Crisis Called Good Time to Rebrand

For MTPanasonic Russia vice president Toyota Masaru speaking at the company's roadshow Saturday in Moscow.
The financial crisis presents companies with a golden opportunity to rebrand in order to emerge from the turmoil in a stronger position, marketing executives said.

"In times of crises, companies need to rebrand and reposition their products so as to be in good stead when the economy rebounds," said Michael Peters, CEO and creative director of the newly launched Michael Peters & Partners.

Peters, who helped develop the Aeroflot and Russky Standart brands as the chairman and founder of British-based Identica, is following his own advice, presenting his new Michael Peters & Partners brand in Moscow late last week. He called on Russian companies to follow suit.

"Rebranding in times of recession would recreate value and allow companies to succeed financially when the times are much better," he said.

Charlie Stott, a senior consultant at Wolff Olins, said there was an urgent need to develop new products and services in order to accelerate out of recession.

"Brand is not just product communication. It is very important for Russian companies and banks to tell the world why they are special through their brand names," Stott said. "By rebranding during recession, Russian companies can get up faster than their competitors when the market picks up."

Stott said Russian companies should follow the example of Apple, which developed its iPod players during turbulent financial times and was ready the moment the economy rebounded.

Irina Kalistratova, project manager at media company SPN Ogilvy, which has provided branding services for Toyota, Valio and LG Electronics, said the current crisis has not affected the branding business.

"There have been no cuts in the rebranding budgets of our clients," Kalistratova said. "Many companies still rely on pre-crisis budgets to promote their offerings."

Some companies, such as Panasonic Russia, appear to be heeding calls to tout their brand names. The company kick-started a roadshow to relaunch the Panasonic brand in Moscow on Saturday and is to take the campaign to six other Russian cities, including St. Petersburg, Kazan, Rostov-on-Don and Novosibirsk.

"While consumer demand remains steady for the time being, we have to be careful of what happens in the coming months," said Toyota Masaru, vice president of Panasonic Russia.