My first Guardian piece thanks to followers on Twitter. People have genuinely and generously given me their thoughts on the worst rebranding they could think of which enabled me to write this piece. Thank you all of you. Ahh the power of Twitter.
Consignia? Monday? Choco Krispies? All failed rebrands – but Sainsbury’s renaming pollack as Colin should fare better.
God bless Sainsbury’s, whose environmental passion has created a feeding frenzy on the rebranding of pollack – which will now be known as Colin (pronounced co-lan), the French name for a related breed of fish.
This well-timed story proved tempting bait for the country’s news editors and proves that in this downturn, the media are searching for makeover stories. But is this rebranding to go the way of Consignia, Monday and Choco Krispies?
Interestingly, Sainsbury’s has introduced limited edition packaging, designed by Wayne Hemingway, to help ease the transition from pollack to Colin.
A word of warning from history should perhaps be thrown in here about rebranding failures. In my book The Fame Formula, I mention Theodosa Goodman, actress of limited ability, who was renamed Theda Bara (an anagram of Arab Death) in an attempt to turn her into the movie business’s first exotic sex symbol. But the iconographic publicity campaign didn’t turn the milliner’s daughter from Ohio into a global icon.
My first experience of rebranding was as a teenager when Marathon, one of the nation’s favourite chocolate bars, changed its name to Snickers to come into line with the US market. Most people hated it but the name remains today, as does Starburst, sweets that were known to previous generations as Opal Fruits. Whether you love it or loathe it, those are examples that have worked, unlike a host of others.
Pizza Hut’s disastrous rebrand from Pizza Hut to Pasta Hut not so long ago was one. In an attempt to attract new customers and move upmarket, the pizza giant spent £18m on the rebrand which failed abysmally and the words Pasta and Hut were never seen side by side again. In 1998, Kellogg’s briefly changed the name of Coco Pops to Choco Krispies in the UK and South Africa to bring them into line with Germany and Spain. But after falling sales and a telephone poll in which the British public voted, its name reverted in 1999.
And let’s not forget 2002, when the Post Office changed its name to Consignia. The amount of public outcry at the name prompted Consignia chairman Allan Leighton to ditch the brand.
Again in 2002, the audit firm PwC announced that its consulting arm, earmarked for a demerger, was to be renamed “Monday”. Despite the costs for the demerger and rebrand, which were estimated at around £75m, the name faced a barrage of jokes, with IT Week commenting that it was “another case of spin triumphing over substance”.
And despite the desperately costly attempts by Norwich Union to present their name change as cultural, interesting and cool, the jury is still out on Aviva.
In the case of Sainsbury’s, this is a good job. Clearly, they have thought this one through and I think it’s likely to be a success, not only because it’s a great story, but environmentally because it could save Britain’s dwindling cod stocks. Pass me the Colin and chips – and leave out the mushy peas.