Rebrand Wins & Fails: The Right Way to Evolve a Brand
Change is a constant in life – and of course, the same logic applies to the business world. In order to reach new demographics, expand your product and service line, and keep your authentic values and culture front and center, periodic updates to your branding is not only acceptable but encouraged – and even necessary. Rebranding allows you to carefully consider the core of your business, why it exists, and align that idea with your internal and external messaging materials. A better term would be a brand evolution, because that’s really what it is.
Is Rebranding Right For My Company?
Rebranding may seem like a simple and surface-level change – a new logo, some new stationery, and a name change if you’ve got a bad reputation to shake or new offerings to promote. But the process is more profound than that. It should be exhaustively planned, considered, and strategized. In many cases, it’s building an entirely new experience for your customers that more closely aligns with your core values.
The reasons for rebranding vary, and each will require adjustments in your approach. Whether it’s due to a merger or acquisition, a change in culture or leadership, or simply updating your materials for a new market, it always pays to do your research (literally) and find out if it’s right for you – and if so, the level to which it should be done.
How to Successfully Rebrand Your Business
So what are the components of a successful rebrand? Is there a “cheat sheet” you can use to guide your way? Not quite, but this list will be helpful when you’re thinking about undergoing the process, and how in-depth you should aim to be.
Consider the why. What drives your business? How do you add value to your target customers? What are your vision (“what”), mission (“how”), and values?
Know your audience and market. Do your research again. Look at who’s actually purchasing your products/services and who they’re also purchasing from instead of you. If at all possible, DO NOT rename. You can lose all brand recognition and organic search traffic at once. If you must rename, make sure the new name aligns with your brand vision, mission, and values to support long-term growth.
Reconsider your brand slogan – a good slogan is catchy and captures the company's mission and vision. Just like a name, a slogan can carry a lot of your brand recognition (think McDonald’s, Subway, Taco Bell, etc.). Turn to a focus group to see if your slogan is resonating.
Rebuild brand identity – the tangible elements that are used to communicate your brand. Consider all strengths and weaknesses before replacing them.
- Logo – maybe clients don’t “get” your logo or it needs a refresh to reflect major internal changes.
- Colour Palette – can have a huge impact on brand (see colour in marketing blog) and some colours are synonymous with the brands that use them (McDonald’s yellow).
- Typography – when re-evaluating fonts, pay attention to what worked and what didn’t with the old font and any difficulties you’ve had (web design and PPTs)
- Shapes/Imagery – if changing other visual elements of the brand, consider revisiting the brand imagery and shapes to maintain a cohesive image.
- Brand Guidelines – having and using brand guidelines will help you keep your brand consistent. Use your guidelines for web redesigns, creating campaigns, or other marketing materials.
Launching your new brand - promote and strengthen your new brand, decide on a launch strategy, communicate the brand’s reputation and expertise, and create relevant marketing materials.
What Can We Learn From Rebranding Mistakes?
With so much on the line, rebranding is not always easy – and even big companies with plenty of spending power can make missteps. One famous example is Pepsi in 2008 (though it should be noted that they have had a dozen major rebrands, and many of them work just fine).
Pepsi is a company that is not afraid to pursue new logos and messaging, especially when compared with their relatively steadfast major competitor, Coca-Cola. In 2008 they unveiled a new logo they had spent roughly $1 million on developing – except it was more or less the same as their previous logo, with a lot of seemingly disingenuous justification attached. While they stuck with it and eventually the fervor dissipated, over the next decade the company also made other major errors in judgment, like capitalizing on civil unrest and even caricaturizing suicide in one European ad. The lesson? Stay authentic to who you are, and stay in tune with what your customers want.
A similar instance happened the next year with Tropicana orange juice. Their plan looked perfect on paper – creating simpler packaging to go along with an updated logo and a fresh new colour scheme, and a marketing campaign to keep people informed. However, they failed to consult with their customers about what they thought, and what they wanted in a product, leading to a confused consumer base that didn’t even recognize the brand after the launch. Additional feelings of inauthenticity plagued the new brand, and sales plummeted more than 20% before Tropicana reverted back to their original look. (Fun fact: they used the same company, Arnell, who did the Pepsi logo mentioned above!)
Examples of Rebranding Done Right
Stories like this are outliers in the history of rebranding, though – for every failure, there are many successes. It’s a necessity, after all. Companies undergo this process constantly, updating their brands to stay genuine and relevant in a quickly-moving world.
One of the best examples in history is Apple’s rebrand and massive success in the late ‘90s and early 2000s. A decade of initial market saturation since its founding had long since worn off, and by 1996 the company was nearly bankrupt, no longer considered the “disruptor” of its industry. Steve Jobs took over as CEO in 1997, introducing an updated vision, new marketing campaigns, and a flurry of innovations like the iMac, iPhone, and iPod. These products formed a whole experience that was bigger than its parts, a lifestyle that was stylish and cutting-edge. This was unlike anything else on the market, and it turned Apple from a near-failure into the world’s first trillion-dollar (and America’s first two-trillion-dollar) company.
A great rebrand for the internet age arrived from Old Spice in 2010. Once considered uptight and dated – a brand best suited to be forgotten in the back of closets – that all changed with the huge success of the company’s short video commercials during the Super Bowl, starring former NFL player Isaiah Mustafa on a horse. This easily-shareable format racked up millions of views, followers, and sales, bringing the company into the 21st century with the full attention of a new, younger demographic. Refreshed, updated, and revitalized, Old Spice still is still enjoying its reputation as a relatable brand that is not afraid to have a little fun, with plenty of recent videos using the same irreverent format.
Assuming that you’ve decided that a rebrand is exactly what your company needs, make sure to do it right — that’s what your customers deserve. Honour the loyalty of your existing ones by staying true to the elements of your brand that earned their trust in the first place. Attract new customers with a refreshed look and feel that’s built to stand the test of time. This can only be achieved by doing extensive research, carefully reviewing the data, and listening to exactly what your target audience has to say (good and bad). Then, and only then, is your company ready to rebrand itself – and reach a whole new audience that is out there, waiting.