Key Rebranding Trends To Watch in 2022
Our annual look at rebranding trends featured in Forbes. https://bit.ly/3IH56ef
At the beginning of each year, my firm takes a look at the trends in rebranding strategies and predicts what the future year may look like. Here’s what we’re anticipating for 2022.
Rebranding Goes Mainstream
It’s not often that a company with such wide public visibility as Facebook, with almost 3 billion users worldwide, chooses to rebrand. Its move to introduce a new corporate brand, Meta, earned days of widespread speculation, news coverage and continuing headlines no one could avoid.
Rebranding is meant to reset a corporate identity and brand promise with a forward-looking, aspirational view of the role it plays in its customers’ lives. Facebook did that successfully by rebranding to Meta to further enable its mission of connecting people and support its goals for virtual reality innovation. By incorporating the concept of the metaverse into its name, it has put itself in an ownership position of this future world.
Discussion continues as to whether the change will successfully help the company overcome the tarnished Facebook social platform brand so that it doesn’t create drag on Meta’s clean-from-the-start reputation. Regardless, Facebook’s rebranding took the transformational strategy mainstream, generating broad public awareness of the brand name change and hopefully creating more receptivity of how the strategy is intended and works.
While the pandemic may have slowed or paused the number of rebranding initiatives for a while, we’ve seen them come roaring back as companies have realized the need to clarify or update their positioning before the market recovery. Many organizations pivoted their business models during the business slowdown and the changes needed to be reflected in their branding.
The new cryptocurrency reality has helped drive at least one big name change. The financial services company Square changed its name to Block to reflect its involvement in blockchain technology and cryptocurrency, though Square and Cash App will continue on as their own individual brands.
While rebranding is going more mainstream, we’ve seen an increasing number of rebrands that drew vocal opposition. Perhaps it is consistent with public polarization, or illustrative of how social media has enabled the haters to quickly show disapproval. Three examples include:
• U.K. investment house Standard Life Aberdeen announced a new name, abrdn, the shortening of its name by removing most vowels, to make it appear more modern. But in the conservative financial services industry, the name led to confusion and online criticism.
• Three Vermont colleges — Castleton University, Northern Vermont University and Vermont Technical College — are being consolidated, with “Vermont State University” suggested as the new name. However, Castleton University alumni don’t want to lose the identity of their alma mater and have opposed the move.
• A professional group representing nurse anesthetists announced that it changed its name from the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists to the American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology. The slight name change is an effort to advance the science of nurse anesthesiology and better advocate for the thousands of certified registered nurse anesthetists. But the name change brought public criticism from some sectors of the medical community, some claiming that it was misleading.
The takeaway? There will always be haters or those who oppose what may be a completely relevant rebranding, and they are empowered on social media. Rebranding requires thoughtful research and consideration when making brand name decisions. Then, all rebranding plans should include an issues-management effort to gain supporters in advance of the move to clearly gain an understanding of the rebrand purpose and to manage resistance.
Furthering The Purge Of Racist Brand Names
Following the social unrest of 2020 initiated by the murder of George Floyd, we saw several big and well-known brands, like Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben’s, rebrand to shed racist stereotypes. The reckoning has continued as less-visible brands renamed themselves, like the Cleveland Indians becoming the Guardians. Even the famed Squaw Valley ski resort recognized its faults and renamed itself as Palisades Tahoe. A Scottish pub called The Black Bitch, named after a local legend of a black dog that swam across open water to secure food for its owner, announced plans to rename itself as The Black Hound after concerns were raised about the name’s “racist and offensive connotations.” The operations manager for the company that owns the pub provided this perspective on overcoming complaints of tinkering with tradition: “To put it into context, you wouldn’t call a new business today The Black Bitch.”
In the coming year, we’ll most likely see the pressure cascading down to lesser-known brands.
Keeping Names Short And Simple
The public’s fascination with short and simple brand names continues, and rebranding is an effective avenue for following that trend. We’ve seen a growing number of high-profile companies shortening their names, dropping insignificant or clunky descriptive terms, to create a simple one-word brand name packed with the most meaning. Angie’s List became just Angi. Global consulting firm A.T. Kearney became just Kearney. Even rapper Kayne West simplified his name to Ye.
Many brands once used descriptive language when it brought clarity or differentiation to the business they were in. Those days are gone in the world of short, tight names that make great smartphone apps and logos. Anyone creating a new name in 2022 should consider more one-word options.
2022 looks to be an exciting year of rebranding. Most importantly, we hope the public’s increasing receptivity and understanding of this important brand-driven transformation strategy takes hold.