DIAGNOSING THE NEED TO REBRAND
How do you know when it’s time to rebrand?
At some point in the life of any organization the question will come up. Is it time to rebrand? It is not a simple question to answer. The symptoms can be misleading. A self-examination is not always objective. A self-prescribed treatment may not cure the underlying problem.
What Is a Rebrand Anyway?
A rebrand is when an organization recasts what its brand (or brands) stands for, the value it provides, the distinction it holds, and the relevance it maintains among its key audience segments.
Although a rebrand will often result in visual or verbal changes in its name or logo, it is not always the case. Some rebrands may be more internally focused with no change to its visual expression. A change in values might impact the corporate culture. A shift in the Mission could impact operational changes.
The Need to Rebrand Can Happen at Any Time
There is no predetermined point that automatically signals when the time is right for a rebrand. Some companies don’t need to rebrand for decades. BMW has been clear about what it stands for from its inception. Although its business has evolved over the years, its brand has essentially remained the same since 1917. Other companies have found a need to change on a more frequent basis. This is especially true in industries where change can be measured in months rather than years. Brands like Amazon and Google are in a continual state of evolutionary, if not revolutionary, change.
Timing is everything when it comes to rebranding, but it is not always apparent when the right time is.
Rebrands Are Not Just About Logos
A change in the brand identity (logo) of an organization is not always the end result of a rebrand. IBM and General Electric are brands who have undergone significant changes in their business proposition while maintaining relative continuity in their brand expression. The first question to rebrand, or not, is whether the brand platform is right. Is the Vision and Mission still relevant? Is the Brand Value Proposition still distinctive? Are the brand attributes a clear articulation of the brand character? The degree to which these need to be addressed will determine how much, if any, change to the brand identity is required. These are the foundational issues that are at the heart of the brand.
Rebrands are built from the inside out.
No two rebrands are the same
Rebranding is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. In some cases, a rebrand might be a minor adjustment to the brand platform. The impact could be on the internal culture and behavior but have little effect on the outward brand expression. In other cases, it could be a ground-up rebuild. A complete overhaul of the brand platform could require a full transformation of the identity including name, logo, and all other forms of expression. B2C brands have their own unique challenges apart from B2B brands. Service brands have different issues than product brands. Non-profits are clearly different from for-profit organizations. The scope, process, deliverables, budget and timing of a rebrand will be defined by the problem that has to be solved.
REASONS TO REBRAND
There are many issues to think about when considering a rebrand. The urgency to rebrand is always driven by the need to respond to a set of circumstances that represent either an opportunity or a threat. Although the specific reasons will vary, the reason to rebrand will generally fall into three situational categories: Growth; Adaptation; or Revitalization.
1. GROWTH REBRANDS
Business growth and diversification is one of the most obvious reasons to rebrand. A significant change in your product offer, or entering into a new market category, are good reasons to signal these changes through a rebranding initiative.
- Mergers and Acquisitions. Mergers, in particular, require careful consideration in how the companies will come together operationally and culturally. It will be interesting to see what happens with the AT&T and Time Warner merger. Acquisitions don’t necessarily result in a rebrand. However, acquisitions, at the very least, have to address the relationship between the brands. Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods had to consider what that relationship would look like while maintaining brand independence for each.
- Change in Offer. If a business has launched new products and services that are clearly different from its core offer, then a rebrand might be in order. Depending on the extent to which the new products and services target a different or broader market will indicate the magnitude of the rebrand work. United Parcel Service shifted from delivering packages to delivering logistical solutions. Thus resulting in operational as well as brand identity changes.
- Geographic Reach. Extending the business into a new geographic market is especially relevant if the brand is strongly tied to a local geography by name or localized offerings. Going international creates its own set of unique challenges to ensure the brand is as relevant to an international, as well as local market segment. As community banks expand regionally or nationally, they often find it necessary to signal their new broader geographic reach through a rebrand.
- Founder Transition. At some point a Founder established organization has to grow beyond the Founder. Although the Founder’s vision provides the direction of the company it will fall to others to advance that vision to enable the company to grow and evolve. The primary rebranding objective for founder transitions is to move from a personality driven brand to an organizational vision and mission driven brand. Many well-known companies have gone through this transition – Apple, Starbucks, Ford, Marriott, Boeing and many others.
