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Rebranding Taxonomy and Gardening 101: Dirty Data

Put on your gardening gloves, it’s time to get our hands dirty. By this, I mean that we will be digging deep into the qualitative data to extract the data necessary to answer the research question, What are the primary factors that influence rebranding decisions in U.S. based organizations?

The process of “digging in the dirt” or coding data from 18 relevant quality tested articles pulled 10 codes or factors that influence rebranding decisions from the “weeds” based on over 200 individual pieces of data. Through thematic synthesis, the three themes that emerged weighed according to the strength of support were (1) internal factors; (2) other factors; and (3) external factors. While this taxonomy provides additional insight for understanding the primary factors that influence rebranding decisions, a quick google search using the search string “reasons for rebranding” gives us a comparison or control group. The very first suggested website that comes up is one that claims to know the 10 reasons for corporate rebranding. To see how the 10 “reasons for rebranding” line up with the 10 codes or factors that were found by digging through the data dirt in the systematic review, Figure 1 is a comparison thematic synthesis flow chart.

Figure 1. Thematic synthesis flow chart of the ten rebranding codes or factors and google search results for “reasons for rebranding.”

The individual “reasons for rebranding” do resemble the findings from the systematic review, but there are a few differences. You’ll notice that organizational performance and rebranding costs are not listed as a “reason for rebranding.” It may be that organizational performance is considered a predecessor of some of the “reasons for rebranding” and therefore, not listed as an individual reason. The omission of rebranding costs as a reason may be more of a matter of terminology. The purpose of the systematic review is to identify factors that influence rebranding decisions which may not directly translate into reasons for rebranding. The author also lumped M&As and spin-offs into the same reason, whereas, M&As are external factors and spin-offs are categorized as a reorganization that is an internal factor influencing rebranding decisions in the taxonomy. In summary, the fundamental difference between “reasons for rebranding” and factors that influence rebranding decisions is that reasons are explicit, and the factors can be explicit or implicit. Now that we’ve established the fact that the findings are relevant to the current internet buzz, it’s time to sift through the findings.

Sifting through the dirt

Internal factors

Evidence to explain the findings of the five codes or factors: brand identity and strategy, stakeholder involvement, organizational performance, rebranding costs, and reorganization is evident across 17 out of the 18 articles suggesting that internal factors are the heaviest contributor to rebranding decisions. The evidence indicates that the causal relationship between brand identity and strategy is strong and is multidirectional. Therefore, the impact on effective rebranding decisions varies depending on the strength of alignment between the two variables. Furthermore, changes in organizational identity are sometimes necessary to maintain the optimal balance between brand identity and strategy. The evidence also shows that despite the logistical issue of managing the various interests, the level of stakeholder involvement is a key internal factor impacting rebranding decisions. While organizational performance is an antecedent to rebranding, another internal factor influencing rebranding decisions are the direct and indirect rebranding costs. A reorganization is the final internal factor that generates a desire to rebrand in U.S. based organizations.

Other factors

Evidence across 16 of the 18 articles suggests that the second theme, other factors, influence rebranding decisions. As the data codes, brand repositioning and brand image, are neither internal or external factors exclusively they are classified as other factors. Although brand repositioning is a factor as evidenced across several of the articles, the reasons vary including the need to update the brand, mitigate brand migration issues, and even to deceive consumers. For example, an article included in the systematic review proposes that the United White Knights (UWK) of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) altered its brand to reposition “itself so as to appear so mainstream that individuals not associated with the Klan, and who would otherwise perceive the Klan as an enemy, may become attracted to the Klan”. Since the brand image is the perceived value of the brand, the findings that brand image is a factor in rebranding decisions explains how organizations like the UWK use rebranding to promote any agenda including the KKK.

External factors

External factors are the final drivers of rebranding decision as evidenced across 13 of the 19 articles. Competitive advantage, the first external factor requires incorporating rebranding strategies that distinguish organizations among their competitors. Although some studies indicate that mergers and acquisitions (M&As) are the number one external driver of rebranding initiatives and decisions regarding name changes can have both short and long-term repercussions, evidence from this systematic review does not necessarily support M&As as a noteworthy factor in rebranding decisions. The final internal factor, environmental factors that influence rebranding decisions include changes in demographics, shifts in the market, and legal issues.

Time to clean up

We’ve pulled the data from the weeds, so it’s time to wash up to see what we’ve got to work with and determine what it means for U.S. based organizations. Whereas post #1 in this four-part series introduces the concept of rebranding, the final discussion, post #4, interprets the data as described in step two of the theoretical framework based on organizational learning theory from post #2 to provide U.S. based organizations with practical implications.

Links to all posts in the four-part series:

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