It's 2021, How Often Should My Company Rebrand?
Rebranding is a natural part of a company’s evolution, just as it’s natural for people to change their wardrobe, their look, and their life focus and goals as they mature. Think about that last sentence. You change your clothes and hairstyle, perhaps, daily. But your "look" and "wardrobe?" That's a complete shift from what once was to what is not. At your core, you may still be the same person at 24 as you were at 14, but at 24 you found yourself at a new life stage, in new environments, talking with very different people, and people who matured right along with you.
It helps simplify the question about branding or rebranding when you think of branding as a process of rediscovering a core, authentic identity. A brand is simply a series of promises made between a person or organization and its market(s). The sum of those interactions, experiences, and touch points are what move people one step closer to being either a brand ambassador or a brand stranger.
Initiating a complete rebrand involves more than changing up your logo (read: A Brand is not a Logo); it’s a big decision that will affect every aspect of your business, every point of entry into the brand experience, and every touch point you position in the market. There’s not a standard rule of thumb for how often a company should rebrand—that will depend on a number of individual factors including how quickly your industry changes, how much competition you have, how established your brand has become, and how your company itself has shifted over the years. However, every company should remain open to rebranding and evaluate their brand frequently to make sure that their image and their messaging continue to accurately reflect who they are, what they do, and who they serve.
Even brands that are established household names tend to go through a major brand overhaul every 7-10 years and smaller refreshes more frequently. For instance, Apple has undergone three substantial branding changes since the company was founded in 1976, but it has launched many sub-brands and made subtle shifts in packaging and design during its existence as well—not to mention dropping the word "Computers" from their official name in 2007 as the company shifted to more than just computers (“The Mac, iPod, Apple TV and iPhone. Only one of those is a computer. So we’re changing the name,” said Steve Jobs."
Meanwhile, Starbucks has rebranded four times, and Pepsi has revisited its branding 11 times. Other recent successful rebrands that reinvigorated the brand include Kia, Burger King, Dunkin' Donuts, and more.
5 Reasons to Consider Rebranding Your Company
Rebranding is a powerful move, and the decision to undergo a brand overhaul can be risky if it’s not done well. A great rebrand, such as the new look Harley-Davidson unveiled in 2013 can bring a company back from the brink of bankruptcy. A poor rebrand, on the other hand, can have equally disastrous results, such as the package redesign that lost Tropicana 20% in sales or the costly Gap overhaul that the company abandoned less than a month later due to customer outcry.
Since so much is at stake, it’s important to know why you plan to overhaul your brand before you begin. Here are 5 common reasons that companies often cite for initiating a rebranding campaign:
- “We have an Image Problem.” Image problems are not the main reason that companies decide to rebrand—but let’s go ahead and get the negative reason that most people associate with a rebrand out of the way first. Image problems can include everything from an outdated look and feel that needs a refresh to a full-scale reputation management campaign and name change. Either way, a rebrand can save a company from losing relevance in the marketplace and be a good course correction, for both the company operations and the customer. It’s important to note, however, that the new brand must be authentic; that is, the investment will be short-lived it it’s simply “throwing lipstick on the old pig” as the old metaphor goes. All the great branding in the world can’t overcome real operational, product, and service problems. In fact, rebrand without fixing major problems at your own peril; putting a fresh new set of promises out that you know, fundamentally, you can’t deliver on has been the nail in the coffin for many companies unwilling to face their real issues, instead hoping a rebrand will cover up the underlying challenges.
- “Our Company Has Evolved and We Have a New Story to Tell." Again, every company evolves, and they evolve in unique ways. Maybe you’ve expanded, adding new markets, and your brand needs to reflect the fact that you operate in multiple regions or countries now. Maybe you started out in a general field and you’ve become more specialized, so you need a brand that reflects your niche market. Maybe you used to do A, and now you do A & B, so you need to align your messaging to match your product or service offerings. Or, maybe you want to expand into a new market, in which case a rebrand, or the creation of a sub-brand with a connection to the flagship brand (or not, in some cases, for specific reasons), can serve as a stake in the ground. A map to help you get where you want to be. However your company has evolved, recognize it will continue to evolve long after you rebrand. It’s important to remember that a great brand is both authentic and aspirational—helping customers know what to expect, and then meeting (and occasionally exceeding) those expectations. It’s wonderful to be able to surprise & delight your customers once in awhile.
