Change is the only constant. But timing is essential.
Whether you have your standards defined or not, the truth is that brands are in a continual state of flux, internally or externally.Branding is most successful when companies embrace this fact and move with the market and respond to customer sentiment, rather than trying to stand still. While taking a real look at your brand is always beneficial, there are times of change that signal a branding effort is not only helpful – it’s imperative. How do you know when it’s time to rebrand?
In this essay, we’ll go over six major triggers that should prompt a rebranding conversation. We’ll also talk about what rebranding is, why it can be both risky and rewarding, and what to do if you’ve found it’s really time to rebrand.
1. What is rebranding?
2. Why you shouldn’t rebrand
3. Six trigger events for rebranding
4. Where do you go from here?
What is rebranding?
Rebranding is the process of shifting how a brand is perceived through repositioning and strategic messaging. It’s more than just changing your logo– a true rebrand will alter your market position, the big idea from which all external brand manifestations grow from. Rebrands can result in huge evolutions, including changes in naming, communications strategy, visual tone, and internal restructuring. Brands are the basis for forming tribes, so a rebrand needs to be carefully design to embrace your loyal followers— not to offend them.
Successful rebrands always begin from in-depth research to determine the root of the issue. It’s important to know whether the issue triggering the rebrand is a symptom or a cause. Is your brand having trouble maintaining relevance because your core message no longer resonates with consumers? Or is it due to lack of brand governance in an overly siloed organization that struggles to consistently deliver that message across media touch points? These are different problems with different solutions. Both require a look at your current brand, but in distinct ways.
Why you shouldn’t rebrand
Change is not easy. The process of transformation can even be painful, requiring you to take an honest look at what is and isn’t working. Rebranding takes time and effort– it’s not a light undertaking. If it’s the right time for the process, the rewards can be huge. If it’s the wrong time, the risks can be disastrous. Let’s look at an example.
Tropicana is one of the biggest rebranding fails to date. In 2009, the juice company invested $35 million in a rebranding effort that culminated in a package redesign. The iconic carton with an image of an orange and a straw sticking out of it completely changed. It was replaced by an entirely new logo (a sans serif font), a wrap-around image of a glass of juice, and all new messaging.
The idea was to modernize the Tropicana brand. But the backlash was swift. Consumers hated the bland packaging, and Tropicana went back to their original carton in a matter of weeks. It was a major waste of time and resources, not to mention a $20 million loss in sales. What went wrong?
> Looking in the wrong place: Wanting to be hip and cool isn’t a reason to rebrand. That’s an outcome, not a trigger. Maybe it was time for Tropicana to evolve, but they didn’t know where or how the transformation needed to occur. Clearly, their customers love their packaging– meaning they funneled the resources for the rebrand into the wrong place.
> Change all at once: Change is hard. Rolling out a new logo, messaging strategy, and package all at the same time is difficult. How you communicate the changes is just as important as making the right changes.
> Misaligning design and strategy: The whole point of rebranding is to make you more yourself– to more closely align the internal intelligence (the why) with external appearance (design). Tropicana’s new packaging does the opposite– the modern, ascetic design clashes with their positioning as a family oriented comfort brand. The disconnect was immediately clear to consumers.
Tropicana took a $55 million hit on the rebranding. This isn’t to say rebranding is futile. It’s just to say that it’s not without pitfalls. And it makes it even more essential that you’re doing it for the right reasons.
6 trigger events for rebranding
1. Losing market share to a competitor: Competitive attack is a sign that your brand is not yet memorable and irreplaceable enough to win out in your industry. Uncovering what your brand is missing and repositioning it based on your unique advantages is an investment that will pay off for years to come.
2. Launching a new product or service: When launching new goods or services, your brand is in a particularly sensitive state. If the face you present to the outside world is shifting, your brand needs to shift, too. Expanding your offerings can be great for your brand, but without a clear strategy, new facets of your brand can serve to muddy the water and confuse consumers. Brand focus is key to memorability, recognition, and loyalty, so it’s imperative that your brand encompasses your new offerings in a way that is true and authentic to your brand position.
3. Not attracting/retaining top talent: Branding isn’t only for influencing your consumers – it also has a major effect on your employees. With both internal and external benefits, good branding can breathe life into your company. If you find that your team is not excited about your company and not proud to pass out your business card, the story you’re telling isn’t working. A hard look at your brand can put you on the right track.
4. Change in leadership: A change over in leadership, such as a new CEO, prompts a key time for branding. It’s an effective way to break with the past and cement a new culture of leadership and company values
5. Mergers and acquisitions: If you are diversifying your brand portfolio, it’s critical to have a clear strategy for expanding your brand or re-branding your subsidiaries. A good brand strategy will expand your reach, while a messy one can seriously damage your recognition.
6. Reputation crisis: rebranding can be an important strategy to distance your company from negative associations. Obviously, rebranding doesn’t totally clean the slate. You’ll still have to do the work needed to fix whatever problem has caused your customers or your employees to see you in a negative light. But, when combined thoughtfully with other strategies, it can help shift perceptions.
Where do you go from here?
You’ve identified that you’re facing a trigger event. Rebranding is necessary. Now what?
> Make sure leadership is on board.
Successful rebranding comes from the top down. Leadership needs to be willing to change and engage.
> Define your goals.
What’s your vision? Defining the objectives and clearly conveying them gives your team something to rally around and work towards.
> Be ready to open up.
Get ready to take an honest look at what’s working and not working. The research phase of rebranding is critical and acts as the basis of any rebranding strategy. The more real and honest you can be, the more authentic your direction will become.
> Find the right branding partner.
Rebranding is a journey of transformation. An experienced guide with an outside perspective can lead you on the right path. Any branding agency leading your rebrand should have a proven methodology for developing a strategy and then translating it into creative assets.
Over the last 20 years, we’ve crafted hundreds of brands, and led many through rebranding at times of major internal and external transition. Change can be scary, but with the right partner, it’s hugely rewarding. Is it time to rebrand? If you’re ready to transform, we’re ready to take your brand from now to next.