Risks and rewards of renaming: Pernod Ricard

Guest blogger David Nichols, brandgym Managing Partner and head of invention

When does internal clarity and strategic uniformity trump local differences in global branding? And when should you live with a little imperfection for the sake of continuity?  There is no one right answer.  These are some of the toughest questions in marketing, not least because they do not necessarily lead to success, but they could trip you into failure.

Here is a real life example where we invite you to share your views. It involves branding in the wine industry for Pernod Ricard.

For the 10 years before the recession New Zealand wine was on an unstoppable rise in the UK and across the world.  At the head of the pack was one brand, Montana.  It was a 1.5 million case brand – already the biggest wine brand by volume in New Zealand, and was steadily conquering the UK and had it sights set on the USA.

Screen shot 2011-06-06 at 09.35.23

But Montana had a problem: the name.  It sounds like a US state, not a new word winner.  This would crop up in the UK in every group discussion.  It was not a major issue, but something that would always be there in the background.  When the team did launch in the US, they called it ‘Brancott’, the name of the original winery where it was first made.  This was fine, until Pernod Ricard decided to do a major push for volume and share in the US.  Suddenly you have a global brand with two names.  A problem or not?

For Pernod Ricard, their rulebook on global branding said yes, it was a problem.  So they changed the name to ‘Brancott’ to have one tidy, unified global brand.

Screen shot 2011-06-06 at 09.38.39
Where they right?  Does it matter?

The case for changing the name:

  • The recession put a stop to the inexorable rise on New Zealand wine and Montana with it.  This presented an opportunity to re-group and unify the brand name.
  • One brand name can save a huge amount in admin and internal discussion.  Even though on paper the positioning was the same, the temptation for each team to say “We’re different” and to head off in differing directions is strong.  One brand name stops this and allows true global strategy
  • Easier & cheaper to do global advertising
  • Physical availability (distribution/shelf position) will stay unaffected.

The case against:

  • Mental availability (awareness/relevance) will be drastically reduced.  The ‘Montana’ name had huge awareness, US State confusion or not.  That is gold-dust in the complex and competitive wine market. Why give away your top of mind position in your current core markets?
  • There are no global wine buyers. Will anyone outside Pernod Ricard care or even notice that the brand has a different name in the USA?
  • Why compromise the focus and enthusiasm of your teams in current core markets for the promise of riches in an unproven and incredibly tough market; the US?

Your vote:  Were they right to re-brand?

YES?                                                      NO?

We will report back when we get your views!