and relevance>.


enlightened note:

re-branding or re imaging is actually about leadership & purpose more than anything


blanace greater good matters do

Anyway. Re-imaging to me is just that. Reigniting the values & soul, the good shit that made you successful in the first place <because crappy companies who have never had success do not rebrand or reimage … they just die> and reignite it by making it relevant to the current business world and market and consumer.

Businesses are constantly evolving to ensure they stay relevant and meet the changing needs in the market place. Brands should also constantly evolve. And a brand can, and should, evolve WITHOUT leaving the values & the soul behind <or create some new ones>.

I won’t debate that some brand re-imaging challenges require an extensive change in order for the business to achieve the needed “make people look at us differently” for growth and profitable returns. But a brand is a brand … and it should maintain <and celebrate as often as possible its history and heritage> but show how it can evolve and adapt to changing needs and desires.

I like to point out to long heritage companies that there are a boatload of 50 & 60somethings with youth & vigor that young people look up to them and seek them out whenever possible <a business can do the same>. Age doesn’t make you less relevant. What makes you less relevant is what you say and how you do things. your words & actions.

Smart businesses evolve their brands over time to keep them relevant. And while we in the business world would love some magic formula to maintain relevance … relevance can’t be about some re-imaging … or rebranding effort.

A brand that has become old-fashioned in the eyes of its audience is in danger of stagnation if not already in a state of erosion and loss of market share. But I would argue that audience perceptions are driven by business actions, business commitment to its ‘dynamic beyond its purpose’ and business employee ‘belief system in vision & purpose” … and changing your logo or image won’t solve the issue.

Most of rebranding and re-imaging activity is … well … crap.

Personally I avoid recommending re-imaging initiatives as often as I can. I much prefer making slight design updates to any visual aspects to keep it within the scope of the brand heritage but relevant to the attitude of today and then crafting the brand story to explain why the company, the brand, is integral to the fabric of today’s needs & wants.

I also avoid tricks.

Just because “social media” is the buzzword of the week I don’t have to run around screaming I AM SOCIAL MEDIA EXPERT … !!!

<note: that is not a specific slam on social media but rather on ‘the buzz hype of the week”>

 story is not over punctuationAnd I look for stories. It all comes back to telling an engaging story that educates someone about something.

Always has and always will.

Brand stories that resonate with consumers will focus on creating emotional connections based on the intersection of what the business functionally offers <cause you have to offer a product that is worth a shit> and what target aspiration that is fulfilled <think anything associated with hope & better>.

Now. It cannot be a long rambling story because <I do not know who said this> “every story needs a memorable detail.” I cannot tell you the formula for the detail … just that a memorable detail makes a story transferable socially <online or offline>. A story is a business imperative. Let me say that again but add a word … a compelling story is a business imperative.

Offer a good story and the world will sit at your feet to listen.


De-branding. I actually think a shitload of companies & businesses that made some fairly silly “rebranding efforts to reestablish themselves in the marketplace” decisions should look at ‘de-branding’ as a viable plan of action. Chasing what’s new when you were one of the main players in actually creating the foundation for ‘what’s new’ seems ludicrous to me. it kind of seems like I would be better off pointing some fingers at all the newcomers espousing new & better ways of doing things as ‘followers of grounded expertise.’

I still chuckle though.

Is it rebranding if you are actually going back to your original brand?

That’s a poser.

Personally I would trademark ‘de-branding’ and start helping companies de-brand and reestablish their values & souls and recapture the hearts & souls of their target customers.

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Written by Bruce