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Brand Biopsy: A first class way to learn from others’ mistakes when it comes to putting a new stamp on your business

27 Mar 2018
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What’s in a name? Well, in the case of the infamous Post Office/Consignia fiasco in the early 2000s, about £2million.

The rebranding was an attempt to unite diverse wings of the business – Post Office, Royal Mail, Parcelforce – under one name and to reflect its expansion on its original core services. As we discussed in this blog earlier in the year, both are strong reasons to consider a rebrand.

However, in less than 18 months, the Post Office had transformed to the hideously unpopular Consignia then restyled again to the more familiar-feeling Royal Mail Group.

It is held up as the absolute epitome of a catastrophic marketing mistake. The Independent at the time called it ‘one of the most disastrous corporate rebrandings ever undertaken’.

BBC business journalist slammed it as ‘A duffer. A howling waste of money’.

A rebrand, whether is it a name change or new logo and design palette is a massive commitment, both financially and reputationally.

A name change particularly will always be controversial so businesses should be prepared for people not to like it. To address this, it is vital to communicate your reasons for the change. People do get used to new names in the end – providing they don’t have negative connotations to latch on to.

These lessons don’t need to follow to the letter, but there are some key messages that the Royal Mail’s rebrand disaster delivered:

Brand heritage: Don’t throw away good will and good brand recognition without giving a good reason.

Negative connotations: The brand consultancy should have picked up on how much Consignia sounded like consigned to the bin. The press and public certainly did.

Avoid confusion: A rebrand should make things clearer. The new name just left a lot of people saying: “WHAT DOES IT MEAN?”

Strong communications strategy: Consignia had no communications campaign in place to explain the new name and business structure to the public. As a business blogger astutely noted, Consignia was ‘vilified because people hated what it stood for – change without explanation, change without engagement’.

Timing is all: Do not rebrand at a time of turmoil or during difficult trading climate. Unfortunately, the Consignia rebrand coincided with a period of poor performance, strikes, losses and job cuts and, at least, in the eyes of the public, press and some employees became in inextricably linked with the downturn in the company’s fortunes.

Internal management buy-in: The Post Office group’s chief executive John Roberts had said the new name was ‘modern, meaningful and entirely appropriate’ but when Consignia chairman Allan Leighton was quite happy to throw it under the bus when it became expedient to do so. By ditching the rebrand he was putting distant between the troubled times and the business going forward – so not a total commitment to the new name.

In the end with so many factors against Consignia, the ill-fated rebrand was consigned to history.

ATTAIN will give your business the first class branding it deserves. Drawing on a wealth of experience, our studio will push the envelope to create coherent branding for every aspect of your online and offline visual presence. Get in touch on 01942 247884 or

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