With both of my children now in college, I find myself telling people I’m an “empty nester,” which is a term I don’t love. I’m not a bird, and while I confess to feeling pangs of loneliness with the kids out of the house, the word “empty” definitely is a downer. To me, the empty nest seems primed for a rebranding.
A BRAND BY ANY OTHER NAME
Rebranding, after all, is having a moment. Overstock.com this month renamed itself Bed Bath & Beyond after acquiring the failed retailer’s digital assets and intellectual property. Earlier this year, Warner Bros. Discovery changed the name of its HBO Max streaming service to simply Max. A few years ago, Mark Zuckerberg announced Facebook’s parent company would be renamed Meta, reflecting the company’s desire to push into the metaverse. And speaking of birds, Twitter’s name of origin and its avian logo were dumped by Elon Musk in favor of X.
I reached out to entrepreneur Chip Conley, whose Modern Elder Academy is reframing the concept of aging, to ask how he’d brand the empty nest for a new generation of adults entering midlife. Conley has a great suggestion, which I’ll get to in a moment, but he also sounded a note of caution: “I think rebranding is something you do only when there’s significant upside to [creating] a new brand, or you’re solving a significant downside.”
PURPOSE: THE NAME OF THE GAME
Recent revamps of problematic brands such as Aunt Jemima (now Pearl Milling Company) and Uncle Ben’s (now Ben’s Original) came in response to longstanding complaints about racial stereotypes that gained traction after the protests against racism in the summer of 2020.
Musk’s renaming of Twitter, on the other hand, was not driven by a downside risk. The company’s CEO, Linda Yaccarino, has said the change bolsters Musk’s ambition to turn the platform into an “everything app” where users will conduct all manner of transactions.
So far, X has failed to deliver significant upside. Marketing and communications experts have panned the move, suggesting it has eroded billions of dollars in brand value. One former Twitter executive tells Fast Company: “It speaks to a fragile ego and an appalling instinct for branding.”
Conley’s rules for rebranding made me realize my quest to remake empty nester is a problem no one wants solved. Conley says the term “empty nest” actually has a positive connotation for many. Still, when pressed he offered a good alternative: Kid-Freed. “It speaks to the freedom that a parent can feel when the kids have flown the coop,” he says.
CREATING BRAND “NEW”
Has your company undergone a rebrand, and if so, what lessons can you share? In this era of rebranding, is your business feeling pressure to design a new logo or trademark a new name? Send your stories my way via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We may publish the most instructive ones in a future newsletter.