Why a Fresh Identity Could be Game-Changing for this Football Legend

Why a rebrand will help AC Milan become a global club.


Whenever a prominent, well-known, and often beloved company changes its logo, people react. We are largely creatures of habit; inevitably some of us welcome the change and some hate it.

Well-considered rebrands are extremely powerful, and for companies looking to exist and thrive in the future, a rebrand is often imperative.

Companies often rebrand in reaction to an event or series of events, such as a management shakeup, a change in ownership, or simply because the brand is of a certain age and needs a little pep in its step to appeal to a younger generation. There are many dull or flat-out poor rebrands — but that’s a conversation for another day.

When all of these events occur at once, it is a clear sign that the company is at a pivotal moment. This is the point at which a company can choose to adapt, strengthen, and evolve — or not.

Two iconic brands recently faced this series of events: Rimowa and AC Milan. Both will celebrate their 120th anniversaries in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Both have new owners, new management.

Bringing Rimowa into 2018

In celebration of its 120th anniversary this year, Rimowa launched a new marketing campaign with Roger Federer as its ambassador. The campaign highlights photos of Federer with his Rimowa suitcase next to the new logo and the statement “No one builds a legacy by standing still.”

The campaign is only the beginning of a refreshed and reinvigorated Rimowa that intends to capture the hearts (and wallets) of today’s Millennial and Gen Z experiential travelers.

Rimowa was long overdue for a refresh. Consumers passionate about travel and hungry for great products had largely forgotten about or never even heard of Rimowa. Yet Rimowa possessed all the ingredients of a brand that contemporary consumers would love: a beautiful history and an excellent product.

To that end, soon after purchasing the company in January 2017, CEO Alexandre Arnault began to embark on a brand evolution because Rimowa needed “a cool way to remind people who we are.” It’s therefore unsurprising that in June 2017, Rimowa tapped Hector Muelas, formerly of Apple and DKNY, as its Chief Brand Officer.

Rimowa evolved its logo by reimagining it and looking back to its history. The evolved logo (on the right above) still says “Rimowa,” but the typeface is sleeker and sexier. By removing the border it feels lighter, sophisticated, unencumbered and strong — exactly like the world traveler who buys Rimowa luggage. No surprise then, that they chose Roger Federer as their brand ambassador.

Why Rimowa’s new logo resonates

Brands like Nike, Apple, and Spotify with their clean, “less is more” aesthetic have set a new visual standard for brands. Because these brands are innovative and cool, their aesthetic is synonymous with innovative and cool.

With its sleeker, more refined logo refresh, Rimowa has positioned itself among these brands as part of the innovative, contemporary culture. Rimowa beautifully wove its rich history into the evolution of its monogram, which alludes to both the Cologne Cathedral and to the industrial aesthetic of the suitcases themselves.

Rimowa’s leadership has brought the company fully into 2018 by using a visual language native to both brand loyalists and savvy consumers today. Clearly, embracing a new visual vocabulary to communicate and resonate with a global consumer does not have to mean forgetting where you come from.

Taking a look at AC Milan today

As for Milan, thankfully the instability of the past couple of years is over and it’s a new day at the storied Club. Fans most certainly are rejoicing. The new owners, American hedge fund Elliott, and new management have made clear their intention to restore Milan to its former glory. They are already making good on that promise by bringing the hometown legend Maldini onboard, and there is even talk about building a new stadium.

A leadership team comprised of Milan legends and fans will help turn things around on the pitch. Talented young players will help win matches and get Milan back where it belongs — in the Champions League. Realistically, players come and go; they are not what makes a club legendary. It is said that players win matches, clubs win titles. It’s thus the sustained success over many years that transforms a club into a legend.

The link between Rimowa and Milan

Milan and Rimowa have much in common, in addition to age and legacy. At the most fundamental level, both have rich histories, passionate, loyal followers and an excellent product. Both brands have recently been acquired and have new management whose imperative it is to bring back their glory and ensure their future by increasing brand value, revenue, and profitability. The future of both is dependent on reaching new audiences and building lifelong connections with them.

Refreshing and rebranding for the future

Rimowa has taken the first step among many to secure its future. It has fully updated its visual identity — how it presents itself to the world — opening the door for future opportunities, and vastly expanding what Rimowa the brand can and will be in the future. Perhaps even hotels and airport lounges will be in the mix.

Milan has also flirted with (re)branding in the past — 19 times to Rimowa’s 5, which over 120 years comes out to approximately once every 6 years! So, an exploration today would not be unprecedented, and may be prudent given the business imperatives today for Milan are steep and the stakes high.

To be clear, branding is by no means the single driver of growth. There are many critical pieces in the profitability puzzle, such as product innovation, which as Arnault stated is top of mind. But rebranding is the structural foundation that supports everything from product development to marketing strategy, articulating why the brand exists and what it represents.

Inspiring brand loyalty worldwide

Rimowa knows that a key to achieving its future growth goals is to become a global brand. It makes sense — the more people who know and love you, the more people buy your product and the more they recommend it to their friends. Brand love builds up; it’s like compound interest.

Rimowa also understands that the first step to becoming a global powerhouse is to appeal to a global consumer. There is no doubt that Rimowa’s evolved visual identity helped it partner with brands such as Fendi and the streetwear mega-power Supreme. These partnerships introduce Rimowa to new, younger international audiences and validate Rimowa as a must-have brand. And while Rimowa is creating adoring brand lovers, it has kept its loyalists by celebrating its heritage and the qualities that made it famous to begin with. This is a what a great rebrand does. In fact, in just a few short months, this new look has already proven fruitful. Industry experts have described it as “…one of the most disruptive yet successful realignments of recent years.”

A rebrand will not help Milan win titles or get back in the Champions League. Milan does not have to rebrand to be a club that wins titles. What a rebrand will do is give people all over the world a way to meet, support, and love Milan. It will certainly inspire partnerships beyond sports brands that will, like Rimowa and Supreme, introduce Milan to entirely new audiences. Depending on the partnership, it may provide new sources of revenue as well. The marketing and media events (and media rights) that accompany partnerships and rebrands increase brand awareness (and brand value) by magnitudes by giving fans multiple ways to connect with the team and co-create the Milan legend. In turn, these fans will share their love and experiences on social media, again compounding Milan’s reach around the world.

A rebrand will help Milan build new global revenue streams while winning global hearts.

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Asia Mernissi