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How to Rebrand a Company and Get It Right the First Time

How to rebrand a company - Skate II by Akshay Raghavan

Prior to 2010, Old Spice had big problems selling to young people. Its fragrance was associated with grandpas and grandmas (curiously enough, it was initially developed for women). So the brand developed a multi-channel advertising campaign with young and attractive Isaiah Mustafa. A funny and provocative campaign became an instant hit, bringing in the younger audience. As a result, the company’s sales more than doubled and the website traffic increased three-fold.
The necessity to rebrand is even more common for small businesses and startups whose owners usually don’t have enough resources to plan the marketing strategy in the early stages of startup development. Sometimes even the name change is necessary like it happened with one of the biggest food tech unicorns in India — Zomato, previously known as “foodiebay”. Because the name sounded a lot like “eBay”, they changed it to Zomato in 2010.

Old spice company rebranding

The funny and energetic approach completely disposed of the idea of Old Spice being for older people. These are just some images from their UK Facebook page.

What is rebranding and why it’s important (and risky)

Rebranding is a change in business processes and the external perception of a brand. Many believe that rebranding is just a logo change. The word itself makes some people think about Dunkin’ Donuts, Facebook, Instagram, or some other company introducing their new logos. However, rebranding is a more complex set of events often involving changes in the internal structure of the company, the rules of employee communication, and product portfolio. Rebranding can be a reason for the development of a whole new strategy, resulting in an increase in profits. For example, Old Spice did not change their slogan or logo, much less reinvent the signature fragrance. 
Rebranding can help the company to connect with a new audience and boost sales, but it’s always risky as it has the potential to turn off the existing audience. On the other hand, it’s a necessary part of a brand’s journey. As it evolves and finds new audiences, it comes before the need to consider their views and preferences to remain popular. 
Rebranding is needed when:

  • The company has reached a new level of development and its audience has changed.
  • The brand has lost relevance and is outdated.
  • A strong competitor has appeared on the market.
  • Uniqueness has disappeared, the brand is no different from competitors.
  • The brand has become associated with something negative.
  • Brand priorities have changed.

At the same time, rebranding can be expensive, taking up to 20% of the marketing budget. Most times, the scope and goals of your rebrand will dictate the price. The rebranding costs calculations should be made in advance so the unexpected expenses would not catch you at a midway point. The company that renders branding services can help you make all the required estimates in advance.

Rebranded Mastercard logo

Last year MasterCard made another change to its logo, dropping the name and leaving the interlocking circles to stand on their own, making a move towards the iconic wordless Nike Swoosh.

Rebranding tips that will make it pay off

Understand the company’s values

Before you begin to rethink the basic identity of your company, you need to determine the purpose of rebranding.
Start with defining the core message of your company by considering the following: 

  • What is it exactly that makes your company special?
  • What are your goals?
  • Who are your competitors and what makes them strong?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • What is your value proposition?
  • Who are your customers, what do they need and what motivates them? 

After all, if you don’t know where you are going, how can you get there? 
Asking questions like these can become the solid foundation of a successful rebranding. It’s about the steps you take to discover how potential customers can relate to your products or services.

Conduct customer research but ask the right questions

Even if all the proposed changes look brilliant and super-effective, do not rush to introduce them to a wide audience. Innovations are first tested on small focus groups. Collect the opinions of participants, compare the results of “before” and “after”, and identify the mistakes that have made their way to this point. Only after the revisions show a good result in a small part of the audience, it’s time to begin a large-scale implementation.
The crucial moment is to avoid vague questions like “Do you like this color?”. Whether people like it or not, means nothing when it’s not related to the specific subject. The brand gives context. Instead, ask questions like “Does this color look more business-like?” or “Does this slogan sound more modern?”

Come up with a strategy that works with your existing brand

In this respect, rebranding is more complicated than branding from scratch. The goal is to incorporate the new strategy into the existing business processes so it will be consistent and not cause any confusion. Inversely, be sure to update the existing products in relation to the new strategy.
In addition to confusing customers and employees, failure to provide brand consistency might result in several other problems like the loss of identity and faults with messaging ending up with reduced brand awareness and decreased sales.

Make use of your team’s feedback but limit the decision circle

Give your team an opportunity to raise their voices and contribute to the company’s efforts. They may be just the right people to give you some insights. Pay attention to all the departments as the most valuable feedback may come from the most unexpected places. 
At the same time, when it comes to making the final decisions, there should be a limited number of people responsible for the final say. The Harvard Business Review in their “Running Meetings” book recommends inviting no more than 8 people for making a decision, otherwise, there’s too much conflicting input further complicating the decision-making process.
Analytics should be the strongest factor in rebranding decisions. Build the rebranding case using both quantitative and qualitative data.

Communicate the change on all digital channels

Communication is extremely important. Even the best rebranding efforts can go in vain if you don’t announce it carefully but persistently and use all available channels. And be ready to explain the story behind the rebrand to ease the confusion. 
It’s a great idea to use the storytelling technique. Make a story and take your customers on a ride through the hurdles of your business process. It will help them relate to your company and strengthen the relationship, making them a part of the story. 
Your new brand should be present on all mediums and materials. Prepare everything in advance so when it comes time to launch, your existing customers should be ready and excited about what you’ve come up with.

Don’t second-guess when the rebrand is done

It may be tricky, especially in the light of some rebranding failures like GAP’s quickly changing back to their old logo after introducing the new one, but try to stick to your new image. Going back to the old one is extremely ineffective: the money would be spent with no result. 
Analyze the figures and if they allow, make the best of the new identity. Look at the example of Airbnb. However strongly backlashed their new logo was by the press, the noise eventually subsided and the company reached a market value of over $1B in 2019. With the new logo instantly recognizable all over the world, the rebrand is now considered successful.
Airbnb logo rebranding

Are you ready to rebrand?

Even the big brands run into rebranding failures. There’s an example of LogoJoy changing its name to Looka and consequently laying off 80% of its employees because of the financial difficulties. However, this is not a reason to avoid rebranding when it’s needed. Rather a reminder about the necessity of careful planning.
A good brand communicates what a company does and how it does it. Apply only those changes that are required to increase profits and are based on solid business evidence. Unfunded changes are one of the major errors in a rebrand marketing strategy. If your company’s image no longer accurately reflects its values and vision, then it is time. 
Whereas boredom and covering the product quality deterioration are not the reasons to rebrand a company.

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Written by Kate Shokurova

April 04, 2020

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