- “Our Market is Shifting.” Perhaps your company hasn’t evolved, but it needs to. Many industries, particularly in tech, are shifting constantly, and the rate at which people are receiving messages and communication from the brands they love is increasing exponentially. Consumer behavior is always changing, and companies that don’t adjust can lag behind and find it difficult to catch up. You don’t have to look too far to find companies that remained the same while the market shifted underneath them—and they missed the wave and suffered devastating consequences. Blockbuster, MySpace, Napster, Kodak, and GM, to name a few. A great rebrand can not only change how your customers see you, but also how you see yourself and what you do. Companies that are able to see the shift coming and adjust their brand preemptively are the ones that thrive.
- “We’re Not Attracting the Right Customers (Or the Right Talent.)” If you find that the customers you’re attracting are not the customers you want, or that you’re lagging behind when it comes to attracting and retaining the best talent, it could be time for a rebrand. Today more than ever, both customers and employees want to identify with a brand on multiple levels—and share values, social concerns, and outlook. A great brand will let both audiences know, immediately, who and what they’re dealing with. The word customer, in fact, is a very misunderstood word; typically its use is limiting. Consider, as you weigh the pros and cons of rebranding and evaluate where you might have branding issues, who your customers are. By definition, a customer is someone who receives some sort of value, either through a single exchange, or a series of exchanges over time. That exchange is typically them giving away money, time or talent to you, in exchange for value—a product, a service, a paycheck, a promise for a better tomorrow. Therefore, you’ll be much more heavily armed and able to answer the “should we rebrand” question if you shift to “where do we have brand challenges, which relationship segments have we not adequately positioned our story to maximize ROI?” Consider your markets as every prospect, every current external customer, every vendor relationship, every employee, every partner in your partner channel, the media, and others. Remember, a brand is a series of promises. Thinking through each of these segments and more will help you determine where there’s been a trail of broken promises. You can also better see where there’s a disconnect in what you’re promising in the first place, where you’ve underinvested, under or over-promised, where you’ve maximized ROI, and where you’ve been leaving some ROI on the table.
- “We’re About to Have a Significant Change in Leadership.” Mergers and acquisitions, or simply a change in management, often include a change in operations or business philosophy that necessitates rebranding. In these cases, the brand overhaul will typically include changes to employee training and business practices in addition to a new name and new look.
I’m Thinking About Rebranding. Where Do I Start?
Hopefully, if you spend at least as much time on your business as you spend in your business, you have a good sense of where your company stands with its customers, and you solicit feedback about your brand regularly.
Since every situation is unique, we recommend seeking an outside perspective before you invest money and time into a rebranding campaign.
Begin With an Annual Brand Assessment.
The Brand Leader offers a comprehensive Brand Assessment to help companies stay in-touch with their brand, their customers, and their industry. We recommend that our clients complete the brand assessment annually to check the health of their business, just like you would get an annual check-up for physical health.
Identify What’s No Longer Working.
If, after conducting the Brand Assessment, you think your brand no longer matches your company, the next step is to determine what isn’t working. Not all rebrands are created equal. You may find that you need to:
- Refresh. It could be that your messaging is solid but your look is outdated or amateurish. Maybe all you need is a quick facelift: better colors, a new typography treatment, a stronger logo, etc.
- Reposition. You may also find that your look is working for you, but your messaging isn’t targeting the right customers—or properly understanding why they became your customers in the first place. In situations like these, it makes sense to invest in repositioning your brand in order to better reach your best customers.
- Rebrand. You may also find that nothing is quite working for your brand anymore, and you need to consider a complete overhaul of your brand: name, image, messaging, corporate culture, etc. Don’t worry. We’ve been there before and know how to help you through the rebranding process.
Map Out Where You Want to Go.
As we mentioned before, a good brand is a stake in the ground. When you update the look, feel, and messaging of your brand, you are telling customers what they can expect from you going forward. So you have to be sure that what you’re telling customers really represents who you are now and where you want to go.
Solicit Additional Feedback.
As you rebrand, be sure to solicit additional feedback at every step—and not only from your marketing agency. Talk to the key stakeholders in your company (you know, the people who will have to live with your new look and new name every day) as well as your best customers. Ask them if the rebrand gets to the core of what you do and who you are. If not, keep working.