Whether it’s a merger or takeover of a company or organisation, a period of considerable growth and expansion into new markets, a change in company strategy or diversification, or simply that advances in technology mean your business is different to the one it set out to be 10 or 100 years ago, there are many reasons for a rebrand.
Be it a radical transformation or an evolutionary refresh, the raison d’être is usually the same: to differentiate the business or service in the minds of a target market so it’s taken seriously (among employees as well as customers) and remains relevant.
And the reason organisations usually make the decision to invest in a rebrand is generally because it pays off, helping to give a business new life, retaining old customers while successfully bringing in new ones.
Of course, the opposite can be true. Some rebrands have gone horribly wrong. But the experts will tell you that if you follow a formula (do your research; understand your brand values; pay attention to detail; strive for longevity; plan with military precision) and learn from the mistakes of others, then there’s no reason why your brand can’t be a J.Crew, comparethemarket.com, LEGO or Burberry. So here are our observations on branding, including examples of companies that have successfully made the change.
01 In a nutshell
If you used to do one thing but now do one thing and another, it might be time to rebrand. Focus on finding a way of making sure customers easily see and understand what it is you do. If someone asks you to describe your brand and you can’t do it in 10 seconds, you might need a rethink. You should be able to tell people who you are and what you do in a quick and easy way.
How are you communicating your rebrand? As MilesHerndon, a branding agency in Indianapolis points out, there’s no sense investing the money in a new brand if you’re not going to roll it out effectively. “Start by getting your employees excited so they can act as brand advocates.” And what about an external PR campaign or a launch party, inviting clients, employees, the press, and the community to feel part of your new story?
03 Brand audit
According to Brian Lischer, CEO and chief brand strategist at Ignyte, you can get a better sense of your brand’s differentiation by performing a “mini brand audit”. He says: “Take a look at some of your brand’s collateral alongside that of your top competitors. Does it stand out or just get lost among the sameness? Where are there opportunities for differentiation? These might include colour, messaging or imagery. When it comes to long-term branding, increased complexity means decreased effectiveness. Any opportunities to simplify, focus, or develop a unifying brand narrative will benefit your business for years to come.”
Is your brand right for now, and will it be right in 10 or 20 years time? Who knows what the business world will be like in two decades but an outdated or amateur brand, which you’ve ignored because you’ve been focusing your resources on growth, can prevent you from being taken seriously or securing investment, or even risk losing members of your team who think you lack innovation. Refreshing your brand will demonstrate to your customers, competitors, industry and staff that you mean business, that you’re moving with the times and that you’re on top of your game.
05 Company culture
Have you thought about company culture? A successful rebrand isn’t just about changing a logo, name or colour palette, it involves overhauling a company’s goals and voice. Think about what you do, not just what you say. And pay mind to the environment you’re operating in. Melanie McShane, head of strategy at Wolff Olins in New York, tells FastCo: “With the rise of political authoritarianism, brands will face fundamental choices. About whether to take a stand on issues that offend them and their users, risking the wrath of politicians and their acolytes. Or stay quiet and seem complicit.”
Personalisation is here to stay, so it is vital to get to know your customer and employees and let them in. A brand within a brand is a development where individuals put their own stamp on an established company. Nike and Converse caught on years ago, but in the B2B community, it’s about tailoring, niche services, expanding your focus, allowing for multiple identities within your company. Originality, imagination, ingenuity: these will be key. Does your brand refresh incorporate this trend?
07 What’s in a name?
What happens if you share your name with a disaster or a radical group (we’re thinking Isis right now). Uncommon as it may be, there’s a lot in a name and you don’t want your customers associating you or your business with the wrong ethic. A refreshed brand can reposition your offering, projecting exactly the right image and attracting the right sort of customers.
08 Customer attachment
If you’re thinking about a rebrand, think too about your customers’ attachment to what you already have and what you look like. If your target audience is changing with the times, it’s smart to try to change with them. But not everyone likes change, and a lot of loyal customers like stability and reassurance, not confusion. Make sure your communication is spot on. Do some market research, response testing or focus groups, find out customers’ wants, needs and opinions – and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Sometimes it’s hip to be square.
09 Trust your instinct
Having said all that, trust your instincts. If your gut feeling is that your brand is a bit tired, outdated, not international enough or just not as good as your competitors’, then it’s probably time for a change and some investment.
Just make sure your rebrand adds distinction, means something, and alters expectations.
10 Business strategy
Steve Brown, head of ICAEW Brand, says: “ICAEW has developed a robust, modern and digital brand to reflect its business strategy, ‘Supporting a World of Strong Economies’, which reflects the central role accountancy plays in the global economic system. The Institute’s lady, Economia, has three symbolic tools. The rod signifies command; the rudder represents guidance; the dividers represent her unique powers of measurement and assessment, as well as her ability to draw perceptive insights from the world around her. It’s those unique insights that enable ICAEW to contribute to the profession and beyond. It’s why the dividers are coloured red within the logo.
Like the scripted typeface and red of Coca-Cola or the eggshell blue of Tiffany & Co, we wanted to give ICAEW a tool within its visual language that goes to the heart of what makes it unique. Iconic identities have an inner confidence: ICAEW’s new identity demonstrates insight and flexibility. We aligned the level of sophistication in the brand to the intelligence of ICAEW’s members and audiences. The profession is at the heart of decisions that will define the future; building robust, accountable and fair economies across the globe.
The brand helps ICAEW to communicate the complexities of the world around us and its role in shaping that world.”