Branding is one of the most important aspects of a company’s strategy to ensure its success. Cohesive authenticity, emotional storytelling and unbeatable benefits for the audience are major success points for a brand to win big in a competitive market.
But timing is everything, especially in today’s ever-shifting market, and you only get one chance to make a big impression. How do you know when is the “right time” to undergo a rebrand? What’s the ideal scenario for a brand evolution (or revolution)?
What is a brand?
When you think about a brand, there’s more to the story than a product or logo. A brand is an experience. Jeep is more than a car company, it’s a lifestyle for adventure off the beaten path; Bulleit is more than a bourbon distillery, it’s kicking back with an appreciation for finer things; and Netflix is more than a streaming service, it’s quality time spent with friends and family watching or even binging your favorite shows.
These companies didn’t find immense success by accident. It was planned out with well thought strategy, precision and timing. Good brands are not about good products, but about providing powerful experiences to an ideal audience.
Just like a brand is not a product, a brand is also not a logo. Your logo and the rest of your brand identity are the outward-facing, visual assets of your brand, but they are not your brand. Rather, the brand is the all-encompassing experience of interacting with a company at every point, from an ad to the customer service line to the product packaging.
What is a rebrand?
A rebrand is an overhaul or close examination of current brand assets, including messaging, identity and imagery. A rebrand is not just a logo change because your brand is not just a logo. A rebrand is a natural extension of a brand’s ability to evolve and an indication of its willingness to adapt and change in order to maintain success.
Successful brands don’t last forever in the market without keeping up with the times. However, going through a rebrand is a big decision to make. A full rebrand isn’t something that should be happening every few years when you get bored. It needs to be long-lasting and have real purpose behind it.
Additionally, once you’ve rebranded it doesn’t mean you can dust your hands off and call it a day until the next rebrand. Any well-oiled machine still requires constant attention. In the case of your brand, this means continuing to create posts on your social media pages, rolling out fresh content on your website and always engaging with your audience.
Is it time to rebrand my company?
When companies ask themselves, “Is it time for a rebrand?” the answer isn’t ever a simple one. This is always a tough question because rebrands are really complicated, carry big risks and are very time consuming. Plus the amount of decision makers can always make things difficult depending on the circumstances of a rebrand.
So how do you know when the time has come for a company rebrand? Strategically, major reasons could be:
1. The brand is very outdated
If you’ve had the same branding for decades, or recently shifted your company to offer a new service or public image, it’s time for a rebrand to reflect the change of time or change in your values. CVS once had an outdated brand that felt stale and even unfriendly. With a new take on “health first” with a new heart icon allowed for a fresh facelift to the brand that helped encompass their values while appealing to more people in their audience.
2. Sameness in the industry
If you’re looking like or speaking like everyone else in your industry, it could be time for a change. For example, Target was once a brand that blended in with other discount department stores such as Walmart and K-mart. Suddenly in the early 2000s a rebrand changed their marketing tactics to appeal to a hipper audience and they suddenly became one of the largest retailers in North America.
3. Brand positioning
A rebrand can be extremely useful in revamping your messaging to reach a new or different target audience. Old Spice is a great example of a brand whose position in their market was falling fast but took the steps to fix it. A massive revolution of themselves changed brand perception dramatically. What was once a brand that seemed to just for old dudes, suddenly became targeted towards a younger audience with fun and modern marketing.
4. Brand messaging
When a brand’s future begins to align differently than the messaging, a review and rebrand should be in order. This type of rebranding is sometimes more of a partial rebrand or refresh, rather than blowing it all up.especially if your identity is strong. Most recently GM, has begun to completely rework their brand message, and logo too, to show their commitment to an electric vehicle future. A new message that helps spark an electric vehicle movement uses a positive tone to push their new message to a passionate audience.
5. A change in name
A rebrand does not require a name change, but a name change usually requires a rebrand. Make sense? Brands change names for several reasons. Sometimes because the name is outdated, sometimes after a bad PR crisis to move forward.
Other times a name change is because of legal reasons. Years ago a rebrand was in order for the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment), formally the WWF (World Wrestling Federation), when a legal battle from the other WWF (World Wildlife Fund) forced the sports entertainment giant to change their name. In addition to the name change, the WWE also rebranded their once adult-themed attitude to be more kid-friendly
For more information on knowing when it’s a good time for a change, check out this post on knowing when it’s time to shake up your graphic design.
When NOT to rebrand
While there’s plenty of good reasons to undergo a rebrand, it’s not always the best idea for your business. Here are a handful of examples showing times when you should NOT rebrand, but instead pick a different way to shake things up.
- You’ve probably lived with your brand for years and stared at it every day. Just because you’ve become fully accustomed to it, doesn’t mean your target audience has. It may be very new to them and hit the mark. Changing things up too fast removes consistency and can cause confusion, especially if your logo and voice are well-known.
2. Your competition did it
- Following in the tracks of your competitors might sound like a great idea to feel like you’re keeping up. But constantly trying to one-up a competitor is more reactionary than strategic, which loses the feeling of being original and real.
3. Leadership wants to shake things up
- Sometimes new folks at companies want to leave their mark when they become part of the team. Just because your new board members like blue, doesn’t mean your longstanding palette of using orange primarily should change to appease them. Egos should be left at the door and focus should be more focused at the company and audience, not oneself.
4. A drop in sales
- Sure, a drop in sales can be alarming and it’s certainly a reactionary or impulsive decision to fix it immediately. But completely blowing up your marketing and branding may not be the culprit. Instead a tweak or update in key campaign messaging (not brand messaging!) or visuals is a nice way to evolve in the short term.
Remember, your approach to rebranding is a massive undertaking. There’s no substitute for preparation, strategy and research - and there’s absolutely no cutting corners.
If you’ve decided a rebrand is the right move for you, our next post in this series will cover the high-level methods to do so. Stay tuned!
In the meantime, if this post has you hyped up on great rebrands, you can see the end result of some of our favorites in our company portfolio.