They've done it to chocolate (Marathon/Snickers), they've done it to sweets (Opal Fruits/Starburst), they've done it to cosmetics (Oil of Ulay/Olay), they've tried to do it to cereal (Coco Pops/Choco Krispies). Now they're doing it to household cleaning products.
Last week, Lever Brothers announced that cleaners' favourite Jif is to be rebranded as Cif in the UK, in alignment with its global moniker.
Of the 60 countries in which the dirt-buster is sold, 39 know it as Cif - in most cases because 'c' is easier to pronounce in the local tongue than 'j'.
Over pounds 2m is being spent on the relaunch, covering new packaging and a TV and press campaign by Lowe Lintas.
Launched in the UK in 1974, Jif now has a portfolio of creams, mousses, and bath and shower spray products, and launched a Mint Fizz mousse variant in August.
Last year, Jif Cream Lemon ranked as the fifth best-selling household cleaning brand in the UK, and its Bathroom Spray was eighth (Taylor Nelson Sofres). Its key rivals are Procter & Gamble's Flash, and Johnson Wax's Mr Muscle.
This year has already seen Lever reposition Jif to attract a younger female audience, its key tactic being the launch of a web site that lets visitors vote for the man they'd most like to see pictured naked in a bath.
But will the change to Cif do anything to boost the brand? When Kellogg attempted to change its Coco Pops brand to Choco Krispies, there was an outcry, and Kellogg resorted to a public vote, which asked for it to be changed back. Will Cif receive a similar reaction?
We asked Nick Alford, managing director of Banks Hoggins O'Shea, who has worked on SC Johnson Wax's Toilet Duck, Pledge and Mr Muscle brands; and Michael Levy, managing director of innovations specialist CLK, which has worked on several brand-naming projects.
Bathroom 1995 1997 1999
cleaner (pounds m) (%) (pounds m) (%) (pounds m) (%)
Jif 12.7 35 12.5 34 14.6 34
Flash 7.3 20 7.7 21 9.1 21
Mr Muscle 6.2 17 6.6 18 8.2 19
Dettox 0.4 1 1.1 3 1.7 4
Other brands 0.7 2 0.4 1 0.4 1
Own-label 9.1 25 8.5 23 9.1 21
Source: Mintel, Household Cleaning Products
Sooner or later every global advertiser comes across the dilemma of differing brand names across their markets. It was only a matter of time for Jif. For me, rebranding is now a necessity for Jif. All advertisers communicating across a number of markets need a consistent brand name.
It is far more cohesive for the brand and the financial savings alone on packaging, point-of-sale and advertising will be significant.
From the consumer's point of view, the brand name will not be noticeably aurally or visually different. Jif is also merely a word, and has no significant meaning in local language. So the consumer should not be overly thrown.
The renaming also provides an opportunity for a concerted brand push, which Lowe Lintas will welcome. Whether the ad campaign will change remains to be seen. The current campaign, while being consistent across markets, is probably a little soft.
The advantages of a global name are well known; they relate mostly to economies of management effort and scale and rarely to consumers, who shop 'internationally' in only a few categories.
For consumers, a common problem can be meaning or pronunciation; presumably Cif doesn't have unfortunate connotations of the sort the change from Marathon to Snickers encountered, or less famously those encountered by wine brand 'Moron'.
The reassuring thing for Cif is that people remember faces more easily than names - so it is hardly disruptive to change a 'j' to a 'c' in the context of an overall visual identity driven by colours and pack shape.
The customer may wonder what else has changed, but unless there is some other sign that things ain't what they used to be, they will most probably carry on regardless.
- Ensure the consumer doesn't think the product has changed. It's an opportunity to go for the 'better than ever' approach, or at least an enhancement.
- Protect Jif's long-established brand values.
- A line extension following on the heels of the rebranding may be good timing. The brand will already be in consumers' minds, making the launch a little easier.
- Since it is changing the label anyway, take the opportunity to revitalise it - without affecting basic recognition.
- Shout loud and clear that Cif does everything Jif did - the packaging is changing, not the product itself.
- Leave product changes or further line extensions until all the connotations of 'Jif' have been poured into 'Cif'.