How to Rebrand Without Losing Your Heritage

February 12, 2013

By Lulu Raghavan

Rebrands often involve a change in logo. While this step should ideally be the last in a series designed to transform a company, it is usually the one–and more often than not, the first and only–step on which brand custodians spend a considerable amount of time and energy. And understandably so, as a logo is the most visible manifestation of a business. Whether evolutionary or revolutionary, it communicates how much a company has changed and its vision of the road ahead. It entails a key challenge many Indian companies face when undergoing a rebrand: for a venerable brand with plenty of equity in its current logo, how do you evolve and contemporise without losing your brand’s heritage? To this end, here are four things to keep in mind.

Your company’s core values should not change

A corporate identity change does not mean a change in a company’s core values. For over a hundred years, Tata has stood by its principles that underpin the way it does business: integrity, understanding, excellence, unity, and responsibility. These values did not change even when the Tata Group adopted a new corporate identity in 2000. However, their communication and messaging have been working hard in recent years to portray the group’s image and personality as dynamic and innovative. It is vital to note that these initiatives, in turn, are based on robust, long-term strategies that the group is investing in–they are not just imagery attributes being promoted as part of the changed identity

Contemporary does not have to mean Western

Most briefs these days call for some form of contemporisation or the other. What we should be careful about here is equating contemporary with Western. Recent corporate rebrands have lost the opportunity to create a unique identity with a sense of Indian provenance–probably because the concerned brand owners embraced the Western design idiom too tightly! However, there are always the few and the brave. Consider how Balaji Telefilms evolved to a modern and professional identity befitting a stock exchange listed entity. What is exemplary about this change is how Balaji took its existing symbol, an illustration of Lord Balaji of Tirupati (an auspicious Hindu god), and created a “shorthand” identity. Based on the auspicious mark on Lord Balaji’s forehead, it was instantly recognisable by followers everywhere. Rendered in a contemporary manner, the symbol provides a powerful facelift to a brand that continues to resonate strongly with middle class women who are ardent enthusiasts of Balaji’s chart-busting prime time soap operas.

Symbols are powerful tools for communicating values

A noteworthy rebrand is that of Dhanlaxmi Bank. The identity change is a fresh and stylish reinterpretation of Goddess Lakshmi, the bank’s renowned symbol. It is a bold move, as most brands would have shed religious emblems to embrace an icon that transcends faiths. And yet, the identity’s final rendition, with the brandline “Established in 1927”, speaks more to stature and heritage and less to faith and belief. Dhanlaxmi has also started owning the colour purple, a differentiating colour in a sea of blue, red and orange brands in the financial services category. What will be interesting to watch is how Dhanlaxmi uses its refreshed identity to drive its customer experience–a modern case of Indian mythology, where a powerful symbol is the start of a powerful story.

We all love a good story–tell yours well

Last but not least, stakeholders are more inclined to accept an identity change if the story is well told. A great example of this is the brand refresh of Garuda Indonesia. The airline’s outdated logotype was replaced with a more modern one, with its beautiful bird symbol retained–but refined. The accompanying visual system was refreshed and built around a new design element—a stylised rendering of a feather known as “nature’s wing”. It connects the look of a fluttering wing with other elements in nature, from water ripples to the petals of a flower. This visual system celebrates the connection between Garuda’s iconic wing, its home and the heritage of Indonesia, and the airlines’ commitment to its valued customers.


This blog was originally published by Kyoorius (February 2013).

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