Does a Name Change a Brand?

A recent article in Techcrunch reveals that Facebook has partnered with India’s Central Board of Secondary Education to launch “a certified curriculum on digital safety and online well-being, and augmented reality for students and educators in the country.”

Apparently, as per a press release, it is part of Facebook’s “global initiative to build diverse learning communities and bring the world closer together.”

It is obvious that for Facebook this is a way to gain greater foothold in the world’s largest market (China is obviously ruled out), and also improve its brand positioning as a responsible organisation.

Screen-grab from CBSE Webpage on partnership with Facebook

The key question is if brands can reposition themselves so easily, by launching a few courses or by, like in the case of Hindustan Unilever (HUL) changing a name.

Image from HUL website

A brand is not just a name, a logo or a spokesperson/ambassador. It is the sum total of experiences that it has created in customers’ minds, over a period of time. Either through direct experience or others’ live experiences, we build our perceptions, expectations and relationship with a brand.

A useful framework to think about a brand is the brand identity prism by Jean Kapferer, Emeritus Professor of Marketing at HEC, Paris. The prism postulates that a brand is not just about what the seller wishes to portray but also how it is received by the user/observer, in the context of the external environment and the organisation’s culture.

Image from Florek, Magdalena & Janiszewska, K.. (2013). Defining place brand identity: Methods and determinants of application. Actual Problems of Economics. 150. 543-553.

Clearly, an organisation or brand has to work on all dimensions to create change. Whether Facebook’s education initiative and HUL’s name change are part of such a larger program, or just tactical responses to evolving external environment, needs to be seen.

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