Lessons from abrdn – the tricky business of rebranding

By Ellie Jackson, Head of Brand, Insights & Strategy

If you’re having a bad week, spare a thought for the marketing and comms teams at Standard Life Aberdeen. Or rather, at abrdn. If you’ve missed it, a quick Google will show that the firm’s rebrand hasn’t had quite the reception they were (presumably) aiming for. Unless, of course, they are of the view that all publicity is good publicity.

Although it’s easy to pile in with criticism of the new brand, abrdn is hardly the first to fall foul of corporate rebranding (Consignia, anyone?), and it doubtless won’t be the last. There’s a reason for that. This stuff is hard to get right but easy to poke fun at. It’s unlikely to please everyone, and most people will think they can do a better job.

Here are our five golden rules:

  1. Know your audience Really (and I mean really) get under the skin of what they want from you as an organisation and a brand. How do they want you to make them feel? Do they want you to be edgy, or is stable and safe what’s really required?
  2. Understand why you’re making a change And make sure that’s going to resonate with said audience. Otherwise you risk them resenting the money you have inevitably ploughed into the effort, which they might have preferred to be focused on client service or product development.
  3. Ensure your new name and brand is truly reflective of your business Otherwise you won’t achieve the objectives you identified under Golden Rule 2.
  4. Make it easy for people If it’s not easy to say (in case you’re wondering, ‘abrdn’ is pronounced, ‘Aberdeen’…), and ideally easy to spell, you’re creating a rod for your own back
  5. Test it out Of course you need to be mindful of leaks, but any rebrand on this scale should be tested and sanity-checked by people outside the process. Be prepared to be challenged. Listen to the challenges and adapt as required. Sometimes it’s hard to see the wood for the trees when you’re in the forest.

I’m not suggesting for a second that following these rules will ensure an easy ride when it comes to rebranding, but it’s certainly a good place to start. Now, where’s that packet of Opal Fruits I had kicking around…?

To learn more about Aspectus’ brand strategy services, click here.

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