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BLOGRebranding Rationale: Microsoft, Pinetree Advisors

by Randall CraigFiled in: Blog, Branding, Make It Happen TipsheetTagged as: , ,

Have you ever wondered why companies choose to rebrand? 
A few years ago,Microsoft, after more than a decade, has changed it’s logo to one that evokes the new “Metro” look-and-feel of its latest Windows operating system.  Here’s the old:

Rebranding Rationale: Microsoft, Pinetree Advisors

And here’s the new:

microsoft newlogo 300x82 1

And here’s the question of the day: why bother?  What’s wrong with the old?  Is the time and expense really worth it?

Reasons to rebrand:

1) There has been a growing difference between what your organization represents, and the visual representation of it. Rebranding forces the organization to re-evaluate each product, service, marketing initiative, collateral, advertisement, and whitepaper in a completely new light.  A herculean effort, but one that brings even stronger congruency. This re-evaluation is an even more important benefit of rebranding.

2) Your organization is looking to make a break from the past, and the “old” brand looks, well, old.

3) Particularly if there have been problems, a rebrand signals that the problems have been solved, and it is a “new” day.  (Of course, rebranding without fixing the problems can make things far worse.)

4) You are looking for a reason to reach out to your markets – rebranding gives you something to say.

5) When a groundbreaking, bet-the-company product is being launched, rebranding the company can amplify the impact of the launch.

6) A new brand is an internal signal to staff that the organization is maturing.  It can also be a strong motivator.

Which of these rationales are relevant to Microsoft?  Likely a bit of each, although 2, 3, and 5 probably are the underlying reasons for this investment.

Costs of rebranding:

1) An extraordinary amount of time and expense in evaluating, changing, and updating the logo and visual identity.  This usually means significant market research with existing and prospective customers, to better understand how they see the organization.

2) When it comes to people, branding equals corporate culture.  If the new brand is more aspirational than actual, then the change management required to shift a culture can be huge.

3) The communications planning and execution to each stakeholder group effort.

4) Some customers (and other stakeholders) may no longer identify with the new brand, costing the organization hard-won loyalty – and dollars.

Did Microsoft make the right call to rebrand?  Strategically yes: they need to establish themselves in mobile space, and their new operating system supposedly will do so.  But what about financially?  It has a large enough cash hoard that it can do just about whatever it wants; most other organizations may need to do the financial calculus themselves.


Rebranding happens both at the organizational level, and the personal level.  Beyond the purchase of a new wardrobe, have you ever considered the benefits – and the costs – of changing your personal brand?  While you may not have a logo, you absolutely are “known for something” by your friends, family, and colleagues. And if you are in a leadership role, a personal brand can power your corporate brand – and vice-versa.  This week, consider whether even a slight shift in either your personal brand – or your corporate brand – makes sense.

Bonus rebranding bulletin:  My firm, Pinetree Advisors, has also rebranded.  Here’s the old, that’s about 20 years old:

And here’s the new – far fresher, more creative, and more in-tune with our culture:

End-of-blog-post bonus: Logo history –  here are the other two of Microsoft’s old logos – times have changed indeed:


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