When should you think about rebranding?

The decision to rebrand is a big one and decidedly one of the most important decisions a company will ever make. The outcome could be superbrand stardom, revenue growth, increased market share — what all those C-suite teams dream of. At the same time, the outcome could be anything but a dream. Rebrands can go awry, and fast. A hard pivot from what your brand originally set out to do to something new might (and likely will) alienate your core consumer base. If the rebrand feels superficial or disingenuous, you risk not only destroying consumer trust, but also suffering a backlash on social media. Or if it is simply unclear why you did it in the first place, and what real changes have been made, you’re likely to muddy your market position — not to mention confuse your audience.

So before you go down the long and serious path of a rebrand, ask yourself the following questions to determine if this step is really necessary:

  1. Is your key consumer base changing? Perhaps they’re getting older, their tastes are evolving, or they are at risk of moving on to a mature brand in the category.
  2. Are you losing marketshare / businessto your competitor(s)?
  3. Has market researchshownthat your brand is perceived as outdated, old-school (not in the cool way) or out of touch?
  4. You were a bootstrapping startup, but have now outgrown the rebellious look and are ready take the next big step.
  5. Is there a disconnect between the internal innovation and initiatives, and how people see your brand?
  6. Do you need to stand out in a cluttered market?
  7. Have you just gone through a merger or acquisition?

If you answered yes to any of these, chances are you need to consider rebranding. So what’s next?

There are two big questions that you and your team should ask yourselves next:
  1. What do you want to achieve? This will help you determine what depth of rebrand you need.
  2. What level of rebrand is necessary? There are different types or degrees of rebranding from a light refresh to a total rebrand, which often includes a new name (so be prepared to kill your darlings).

We typically address three levels of rebranding:

  1. Refresh: Consider this as more of a brushing up to keep up with the times.

Nothing is really changing about your offering, but the logo and visual identity might need a bit of a facelift. For example: National Geographic.

2. Rebrand: Same entity, reintroduced.

For example: The Huffington Post. The slight name change was just an update to modernize the brand and a nod to its readers, who already called it HuffPo(st) anyway. This rebrand also signaled the arrival of a new leadership team — the first new blood since founder Arianna Huffington — with new editorial objectives and mission. In the words of CEO Lydia Polgreen, “So I think that it’s in no way meant to diminish or distance us from that legacy because we’re incredibly proud of it. But I think it’s just trying to catch up with the times and how people now think of us.”

3. Full Rename / Rebrand: Introduce a completely new entity.

This is often the result of a merger/acquisition. For example: the Verizon/Yahoo merger which resulted in Oath. This was not one of the most celebrated, liked, or even understood rebrands. Coming fast on the heels of a major merger between two giants, Oath was probably meant to signal operational and aspirational unity and to breathe life into two companies that were both in need of some help. Needless to say, if the objective was to clarify the relationship and new mission of Oath, it was not achieved.

Scrutiny is always high during a rebrand. Even the best ones will always have their naysayers and critics. You can’t please everyone — nor should you try. Brands have target audiences, missions, and positioning for good reasons. Knowing what you do, who you do it for, and why you do it is half the battle of a successful rebrand.

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Header Image by Raquel Martinez on Unsplash