• Study shows 82% of consumers' negative feelings about brand name changes
  • The research also reveals 31% think more brands should “renovate their image”
  • Demonstrates risks associated with wholesale brand identity transformations

New research from marketplace platform Onbuy.com has revealed that a high proportion of consumers think negatively about rebrands that involve a name change, with one quarter even claiming they were less likely to buy from a brand that has recently changed its name. The figures are another reminder of the risks involved with a rebrand – but also of how important strong brands are to the average consumer.

The study was designed to consider the importance of branding and consumer loyalty. In all, the survey asked 1,063 people their thoughts on rebrands and what elements of a brand are most important to them. Some of the statistics are not a surprise, but do confirm the important role of trademark practitioners in the work they do. For example, 71% of consumers say that it is “very important” or “somewhat important” that they recognise a brand before they make a purchase. This reveals, the study authors state, “that familiarity equals value”.

But when considering a rebrand, the figures demonstrate the considerable risks that exist. The clearest indication is when respondents were asked on whether they have a “positive feeling towards a brand name change”, with 82% stating they do not. In terms of trust, 34% of consumers say they trust a company “less” if it has recently changed its name, with 63% stating that they trusted a company “neither more nor less” after a name change. When asked if they would continuing following their favourite brand if the name changed, 76% of consumers said they would – meaning nearly a quarter (24%) would not. On top of that, when asked how likely they are to buy from a brand that has recently changed its name, 26% of consumers said “less likely” (with 66% indifferent and 8% more likely). In total, 52% of respondents state that it is the brand name which is the most important factor leading to a purchase, followed by the packaging (37%) and advertising (11%).

Despite the uncertainty consumers appear to feel towards rebrands, especially those that involve a name change, the study also found that nearly a third (31%) think “more brands should be renovating their image”. But any brand renovation, the study claims, should be very wary of changing the name, saying such a move is “equivalent of pressing a reset button on your business”. Indeed, there are dozens of examples of corporate name changes going badly; Netflix briefly changed the name of its DVD-by-post service to Qwikster (and was widely ridiculed), while the UK’s Post Office Group changed to Consignia in 2001 before returning to the original moniker months later. That’s not to say there aren’t many positives too, of course (with Accenture, AXA, IBM, KFC and Nissan being famous examples).

We’ve written extensively on the risks involved in a rebrand, including those involving a transformed logo or name. As we wrote in 2012, and it still holds true today, “it is important to consider whether change is actually needed” when considering a rebrand. “A logo is one of the most prominent associations consumers have with a brand,” notes Diane Prange, chief linguistics officer at brand consultancy Strategic Name Development. “Because consumers’ relationships with brands are highly emotional, changing a logo always runs the risk of unravelling the bond between user and brand.” This new study, then, should be top of mind if your company is considering making drastic changes to your brand’s identity.