Achieving success from rebranding – Chocolate and minicabs

As unlikely as it may seem, Hotel Chocolat's co-founder Angus Thirlwell and John Griffin, the doyen of London minicab firm Addison Lee, have a great deal in common - they both achieved success from rebranding.

After many years of mildly profitable toil, both men decided to introduce a new brand and saw the fortunes of their respective businesses improve immeasurably.

Griffin founded the company back in 1975 but it wasn’t until 2003 that he bought a fleet of vehicles and had them fully branded. ‘It’s given us an identity… Everyone told me it was the wrong decision except me. It’s actually been one of our most important and successful decisions,’ says Griffin, who adds that the company’s turnover has quadrupled since he ignored everyone else’s advice.

Angus Thirlwell admits that he was in absolute turmoil about ditching the name ChocExpress. Six years ago the company focused solely on deliveries via the web or by mail order catalogues and his peers in the industry, both in the UK and US, questioned his sanity for wanting to ditch the name. ‘I was in torment for months,’ he says. ‘Should I listen to these people or the voice in my head telling me the brand wasn’t right?’

Like Griffin, he defied received opinion and Hotel Chocolat is now one of the UK’s fastest growing companies, with 500 employees working across its international spread of shops, chocolate factory and cocoa estate in St Lucia. ‘We weren’t under pressure to rebrand when we were ChocExpress,’ reflects Thirlwell. ‘We were growing and profitable and customers came back and bought our products. From an outsider’s point of view, it was perfect but we just knew that the brand wasn’t going to take us to where we wanted to go.’

These were both solid, well-run companies long before the rebranding. ‘When you see a new name on the high street, you think it’s a start up but there was 15 years of experience there,’ says Thirlwell.

A good brand won’t make a bad business successful as ultimately the cracks will start to show. However, Griffin and Thirlwell demonstrate how the right brand, introduced at the right time, can turn a decent company into something a bit special.

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Brands & Branding

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