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Rebranding Is Not Enough
By: Maryann Fabian
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Others can debate the merits of Frutiger v. Helvetica, negative space, and gradient color choices. We’ve all seen rebranding used as a revival technique (or been asked to administer the revival). But customer trust, brand loyalty, and a company’s reputation cannot be resurrected with a copy facelift and new logo alone.

Take the case of the Capital One takeover of ING Direct. It’s hard to be a consumer favorite in the banking industry, but ING topped surveys for its service quality, online innovation, and interest rates. Capital One is mostly known for its credit cards, but wants to expand its banking operations. And, despite the babies, Baldwins, and Vikings, “There is the impression that Capital One catered to card holders with lower than average credit, and used their increased demand for credit to push through rates and terms unfriendly to consumers,” Forbes said recently. Ouch.

The Facebook page of its newly rebranded acquisition, Capital One 360, proclaims, “[T]he Orange Ball rolls merrily into retirement...” But not everyone is drinking the new, red Kool-Aid. Poor social media person. Posts are being met with a barrage of customers craving their beloved orange and contemplating other banks. As one person wrote, “When their first actions are to lower rates, slap a mud-like name on a company that spent so long building customer trust, and then yammer on and on about how the name doesn’t matter, that doesn’t speak well for their mindset...” It goes downhill from there. “Going to the web page feels like I’m stepping into a horribly decorated hotel room in Vegas,” another sniped.

And then there’s American Airlines. In Forbes 2013 Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, airlines were ranked on “how well the brands have managed to create real engagement between themselves and their passengers.” “Just landing safely, close to on-time, doesn’t count,” it added. Here’s how they stacked up:

1. US Airways (86%)
2. Southwest (84%)
3. JetBlue (83%)
4. Delta (82%)
5. United (79%)
6. American (78%)
So it makes perfect sense that in the pending merger between US Airways and American Airlines, the new company would be called American Airlines. Because, along with cutting jobs, routes, and the competition, it felt customers deserved the brand that made them feel least engaged. Topping things off, AA just replaced the logo and livery created in the ‘60s by the legendary designer Massimo Vignelli. It has prompted tweets such as, “Why do airlines think a new paint job makes up for crappy service [and] operating model deficiencies?”

Vignelli was asked by Bloomberg Businessweek if he thought the old look was “somewhat damaged” by the company’s bankruptcy and merger. “This is the typical mistake that company presidents make: ‘I’ll change the logo, and the company will look new...’ [I]t’s still the same company... They’re not going to solve their problems.”

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About the Author
Maryann Fabian is a copywriter who has crafted the voice of some of this country's best brands.
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