What’s in a name? Experts weigh in on challenges of rebranding.

A dive into rebranding – cover story from New Orleans City Business leading with my Lucid rebrand. I’d link, but it’s 100% paywalled. Short take: it takes a lot of self-knowledge to rebrand really well.

Article by Natalie Chandler. Originally published in NOCB on July 28, 2016.

Things had become a bit confusing at Federated Sample five years after its launch.

The New Orleans-based market research firm had doubled in size, expanding into the software, data and customer insight sectors while still offering its customers access to a large database of consumer surveys. Federated Sample also had a business unit with the same name and plans to add offices in London, New Delhi and New York.

A renaming and rebranding was announced in 2015. Federated Sample became Lucid, a nod to its goal to become clearer.

“It’s a clean way to say who we are. No matter which unit of Lucid you’re dealing with, you’re dealing with a company that is transparent and is making the unknown known and getting real human answers,” said Elizabeth Brooks, an investor in the startup who acts as its chief marketing officer. “We thought we needed a name that could embrace all three business units and speak to the core values of the company and the brand.”

Whether it’s to freshen up a stale image, find a new voice or revamp because of an adjustment in ownership and structure, rebranding remains a popular path with the potential for success or pitfalls.

Several local firms have announced plans this year to rebrand, change names or otherwise overhaul their appearances. Chaffe McCall LLP recently rolled out a new logo. Our Lady of Holy Cross College became University of Holy Cross. And the New Orleans Zephyrs could become the New Orleans Baby Cakes, Crawfish, King Cakes, Night Owls or Po’Boys, among other names suggested in a renaming contest for the baseball team.

A company’s brand is “how you walk and talk and look,” said Eddie Snyder, chief creative director for PURE, an ad agency that recently moved into the Central Business District from New York City.

“It’s the ethos and pathos of a brand that comes across in the language and swagger and attitude. There’s an attitude, and you have to maintain that,” said Snyder, a former vice president and executive creative director at Peter Mayer Advertising who has worked with clients on branding.

“How will they like me? Why will they want to use me? Why do they want me on their counter, or why will they want to wear me?” he said.

Branding and re-branding can have varying outcomes, depending on whether a company’s product needs changes or it has failed its customers. It may not be necessary – ice cream giant Blue Bell survived its recent brush with listeria because of its tremendously loyal following, Snyder noted.

But other popular brands have had to re-adjust. Snyder recalls being hired to re-introduce Coke Zero after the company had spent “a tremendous amount of money” on initial ads that failed to convey how it was different from Coke.

“I think the most important thing is to be true to the consumer,” he said. “A lot of times with rebranding, you’re not (doing it) for the benefit of the CEO or board. You’re rebranding for the honor of the brand and the consumer – so the consumer can believe in you, so they want you in their lives, so you can develop a tighter, better relationship.”

After the 2010 oil spill, BP changed its logo into a greener, more organic image to foster a more favorable public opinion. Gap’s attempt to ignite more interest in its clothes ended with the firm reverting back to its more familiar logo. Radio Shack met the same fate when it morphed into “The Shack” in 2009.

Elyria Kemp, associate professor of marketing at the University of New Orleans, recommends that companies consider if rebranding is necessary, since consumers “equate a steady brand with reliability.” A rebranding effort may be needed more if the firm is merging with or acquiring another, or if its target audience has changed, or if the company is undergoing a philosophical shift, she said.

That was the case with the New Orleans Pelicans’ name change, which “was supposed to represent and embody the culture and resolve of the Gulf Coast, and it also symbolized Louisiana’s coastal restoration initiative,” she said.

In Lucid’s case, the firm’s leaders spoke with shareholders and employees before rebranding. The process included a new website and logo, redesigned business cards and signage and changes to the office. Clients were notified before the news was circulated to the media.

But most importantly, Lucid’s staff got on board first, Brooks said.

“It was received incredibly well,” said Brooks, who has helped other firms rebrand. “It was having a core brand that everyone could be proud of.”

“My advice is, do your work beforehand,” she added. “Don’t leap before you look. Talk to stakeholders and employees, get input from your customers. Really figure out who are you today, who do you want to be tomorrow?”

Be an artist, not a marketer

When you create art, it rings with truth and authenticity. When you create “marketing”, it often rings hollow.

If we lose sight of art in the rush of business, we suffer for it as marketers, even if our business seems an “ordinary” one.


Conversation around brands isn’t any different than conversation at a cocktail party. The most interesting one will have the most conversation and leave the greatest impression. (The trainwreck will leave an impression, too, but it’s not the one you’re looking for.) Would you talk to your mom with that mouth?

Photo by Mo Riza. Creative Commons.

Advertising: Native or Creative?

As so many brands struggle to get beyond digital display, we field a lot of requests for “native” campaigns.

Do you want native, or creative?

We just ran an amazing campaign for the Sims that was a wrap-around, overlay, 3-D effect page takeover. It’s an awesome campaign. It’s not native advertising. It’s creative advertising.

Native advertising is integrating your brand in such a way that it appears to live comfortably in its surroundings. It’s not invisible, but it fits in, just like you do in your home town. Native can of course be insanely creative.

Innovative new ad formats aren’t native, but they are creative. They stand out. They make a shout for your attention above and beyond their surroundings.

Both work – it’s just good to make the distinction.

Photo by Steve Richey.


Marketers are Bad, Bad People (loooong post)

From Paul Carr’s TechCrunch piece on integrated advertising, especially on Twitter (the piece is wonderfully entitled NSFW: Give Me Ad-Free Conversation or Give Me Death (Please RT):

A tweet isn’t a “piece of content”. It isn’t editorial. No matter whether we’re talking about what we’re having for lunch or suggesting a new movie or sharing a piece of news, what we’re really doing is having a good old-fashioned conversation. Following people on Twitter is like organising the world’s largest cocktail party – we’ve decided who’s opinions we trust, and we’ve invited them to come into our homes and talk to us about things they are genuinely interested in. The moment people start screwing around with that principle, the whole system collapses.

Couldn’t define the current and/or idealized nature of Twitter any better. As marketers (Carr: “What I do is Good and Pure; what they do is Bad and Dirty.” So true) we are faced with a world where any traditional notion of advertising is easily avoided by all smart people and most not-so-smart. So we leverage ourselves into content and “conversations” because people like those. At which point, like an airborne contaminant, we risk ruining that content/conversation experience by rendering it no longer genuine (the word “authentic” is currently in my “social media cuss jar” via which folks in our meetings are fined for egregious buzzword use*).

One answer to this is to leave the conversations alone in order to maintain their authentic real and genuine nature, thus retaining what is currently a quite effective marketing tool.

Over/under on that happening? Thought so.

* Social media cuss jar is combined with Internet jargon cuss jar and includes such words and phrases as “100,000 foot level”, “drill down”, and the execrable “best practices”. You get the picture.

art by Myaku-nya