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Knowing When It’s Time to Rebrand Your Company: A Comprehensive Guide

Outline:

  • Introduction
  • What is a Rebrand?
  • Why do Companies Rebrand?
  • Rebranding Strategy & Internal Culture
  • Example: NASA
  • So You’ve Decided to Rebrand. Now What?
  • Wrap Up

Introduction

In today’s ever-evolving brand, business, and culture landscapes, maintaining a relevant and compelling brand identity and marketing is essential for long-term success. While branding serves as the cornerstone of a company’s identity, there comes a time in every business’s journey when reassessing marketing strategies and branding becomes necessary. 

But how do you understand when it’s the right time to plan such a transformative journey for your brand? Let’s explore examples of the research, insights, and thinking that drive the decision to rebrand a company. This blog will guide you through the basics of common factors that drive companies to correct their brand strategy and build a fresh new brand.

What is a Rebrand?

Your brand is not your logo, color palette, or typography. Your brand is the summation of how people think and feel about your business—the sum total of all the impressions a customer has based on every experience they have had with you, your company, and your products or services. Brand identity, marketing, services, web, and social media—each one of these items tell a story to your audience. Brands are organic and evolving things; they’re active promises about what your company will do for your customers.

While a company’s brand spans across everything from websites to personnel to the environments where they sell and even the music played within them, we’re going to narrow the focus of this article to the rebranding process as it relates to creating elements of visual identity, messaging, and communications. A rebrand is more comprehensive than a new logo—it can mean changing everything from your brand’s identity, strategy, name, and tagline to your website, marketing materials, and more. Successful rebranding is comprehensive and consistent across all media.

A successful rebrand is built on a foundation of business evolution. David Aaker changed marketing and brand strategy decades ago with the breakthrough idea that brands are strategic assets—growth platforms for future success that create ongoing value for an organization. So, what’s the plan when your brand no longer represents that crucial value? Rebranding can help.

By shifting your brand positioning and brand identity, you have the potential to alter perceptions, boost brand recognition, reach new audiences, and attract different consumers. What is new or different about your company? How will you share it with target customers in mind? Your brand identity, messaging, and marketing are the tools used to communicate this new direction or product offering. A rebrand should inform the world how your business has changed, and guide consumers to understand how you’re different from your competitors. Be bold. You want your brand to stand for something, and to stand out in the marketplace.

Our team solves business problems through design. With that as a primary lens, we craft a rebranding strategy for solutions based on key goals, challenges, and opportunities for the business. Our team of strategists, graphic designers, and writers coach clients through a complete guide of which visual elements and brand phrases hold equity and should be carried forward, and which should be phased out, or improved. That analysis paints a clear picture of what the business needs, from a partial rebrand to a complete overhaul.

We have rebranded companies and products after three years in the market and one hundred and eighty-three years. Every business arc driving the need to update its identity and rebranding strategy is unique, and there are many reasons to rebrand. Here are a few catalysts for a rebrand or brand refresh we see most often.

Why do Companies Rebrand?

There is a laundry list of reasons businesses embark on the process of a rebranding exercise, from the functional to the existential. Often, a rebrand is a result of fundamental changes in the structure of the business—mergers and acquisitions, for example. Global expansion and new changes in customer base is another driving factor. When businesses shift strategy to expand into new regions or target international markets, new elements like cultural nuances, language barriers, and new consumer preferences and competitors come into play. 

Beyond expansion, merger, or acquisition, technological advances can create a need for an evolution in branding. With these rebranding examples, the company’s product or service may not have changed, but the market has evolved, creating a new challenge—and opportunity. In these case studies, choosing the right moment to rebrand is often synced with launching a new product line or a more technologically modern service offering.

Bad PR can also usher in a rebrand when businesses hope to distance themselves from negative associations, user experience, and brand awareness. In these cases, a complete brand overhaul is employed to revamp the brand image—from mission and values to a new visual identity and name change. New marketing efforts support the new look and feel of the company, and in time, a rebrand can help change customers’ perceptions. 

