Debranding: the “dark side” of rebranding

Driven by the changing needs of fast-paced modern times, more and more companies are opting for substantial debranding to get closer to the customer. But what is it about? Let’s see it together!

RebrandingDebranding… With these cursed anglicisms we no longer understand anything! In fact you are right, considering the fact that by replacing a single letter, thus putting a “D” in place of an “R”, the meaning of a word is completely reversed, at least in this specific case.

The debranding, on a technical level, is a strategic commercial operation aimed at expanding the possibilities of contact with potential customers and built on the basis of a “decorporatisation” of the brand. More specifically, it is the practice of remove your brand name from the logo and all the media on which it is shown, such as social media, the company website or advertising signs, but we could understand in the infinite world of debranding also all those graphic revisions that simplify or flatten the company logo, to make it more “digestible” to the general public or, simply, to modernize it.

As we have seen in our list of February 2021 rebrandingthe vast majority of the brands mentioned are following the path of minimalism, giving us flattened and streamlined logos to respect the most recent aesthetic canons. This operation of rebranding it is for all intents and purposes a debrandinga trend that we will most likely see continue in the coming months.

After introducing the topic in thelatest issue of our newsletterto which we invite you to subscribe by filling in the box at the bottom of this article, the time has come to dissolve any doubts regarding this still mysterious topic or, why not, introduce the less accustomed of you to what, in all probability, will be the common thread 2021 chart.

Debranding: why?

The change of pace by companies to keep the levels of brand awareness it was tangible. For some years now, in every commercial strategy the consumer is increasingly the protagonist, often even at the expense of a few percentage points in terms of net revenues.

Burger King commercial from the 80s

Since 1981 the American market has experienced a radical revolution consumption habits, so strong as to push some of the largest industrial groups, especially in the food sector, to reconsider their marketing strategies. Commercial researches have ascertained that in front of two products, which economically speaking we could define perfect substitutes, the consumer’s choice would have tended to fall on the generic product, to the detriment of the product often erroneously defined as “branded”, as opposed to the solid, albeit erroneous, certainties of the giants of the time. The reasons, however, do not stop only at the price difference, as for the noluntas to overpay for a particular product to contribute to advertising costs that big brands have to uphold.

The invention of the barcode has only accelerated this transition. A tracking system of sales data more efficient compared to the classics reports quarterly, on which all commercial strategies in this area were based retail, highlighted this criticality, prompting the managers of the points of sale to review the supplies, favoring de facto the shelf placement of certain types of generic products relative to their branded counterparts.

Thus comes into play the debranding, which we could interpret as a step towards the consumer to put him at ease in front of a responsible purchasing choice. In fact, many brands are perceived as too bigas their overseas colleagues would define them, so large as to inspire a sort of awe in the consumer, implicitly discouraging the purchase of certain products. We could therefore assert that the practice of debranding places the brand in question on a more human and easier approach by the potential customer.

Be careful though to the boomerang effect: if the brand in question is too much corporate or, even worse, not very transparent in terms of commercial strategies, the risk is to see one’s own brand identity collapse miserably in the maze of competitive markets. Another factor to take into consideration is the “maturity” of the brand, a concept that introduces a sort of temporality that should not be underestimated if one is opting for a strategy of debranding.

Debranding: when?

The trend of maturity of a brand reflected in the evolution of logos. Photo: Strategy Insider branding

What is the right time for a debranding? The truth is that there is no absolute answer to this age-old question and not even a mathematical model capable of giving us a faithful estimate of the commercial reality.

The main factor to calculate before embarking on a daring debranding is, as introduced in the previous paragraph, the “maturity” of the brand. A brand is considered mature when it reflects three key criteria:

  1. Returns to the consumer a value that goes beyond simple products
  2. owns stable levels of awarenesswith growth forecasts for the future
  3. owns well-rooted values in the minds of consumers, albeit retaining a vision progressive and constantly evolving

Not respecting even just one of these fundamental characteristics could trigger uncontrollable adverse reactions in the event of debranding. The stakes are high and a bankruptcy action would risk collapsing both the identity of the brand than its value, a real catastrophe for any company.

The analysis of maturity of a brandHowever, it must not and cannot stop only at the temporal sphere, but must necessarily also include the perceptive one. Knowing perfectly the degree of affinity and trust that consumers place in a particular brand favors an advanced strategic position, which allows you to attempt bolder or, on the contrary, more humble and consumer-friendly.

Debranding: success stories

The evolution of the Nike logo. Photo: The Creative Logo

There are those who would be ready to swear that the former debranding of history was to Nike in 1995. The creatives of the American company, as part of a major renovation operation, decided to eliminate the logotype from their brand, thus leaving only the iconic “Swooshes”. This is the perfect example of a mature brand that decides to venture into a bold debranding, achieving extraordinary results.

From then on, total silence, at least until 2011, when Starbucks presented the new logo: via the logotype to leave more space for the Siren, the symbol of the brand, and a generally more two-dimensional and slimmer appearance. The goal of this debranding was to give the customer a more familiar image, as if they were crossing the threshold of the café behind their home, and therefore not one of the many outlets of an international giant. Objective centered.

Not even the fashion world is immune to debranding. This trend, now rampant, was started by the creatives of Yves Saint Laurent in 2012, when they decided to considerably streamline the company logo by reducing it to capital letters. Bold, yes, but also remarkably influential, so much so that several competitors have decided to follow the same path, such as the French Balmain and the British Burberry.

We stop here for today. The phenomenon of debranding, while covering a fundamental position in modern commercial strategies, is still mostly a mysterious and unexplored topic. In short, we have just scratched the tip of the iceberg, as they say. Stay tuned, we’ll be back on the subject soon to tell you in detail some success stories and some sensational flops.

See you soon!

Debranding: the “dark side” of rebranding