Monday, August 10, 2009


Can a trader successfully rebrand herself?

I would never have contemplated this topic had I not discovered, long after I first watched the brilliant ads, that Ally Bank is in fact the old, tainted GMAC. Rebranding is essentially a marketing strategy, so for the independent trader it might seem an utterly irrelevant concept. But think of it this way. Rebranding doesn’t happen only in the advertising agency; the business itself has to change to embody the new image. In the case of rebranding to get rid of previous negative connotations, the business has to make sure that the reasons the old brand was stigmatized don’t attach themselves to the new brand. It’s not enough to change the company’s name from Evil Userers to Friendly Lenders if the usurious policies remain in place. If the company is rebranding to move a product upmarket (Joe’s Stink Cover-upper to Acqua di Parma Colonia Deodorant Stick, “a blend of jasmine, amber, and white musk” available at Neiman Marcus for $33) it has to change its own self-image.

Let’s imagine some rebranding ad campaigns for traders. Now the closest I got to ad writers was riding up and down in an elevator for a year with some of the best and the brightest in the ad world who never shut up, but since I was working for an educational foundation, I didn’t pay a lot of attention to their constant chatter. It goes without saying that my ad campaigns aren’t going to win any Clio awards.

Case #1: The business was formerly known as “Victim of the Freight Train.” Its strategy was to pick tops and bottoms in the market. Well, that didn’t work out too well, but fortunately the business didn’t go bankrupt. So it can rebrand itself, perhaps simply changing its name to “The Freight Train.” What kind of ad campaign could it run? Something based on friends, though I don’t think that even the best ad agency could mount a friendship campaign for a company called The Freight Train. That minor problem aside, consider an ad that says “I’m your friend [unspoken line: until I’m not]. I want to walk with you, run with you, blah, blah, blah.” Upshot: The revamped business model will pay attention to the power of trends.

Case #2: The business is called “Stuck in the Mud.” Even though it makes money, it doesn’t make a lot of money. It always trades one lots. What if it were temporarily rebranded as “Eaglet Trading,” with the intention of eventually dropping the “t” from “eaglet”? That’s a definite shift in image. The business will soar, it will have the keen eyesight necessary to see trading opportunities, and it will seize those opportunities, picking some carcasses clean.

So here’s an exercise for those moments when the market is dull. If you had to give a descriptive name to your current trading business, what would it be? If you decided to rebrand, what would the new name be? What kind of imaginary ad campaign would you mount? And how would your business have to change to embody the new image?

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