One of the most common examples of a reason for rebranding is a fundamental shift in a company’s focus on products and services, mission, or business strategy. Maybe you are expanding into new markets, targeting a different audience, or launching new products or services. Don’t forget that your brand should reflect this change to remain relevant and resonate with your target audience and new customers.

Personal branding is an easy example of reasons to update brand style. Think of yourself as a brand when you were a freshman in college. Start with visuals—remember your clothing as you went about your days, free of responsibility outside of your studies. What would a style guide look like for that time? Now take that snapshot of your brand personality in that era and contrast it against your growth over the following years. Would you show up today to a meeting with those clothes and haircut, or speak using the same language and voice you did back then? 

As a company’s core identity evolves, its brand identity and messaging must also follow suit and change. Smart rebranding strategies support who you were when your company started, what the business stands for today, and where you strive to grow in the future. 

Another driving factor in rebrands, beyond growth, is differentiation from your competition. Is a new brand challenger nipping at your heels? Are you losing customers and market share? Or has your market been flooded with new “me-too brands,” diluting the marketing impact and brand equity you once proudly enjoyed with your customer base when your business started? 

It may be time to free yourself from old logos and color palettes with diminished equity and make a move to refresh your brand identity. A smart shift in branding and messaging can inform a new marketing strategy that reclaims what makes you unique and valuable in the market.

Whether your brand has enjoyed prominence in the industry for only a few years or has a long history of successful sales, keeping a close watch on your competition and customers’ feedback can help you understand when to engage the guidance of a rebranding agency.

Rebranding Strategy & Internal Culture

Rebrands aren’t always focused solely on creating a new image for customers, however. The choice to create a new, fresh brand is more than just external-facing—it also helps develop a sense of identity, purpose, and belonging every day for your team. For a business focused on aggressive growth and new customers, the impact a rebrand may have on employee experience may not be top of mind. Surprisingly, internal teams are a completely new audience for many businesses, which means added consideration to align company identity, materials, and brand voice. 

Changing the mindsets of leadership can sometimes be more of a challenge than deciding on a new logo. Guiding leaders to see not just the benefits of a new marketing strategy, but also the value of internal branding, can take additional time and money. But working to develop a rebranding strategy that services your company’s social and professional culture will pay big dividends in ways you may never have imagined.

At the time of writing this article, examples of organizations with strong culture-building track records span industries including Nike, In-N-Out Burger, Google, and Keller Williams Realty. Each of these companies employs internal content marketing strategies to engage teams and cultivate culture.

If your brand values and culture are disconnected from your public image, or if employees lack enthusiasm and buy-in for the brand, it may be time to refresh your brand positioning to create change and reignite employee engagement and motivation.

Example: NASA

What do employee engagement and alignment look like? How do you know if your culture and process reflect your existing brand values? A favorite example is a quote from years ago, in 1962, when JFK was touring NASA early in the mission to land a rocket on the lunar surface. As he waited, he made small talk with a janitor, asking, “What are you doing?” The gentleman replied, “Mr. President, I’m helping put a man on the moon.” Bullseye. This is a perfect example of every team member, from the bottom up, working in service of a single shared goal.

Here at the agency, our brand team likes to say that we make magic: We combine seemingly disparate ideas, data points, visual cues, and cultural insights to create something completely new and utterly unique. Design is content with intent—and to create a new brand is to make manifest a vision of an organization’s future.

Our collective focus on making magic extends to our day-to-day interactions with clients as well. We will be the best part of their day if we work at the top of our game and guide them with care and consideration in their brand-building campaign. That’s making magic, too. One client refers to it as our “secret special sauce,” which we love. We don’t print it on our business cards, but it’s a great recognition and reinforcement of the value of a team with a united approach. 

