It’s said the only constant is change.
This saying is especially true when it comes to marketing—particularly in the area of branding. Change is essential in building a compelling brand, keeping it relevant, and maintaining its success.
At some point, every business will find itself facing the proposition of a “rebrand.” It’s a matter of when, not if. For some, it’s a matter of survival. For others, it’s a matter of adapting to cultural shifts. For the fortunate ones, it happens early as they’re challenged to look at who they really are and how they wish to be perceived by their audience. For others, it can occur after years of off-target branding efforts are revealed or they’ve outgrown their brand.
Even the most established and well-known brands face the need for change now and then. How often, you may ask. Well, that’s a difficult question to answer with so many variables to consider, but let’s take a look at some big-name examples. Apple has tweaked its visual branding just three times over the course of its existence. Starbucks has made four alterations. Pepsi, on the other hand, has completely reinvented its visual brand 11 times. Sounds like a lot, right? Whether it is or isn’t a lot is a matter of great debate. Many marketing practitioners attribute Pepsi’s revolving-door visual branding changes to two things. First, they have seemingly accepted the fact that they are destined to always chase Coke, so they are constantly striving to come up with the next big, new look to help them break out of second place. Secondly, they seem to always rebrand themselves in response to the latest social trends instead of setting them.
At the top layer, a rebrand generally involves overhauling such things as a company’s logo, visual elements, or even its name in order to bolster or alter the company’s position in the marketplace and with the public. Such changes can be divided into either the evolutionary or revolutionary category.
An evolutionary rebrand involves making small changes to a brand’s identity. Making only slight changes to a brand’s identity allows a company to preserve any brand equity it has established and maintain recognition. Such evolutionary rebranding lets a company revive its image while keeping its overall identity. Coca-Cola, for example, has followed the evolutionary track. The company has made incremental and judicious refinements to its logo and visual branding throughout its history. And while they have made changes, the course has been relatively seamless to consumers. Only when you look at side-by-side comparisons of the Coca-Cola logo over the years can you truly appreciate the alterations. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” applies to Coca-Cola in this respect. Their market presence, position and dominance are well established. Their equity runs as deep as their customers’ loyalty. A well-conceived, maintained and consistent visual brand has contributed to Coca-Cola’s success while smooth, transitional aesthetic steps have kept the brand current without ever compromising its appeal.
Some brands make misguided changes that prove to be detrimental. The Gap clothing company, for example, introduced a new logo in 2010 only to end up scrapping it after just one week and returning to its original logo due to heavy online backlash from consumers. The fundamental error the Gap made was changing the logo for change’s sake—not because the logo was failing to properly represent the company’s brand position.
The other category of rebranding is revolutionary rebranding, and it’s just what is sounds like. Revolutionary rebranding shakes things up with intentionally obvious changes to consumers. Making big or drastic changes can quickly alter consumer attitude and reveals appreciable changes within a company. Such an abrupt approach is usually in order if a company’s main product or service changes, if the current branding has failed to create traction in the market, if two or more companies merge into one new company, or if a company wants to shake a negative image. The 1994 rebranding of Federal Express is a great example of the revolutionary approach. The company was given a whole new logo, a fresh new color palette and a shortened company name: FedEx. These changes quickly established FedEx as a synonym for fast package delivery—a market position they have successfully maintained for the past 20+ years.
When a company rebrands, evolutionary of revolutionary, it’s essential to identify why it’s being done. What are the reasons for the rebrand? What is it that needs to be achieved? The effects of a rebrand extend far beyond the aesthetic. A thoughtfully considered, executed, and professionally applied rebrand can establish and re-establish meaningful connections with new or lost customers and build a tribe of loyal advocates. With that in mind, here are the essential questions to consider when contemplating a rebrand:
- What problem/opportunity does our rebrand need to solve/seize?
- Is the competitive landscape changing and threatening our growth potential?
- Is our rebrand a stepping stone (evolutionary) or a milestone (revolutionary)?
- Are we pigeonholed as something we and/or our customers have outgrown?
- Are we conveying a wrong or outdated story or are we associated with something that’s no longer meaningful?
- Have we determinedexactly who should care about our brand?
- Has our customer base changed?
- Have our customer’s needs,or the way they define them, changed?
- Is our brand out of step with the current needs/desires of our customers?
- Will this solution work 10 years from now considering what we can reasonably anticipate?
Rebranding requires a shift in your thinking. You must be ready, willing and able to let go of things you thought were—and at one time may have been—perfect. Consumer behavior is always evolving. And a company who fails to evolve along with that behavior will eventually see their brand relevance quickly erode. Such a company will lose its place in the cultural conversation and struggle to hold its position among or over the competition.
Don’t be that company.
If you’d like to know more about how Lou Hammond Group can help audit and assess your current branding or assist you with branding or rebranding, please contact us today.