Rebranding lessons of hibu / yell.com

hibu logo rebranding yell.com

Over the last couple of weeks yell.com has been rebranding as hibu. This is the latest example, in a very undistinguished line, of such rebranding failures.

When the best a CEO can muster about his companies' latest rebranding is this quote below you know the company is in deep, deep trouble. 

'don't read anything into it….It doesn't have any pure meaning behind it. It needed to be short, easy to pronounce and to sound edgy and innovative. It doesn't mean a lot by itself, but if you turn the clock back, neither did Apple and Google or Yahoo!' 

Mike Pocock is the CEO of hibu which in the latest example of rebranding has became the new name for Yell.com. Yell.com has been through at least a couple of major rebrands as it struggles to make any sense of it's Yellow Pages listing business model in the internet age. They recently acquired Moonfruit.com as a way of trying to help SMEs and their internet presence. hibu or as the company might have us write: hibü is the latest work from Landor – that purveyor of snake oil to companies with more shareholder money than sense. I am sure that the Landor team are seething as they read the quotes from the CEO on their beautiful retina displays. 

The rebranding of hibu illustrates some of the key mistakes that are made far too often as a company makes the decision to rebrand and change name: 

1. The new name doesn't mean anything to anyone:

This is most likely to have been dressed up as a benefit by the inventors of the brand hibu. It isn't. Given the companies massive financial issues they are not going to be able to afford a huge marketing budget to vest this meaningless word with brand associations. They may think that it is a positive move dropping all references and equity built up in Yell.com or indeed Yellow Pages but to eschew these assets is foolhardy. The fact that they have gone for the immediate rebrand, rather than a phased approach, again make the journey to establishing the new brand very hard. The rebrand has very little logic – this taken from the hibu website exemplifies the problem: 

To meet the ever changing needs of our merchants and our consumers, we are transforming our business to be more digitally led. We are making it possible for our consumers to connect with our merchants how they want, whenever they want. We are developing innovative new products and a dynamic new brand signals that we are a digital business of the future. When people connect, communities thrive, and we are a vital connection in an ever changing world. That's why we have changed from Yell to hibu.

Now I may be missing something but this paragraph makes no sense as a logic for the rebranding. There is no reason why the move of the business into digital has delivered the name hibu, argubly Yell.com is a more digitally led name. 

2. A brand optimised for the internet age and search?

I bet this was a big part of the pitch for rebranding. I'm sure Landor will have rolled out a 28 year old 'internet and search expert' to bamboozle the board with promises about how this name because of it's construction and newness was going to deliver exceptional power in ranking on Google. This is of course generally an absolute load of old tosh but is so common to hear now – it's the reason for the rash of names with a double "o" in them for example. There was an idea floating around that Google somehow favoured certain combination of letters because they were less competitive to rank on hence Ooyala and the like. The secret to ranking on Google is to deliver high quality content and make your pages search friendly – if anything non descriptive names make it harder to rank not easier. 

3. Lack of engagement from the top down?

From the comments from top management in the press they don't seem that committed to the rebranding and this makes me suspect that the organisation hasn't been engaged in the hibu rebranding process. This is the most common mistake that is made when trying to change a culture, a name, or a business model. It's the people within the organisation that should feel vested in the new name and making it's promises come alive. However most engagement processes start with the brand book or internal roll out campaign once all the decisions have been made. Rebranding and brand renaming needs to come from within and this requires engagement in the process from the very beginning. 

4. A brand name just trying too hard… 

Like Consignia or Monday, hibu is a name that is just trying too hard. I know that's a very difficult thing to substantiate but there is something in these names that come from a process that is vested in focusgrouping and whiteboarding – they lack authenticity. They are artificial creations rather than really coming from a place of organisational difference. Apple as a brand name works for that organisation (or it used to) because it encapsulates the "think different" logic that was Steve Jobs' brilliance. Google works because it somehow embodies the geekiness of that organisation based on algorithms, advanced maths and technology. hibu is just trying to be cool and doesn't embody any of the attributes of that organisation.

Given their latest results are flatlining I think rebranding yell.com is very unlikely to be the knight in shining armour coming along to rescue and somehow give meaning to the company. Yell.com was a smart way of attempting to link the past with the future – it had a logic and could have had a personality. hibu doesn't mean anything to anyone and because of this it is facing an uphill struggle. 

What do you think of this rebranding and renaming? Do you like the name hibu? Leave a comment below and get involved. 

Justin

{ 58 comments… add one }

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  • And March 23, 2013, 11:31 am

    YELL how about SCREAM or HOLLOW or SCREECH or WHIMPER

    Or perhaps the name of a fruit MELLON, BANANNA, PEAR, GRAPE.

    OK you saw them here first Ill accept £10K save yourself the millions you have spent on major marketing companies to come up with hibu…… just crazy from so many perspectives ! need i say more!

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  • chameleonfinacc April 24, 2013, 9:29 am

    There isn’t a single person I know who hasn’t heard of Yell or Yellow Pages. Ask them who hibu is and they say ‘Hi Who?’

    There is an old agage – ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it!’ Yells problems are not in it’s name. Look else where Mr CEO.

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  • chameleonfinacc April 24, 2013, 9:34 am

    If it ain’t broke don’t fix it!

    Everyone I know (young and old) know who Yell.com and Yellow Pages are. Ask them who hibu are and they ask Hi Who?

    Yells problems are not it’s name. Try looking elsewhere Mr CEO.

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    I only noticed the name when the bill was changed from yell . They didn’t even tell me , nearly cancelled the debit .
    Yell com was an excellent name, can I use it now if they don’t want it?

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    I am a client of ex ‘Yell’. I have had cause to speak to staff, and I find demoralisation and confusion. The stats for visitors are only obtained 7 weeks after the end of the month. Here we are 10 May and I have not had April’s stats so how can I know how my key words are doing? Thinking of dumping them from my contract – if they cannot keep their side of the bargain……
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    hibu has been rebranded so many times its not funny. It was originally “YellowBookUSA”. Then they decided to get ALL of their design done in Bangalore, India, so they had to drop the USA renaming it just “YellowBook” outsourcing it’s jobs to Pindar Set a company from the UK that took pride in sending American jobs to Bangalore India. The people in charge of PindarSet are the ones that started the decline of Yellow Book USA/Yellow Book. Due to the language barrier, people with Italian restaurants who wanted a picture of spaghetti noodles in their ads were getting photos of Chicken Lo Mien printed in Yellow Book’s directories. So once again they tried to change their name to just “Yell”… probably due to all the yelling they got from disgruntled customers. What they are doing is changing the name so you the customer think that someone new and much more qualified for this job is in charge. This is not the case. It is the same unqualified management, whose only concern is making money… They could care less about you or your advertising. They will still put Chicken Lo Mien in your Italian Restaurant advertisement or website and make you over pay for it. For what it’s worth my advice is to stay far away from hibu, but watch them closely because they WILL BE CHANGING THEIR NAME soon.

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