Rebranding can appear like a solution for a company after a crisis. Yet there is no guarantee it will succeed. Simply changing a company’s name or logo doesn’t win back trust. Successful rebranding means changing the corporate culture of the company.
In the 1990s, ValuJet faced safety issues culminating in the crash of Flight 592 in the Florida Everglades. ValuJet equaled air disaster and cutting safety corners. Seeking to recover, ValuJet merged with the smaller Airways Corporation, parent of AirTran. The merged company used the name AirTran, even though ValuJet was the survivor of the merger because the ValuJet name was irreparable. The rebrand succeeded because the company’s message reflected a break in the past and emphasized safe cost-efficient air travel. Consumers believed the message and ValuJet faded from memory
Private security contractor, Blackwater was employed by the U.S. government in Iraq and Afghanistan faced a crisis for the methods it employed that led to the deaths of innocent civilians and refusal to cooperate with Congress. The company underwent two name changes. Yet the rebranding has failed because it did not communicate a new culture or shed its past.
Some say that Malaysia Airlines rebranding (after the tragedies of flights MH370 that has yet to be located and MH17 shot down over Ukraine) making Malaysia Airlines synonymous with disasters and a punchline for comedians. A new name won’t change that perception. Unless the airline overcomes the perception of incompetence and shows that it places safety first, rebranding will fail.
Rebranding is a first step after a disaster. By itself, a new name won’t fix things. Successful rebranding must communicate a fundamental change in the company and its operations taking time.