What’s in a name? Quite a lot when the name in question has been associated with one of the greatest industrial transformations of the 21st Century.
As those working in the offshore wind energy industry will now know, DONG - formerly the Danish Oil and Natural Gas company – which spearheaded so much of the drive to offshore wind has re-branded to Ørsted. The official name-change took place in November 2017.
The reasoning is fairly straightforward. Ørsted is the new entity that is entirely divested from its predecessor’s oil and gas business, focussing entirely on offshore wind energy. Ørsted will sell its oil and gas portfolio and switch singularly to wind energy development.
Why Ørsted? Those who know their scientific history will of course already be aware that Hans Christian Ørsted was a Danish scientist who pioneered a number of discoveries, including that of electromagnetism.
For the rest of us, naming convention aside, it’s a noun that works in Danish as well as English, ensuring it’ll continue to resonate in core markets.
Rebranding risks – and how to mitigate them
All of the initial indicators suggest that the Ørsted name change has been a successful example of rebranding strategy. But more widely, rebrands are, of course, a very interesting time for companies and throw up a range of communications considerations – and risks.
Here are some of the more significant issues:
- Inadequate outreach means clients and prospects are unaware of name changes and updates.
- New naming convention or brand design fails to resonate with the market. Remember GAP clothing’s attempt?
- A new naming convention that is significantly more complex than the current version
So, how do you go about mitigating some of these risks?
- Start with communicating the rebrand internally, first. Ensure that every staff member is clear with the messaging and rationale behind the rebrand. After all, it is your staff that will be communicating your rebrand formally and informally to your client-base
- Give yourself plenty of time to update your customers and the market. If you have PR resource, ensure that it is deployed correctly in communicating to key media contacts what is happening and why. Ørsted did this very well, with initial coverage, secured in the Financial Times a month before the official rebranding took place. This is a very good way of ensuring stakeholders understand the message. And if you feel that your company rebrand isn’t a story in itself, do what Ørsted cleverly did and tie it into a commercial update – in this case the part sale of two offshore wind farms.
- Ensure that the rebrand is rolled out consistently across the company website, documents, email signatures, tender documents etc, simultaneously.
Start with the message
Make no mistake, DONG’s rebrand to Ørsted was essential. Facing the innovators’ dilemma, and recognising the continued disruption in the energy markets, it took a bold decision to leave behind a well-established brand with a strong market reputation.
The aspect most companies struggle with during a rebrand is refining the new messaging behind the change. In Ørsted’s case it was clear-cut, and reflected a shift in business strategy. But where the change is through merger or acquisition, it’s a little more complex.
So when you’re externally communicating your rebrand – start with the message. Once this is agreed, look at the tactical roll-out – sales channels and vertical markets. Finally, remember to keep it simple. Here’s Ørsted’s announcement at the time – well packaged, clear, and easy to understand.
Corporate rebrands will always through up some challenges, and for those us operating in the energy sector, the disruption we’re currently seeing in the market will make future change inevitable. So, if and when the time does come, think about some of the elements above to ensure a smoother transition.