2. ADAPTATION REBRANDS
At some point, it will be necessary to adapt your brand to the changes in the market around it. The level of significance of these changes will determine how much your brand needs to adjust to remain competitive and relevant.
- Obsolescence. One of the biggest threats to any brand is becoming obsolete. If products are overtaken by technological advancements in the category, it is likely the company will have no choice but to reposition in order to survive. Kodak was on the verge of becoming obsolete as the market shifted to digital photography. As a consequence it was forced into a significant repositioning of the business it was in.
- Relevancy. All brands must stay current with its target audiences and how they are evolving. Brands need to continually keep an eye on what its audience sees as valuable and meaningful to them. The US Postal Service had to adapt to threats from Amazon by providing broader range of services, including Sunday deliveries to remain relevant.
- Disruption. New competitors that disrupt and reframe a market can lead to a critical need to rebrand. If the market has been redefined (much like retail has been redefined by Amazon), resident category brands need to adjust to stay competitive and relevant. Uber and Lyft challenged traditional taxi industry reshaping how customers get around town.
- Commoditization. No one wants to be considered a commodity product or service. Loss of distinction is a sure sign the brand is moving to commodity status. Time to rethink the brand and how the products and services are positioned. The retail petroleum industry faced this issue years ago when customers finally made it clear that they saw no difference in the product – regardless of brand. This resulted in a transformation of the traditional gas station to the convenience center we know today.
- Portfolio Management. Managing a family of brands demands constant scrutiny to ensure synergy and distinction across the portfolio. It requires attention as to how competitors are challenging or creating new product lines. It also raises questions on whether some product lines have lost their relevance or are redundant. The hotel industry stands out as an industry defined by portfolio management led by brands like Starwood Hotels and Resorts and InterContinental Hotels. A rebranding assessment is a healthy way to make sure the portfolio is working as hard as it should.
- Reputation Management. Reputation is one of the most valuable assets of any brand. Any erosion of a brand’s reputation can have long lasting damaging impact. It is not only the reputation of a particular company that may be in question, but also the industry. The misdeeds of Wells Fargo had a ripple effect across the banking industry. A rebrand may not necessarily repair all of the damage but it could be part of the solution.
3. REVITALIZATION REBRANDS
It is not uncommon that some brands loose their vitality and energy if there has been no pressing business need to change. Revitalizing your brand could be reason enough to consider a rebrand.
- Brand Culture. Keeping the employees in an organization inspired and motivated can be a great reason to undertake a brand revitalization initiative. An energized organization will translate to energetic engagement with its customers. Southwest Airlines is often cited as a brand that is built, and continues to evolve, to keep its brand energized.
- Image. Consistency in branding is a mainstay principle of good branding practice. That does not mean that some periodic updating is not in order to keep the brand current without changing its underlying foundation. A refresh never hurts. Apple is a brand that continues to update and keep its brand current and fresh.
- Casting a New Vision. The corporate vision is what sets the aspiration of what the brand potential is and the impact that it can ultimately make. Lego has evolved its 1988 vision to reflect the potential impact that it can make “to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow”. Updating the vision ensures that the vision is always about the future just in case the future has caught up.
HOW DO YOU DECIDE?
It is difficult to self-diagnose whether you really need to rebrand. Even if you do come to that conclusion, it is equally difficult to determine what kind of rebrand you need. Sometimes it is obvious. Most of the time it is not. A rebrand can be an expensive and time consuming proposition. It is not a best guess or gutfeel kind of decision you want to make.
If you think you are a candidate for a rebrand, we recommend a brand diagnostic with the help of a qualified branding expert. Reputable consultants aren’t in the business to sell you something you don’t need. They can provide you with an objective assessment of what the problem is and whether a rebrand is in order. If a rebrand is needed, then understanding what the scope might look like will be crucial in planning how to undertake it. Assuming the indicators point to a rebrand, then you have taken the first step to ensuring the health and well being of your BrandLife™.