It’s been dead and buried for 16 years – but last week, HSBC announced it might resurrect the old brand of Midland Bank for part of its business.
The Midland, along with its slogan: ‘the listening bank’ was once a household name, and HSBC believes reviving it might boost the bank’s retail business.
Rebranding can certainly be a fantastic opportunity to refresh a company, its business and its profits. A good brand is instantly recognisable by customers, building loyalty and allowing companies to add a premium – it can even build a community.
But get it wrong, and the consequences can be dire. When PepsiCo – one of the world’s brand experts, you would have thought – bought fruit juice company Tropicana it rebranded all the packaging.
Reaction was instant. Customers condemned the new look as ‘a generic bargain brand’ and sales dropped 20%. Just a month later, Tropicana was back to its normal straw-in-an-orange branding.
Readers of a certain age may still feel confused at the change of their favourite chocolate bar from Marathon to Snickers; when fashion chain Gap changed its logo in 2010, customer reaction was so adverse the new look lasted only a week.
Going back to a treasured brand can be a good tactic, though. Car manufacturer Nissan has revived its old brand Datsun for its entry-level vehicles in emerging markets such as India and Indonesia, where the company feels it represents “up and coming” and “optimistic”.
Airline BA also went enthusiastically back to painting the Union Jack on its planes after a two-year gap, telling the BBC that it: “reinforces a core goal of Britishness in a more modern and less formal way”.
HSBC, already taking a reputational hit after announcing 8,000 UK job losses, will hope that returning to the Midland brand will comfort and console disgruntled and worried customers, persuading them to stay.
It’s a big ask from a name, but a brand is a mighty powerful tool. If you get it right, that is…