KU Business faculty experts discuss: Branding

Jessica Li, marketing professor, provides insights on branding and identity

KU School of Business
3 min readJan 18, 2024

For companies, developing a brand extends beyond visual elements, such as colors and a logo. It also entails a company’s reputation and messaging, and it communicates a promise of what the company will deliver. According to the Havas Group, a global marketing and communications company, approximately 77% of consumers buy from brands that share similar values.

Sometimes a drooping reputation leads companies to rebrand. However, rebranding has risks, and not all companies do it successfully. Last year in particular, the topic of rebranding has been dominant in headlines after the overhaul of Twitter to X.

Jessica Li

Jessica Li, Dean’s/Frank S. Pinet Professor in the Marketing and Business Law academic area, provides her insights on company branding, rebranding and what makes a good brand. Li received her doctorate from Arizona State University and her bachelor’s degree from Cornell University. Her teaching interests include consumer behavior, promotional strategy and integrated marketing communications.

Branding seems to be a buzzword these days. What is branding at its core?

Branding is about forming a strong identity in the mind of the consumer. It does involve changing logos, slogans, messaging and visual aspects, but at its core, it’s about changing perceptions and minds

What do people not realize or understand about branding?

  1. Because branding is about perception, and you don’t know people’s perceptions of a brand, research is integral. People forget that’s all that matters when it comes to branding. Brand executives can get in the mindset of what they want the brand to represent without doing adequate research to see if that’s the real perception.
  2. Branding is important for internal audiences, especially now. When Gen Z and Alpha enter the workforce, they care about working at a place that aligns with their values.

What makes a good brand?

It’s complicated: A good brand is one that successfully shifts the consumer’s perception and makes them want to engage with brand.

Looking at all the aspects, authenticity is key for a brand. If you’re authentic, people will know. Brands require clear communications with the target audience about what that brand represents, and it needs consistency in engagement and activates.

Does rebranding hurt or help a company?

The risks for rebranding are losing brand equity. If you’re not careful, the equity gained won’t retransfer to a new brand. What is different? What new things are we adding? Rebrands happen for different reasons, and sometimes brands just want a fresh start.

Perhaps some of the most notable company rebrands was Facebook into Meta. It wanted to shift away from being a social media platform to being involved with all aspects of interconnectivity, like the Metaverse and other offerings. Things remain to be seen about Twitter, or now X. It has lost $10 billion in revenue, and people are finding its competitors for alternatives.

A great example of a rebrand is Dunkin’ Donuts — now just “Dunkin’,” but it kept elements of the old brand and eliminated “Donuts” from the name. It focused on coffee, retained brand equity and reiterated the values.

When should companies explore or consider before rebranding?

Companies need to ask themselves: “What purpose does this serve?” You have to be clear on objectives and should consider research and communications. How many people do you have to communicate this to? What are the associated costs of rebranding nationwide and worldwide?

In the cases of HBO and Twitter, have these rebrands been effective?

Right now, they are examples of not successful rebranded companies, but that can change. People who’ve know the brand for a longtime already know. We don’t know the full outcome, but it’s not looking great.

Is there anything else to add?

I encourage students to think about their own brand and not be afraid to rebrand themselves. We can always improve, and our goals and values can shift. Students can rebrand themselves just like a company. Just because you change and grow doesn’t mean that your brand can’t grow with you.



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