There are myriad reasons to consider rebranding a business. Are you struggling to raise prices or attract top talent? Do you feel you’ve outgrown elements of your old branding? Is your messaging confusing to your customers? Take a look at your mission and values—are they apparent in your existing identity? If any of these scenarios reflect your brand, it might be time to engage the services of a brand agency.

So You’ve Decided to Rebrand. Now What?

If you take away one thing from this blog, let it be this: If you choose to invest your time, energy, and money in a rebranding exercise, put in the effort to make sure you do it right. If you’re considering a rebrand, follow this approach to ensure your rebranding strategy will see successful results.

Get Buy-In from Key Leadership

For a successful rebranding strategy, bringing your team along for the journey is critical. Don’t get us wrong: Design by committee quickly becomes a mess. It almost always means a new logo that everyone is okay with, but no one loves. Consider carefully which parts of the rebranding efforts you open up to group discussion. There are thoughtful ways to make sure your team feels included and excited about a new brand identity. 

For a successful rebrand we have always started at the top, aligning key leadership around a shared brand vision and process. Get input early to guide the mission and inform design. Use upfront learnings from stakeholder insight and market research to build the ultimate guide for what you want the brand to reflect. 

Find the most productive ways for each top team member to play an active part in the rebranding process. Poll stakeholders to learn how they feel about the brand today, their opinions on reasons for rebranding, and how they feel the brand and marketing could improve. Talk to the sales team to learn what they see and hear in stores and how it colors their view of your market position. You want to make your entire team active agents in the new branding. Do a lot of listening. Listening goes a long way in fostering a team mentality as you work to update your brand.

Define Your Goals, Budget, and Ideal Timeline

What do you want to achieve as a result of your rebrand? What are the top priorities and secondary goals for your new brand? Increased sales? Consumer awareness of new goods or services? Expansion? Paint a full picture of winning for your team and partners when you launch your rebrand. Get crystal clear about what success looks like for your company and customer, and make sure everyone involved is laser-focused on that rebranding strategy.

What key milestones should drive this rebrand exercise? Are there hard dates for your brand design team to consider in planning? When would you like to launch your new brand, and when must you launch your rebrand into the market? Be motivated and aggressive in planning your rebrand, but realistic about the time it will take to accomplish a seismic shift in your business’s brand positioning.

Lastly, have you allocated a healthy rebrand budget? A complete rebrand exercise is not something you want to do (or pay for) twice. It’s well worth your time to do market research, speak to colleagues or branding consultants, and have transparent conversations with brand and marketing agencies about cost. A good agency will be a trusted guide to rebranding your organization. Share how much gas is in the tank for a to rebrand, and ask whether that time and money will get you where you want to go with your new brand.

Find Your Best Branding Partner 

With your goals set firmly in place and your team aligned and fired up for change, it’s time to begin the hunt for the best branding and marketing partner for your company. What are you looking for in a brand agency? Is it important for them to be local, or is a national brand agency a better fit for your business? What sort of culture, communication cadence, and relationship is important to you? Do you value a large agency with layers of hierarchy or a smaller dedicated team that is more tight-knit and agile?

Choosing a brand agency involves several considerations, and it’s important to have an idea of what you’re looking for before you set up introductions or send an RFP to a list of agencies. Take time to define your best fit, and then engage a select group of companies that align with your vision for an ideal partnership.

Wrap Up

The decision to rebrand should not be taken lightly. Still, it’s a necessary step for companies that seek to evolve, stay competitive, and maintain relevance in an ever-changing business environment. With strategic planning, creativity, and a clear vision, rebranding can breathe new life into your company’s identity, drive growth, and position it for long-term success in the marketplace.

We hope the tips in this blog help in your decision on the right time to rebrand your company. Do you still have questions? Give us a shout, and let us guide you to find the best fit for your goals. Each week, we donate a free hour of consultation to aspiring brand-builders, so sign up using our contact form!

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