From Q to DMZ – To Rebrand Or Just Refine?

April 21, 2015 Ben Myers
Shad CBC Q branding

Along with its rebranding from Q to q, the CBC Radio program welcomed new host Shadrach Kabango.

What does a brand do when they want to show the world a new face, but keep the web domains and clout of their former selves? They refine, rather than rebrand – and it’s becoming something of a trend.

Agency Substance 151 recommends a rebrand when “The existing brand perception, message and image are outdated and no longer reflect the organization’s current standing in the marketplace.” Seems pretty straight forward, but what if years and dollars have been spent to promote the existing brand. Should that be thrown away?

Jacob Brower, assistant marketing professor, Queen’s School of Business, Kingston, Ont. told Canadian Business Magazine that a complete rebranding is a risky proposition considering what might be left behind.

“It’s costly to establish a new brand image, but losing the one they already have could be costlier. If they don’t understand the image customers have of their particular brand, they’re more likely to launch into a rebrand that could end up losing the customers they already have. Then they have to try to regain all those customers. It’s much more expensive to get a customer back than to just try to maintain those customers in the first place.”

It appears that brands have recently done the math and are taking the more cautious route when attempting to redefine themselves.

Ryerson DMZ new old logo

Ryerson DMZ new logo on the left and old logo on the right.

Rebranding DMZ to DMZ

Last week, Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone became known simply by its acronym shorthand ‘the DMZ’.

Valerie Fox, Executive Director of the DMZ told Betakit the reason behind the change in strategy: “Our companies aren’t just about digital media anymore, so the Digital Media Zone name didn’t make sense anymore.”

The partial rebrand leaves the brand with a vestigial acronym (and take it from Dx3, years later, people will continue to ask what it stands for), but retains much of the accrued clout from years of common parlance and brand association.

Former Q branding with former host.

Former Q branding with former host.

Rebranding Q to q

Alternatively, dealing from a position of brand weakness, CBC Radio talk show Q became known as q earlier this month, partially rebooting itself with a new host, Shadrach Kabango, and vibe to distance itself from the ongoing Jian Ghomeshi scandal and legal proceedings.

Retaining its audience for a strong CBC Radio program was obviously a factor in the decision to opt for only a minor rebranding, but whether the changing of the case and font of a logo will accomplish that goal is dubious.

“They always say there’s no such thing as bad PR – (but) I think in this case there is,” Brynn  Winegard, marketing and strategy professor at the Ted Rogers School of Management told the Canadian Press. “They’re really digging around for how to salvage that brand and make it into something new.”

The CBC pushed the issue toward the realm of self-parody with this “clarification” on its Twitter account during a recent press conference, and a few fans responded with appropriate snark.

(For those asking: the new logo is indeed a lowercase ‘q’ but for clarity & readability, our show is sticking to Q in written communication)

— Q (@CBCRadioQ) April 20, 2015

.@CBCRadioQ thank you for this update. could you clarify how to pronounce the new name?

— carly lew-cifer (@carlylewis) April 20, 2015

Whether refining a brand is a better option than a complete rebranding is a matter of execution and strategy, and no matter how an organization is labelled, an effective branding strategy speaks for itself.

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