Rebranding should extend beyond a name change and new logo
A Weinstein Co. by any other name could still have its issues.
The film studio is mulling a sale or shutdown in the wake of disgraced bigwig Harvey Weinstein’s axing, the Wall Street Journal reports — a departure from its previous plan to forge ahead under a new company name. (Co-chairman Bob Weinstein, the brother of the accused serial sexual abuser, maintained it was “untrue that the company or board is exploring a sale or shutdown.”)
“You’ve got to root out the problem and make sure that it’s completely eradicated, or else you’re just going to end up with another company with a bad reputation,” veteran crisis management consultant Jonathan Bernstein told Moneyish. “Sometimes that’s impossible to do. Sometimes the corruption of people goes so deep (that) all you can do is break up the firm.”
Whether the board of directors shutters the studio, sells it or rebrands entirely, there’s a lesson here for any organization looking to weather a damaging scandal. (The Lance Armstrong Foundation, for example, rebranded as Livestrong in 2012 after the pro cyclist’s doping debacle; Andersen Consulting’s much-panned 2001 rebrand as Accenture proved fortuitous after parent company Arthur Andersen was later linked to the Enron collapse.) Here’s what Bernstein and Todd Ragusa, a crisis communications consultant, had to say:
Decide whether you should rebrand. “There’s a cost associated with rebranding; you’re losing some brand equity,” Ragusa said. But if you’re looking to shed a bad reputation — or if the brand simply no longer reflects your company and its goals — a fresh start may be in order. Changing a company name can impact checks, invoices, email addresses, business cards and stationery, he added, which can wind up costing a corporation “many millions of dollars.”
Look within. Anchor the rebranding in “an introspective look at who you are as an organization,” added Ragusa: Who are you and what do you represent?” For a “complete cultural shift,” Bernstein said, oust any personnel who have engaged in illegal, unethical or immoral behavior and conduct a “vulnerability audit” of why the transgressions happened, how to minimize their chances of reoccurring, and how to respond should they happen again. Overhaul any policies or procedures — particularly those relating to diversity and human rights — that need overhauling.
Regain trust. Rebranding “is the first step to signifying that what was done previously is unacceptable and the company is making an effort to course-correct,” Ragusa said. “(But) a rebranding should be more than just changing a name and logo.” Since actions speak louder than words, he said, consider contributing to appropriate causes (the Weinstein Co., for example, could give to a group that supports sexual assault survivors) and rejiggering the workforce, executive team and board to ensure they’re diverse and reflect the organization’s values.
Be sincere. Take substantive actions with real consequences, Ragusa said — a substance-free campaign giving lip service to positive values could be ineffective or even backfire. “It can’t all be window dressing,” he said. “There needs to be real, significant, substantive meat on the bone.”
“Be aware that you’re going to be watched really, really closely for a while to see if you’re walking your talk,” added Bernstein. “And if you are, you will have made a successful transition to the new brand.”
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