The civil unrest that swept through the U.S. in early 2020 saw a toppling of many long-established but racially insensitive brand names — the most obvious of which was the Washington Redskins.
When the NFL team announced that it would officially be retiring its age-old cognomen, all eyes turned to the rebranding process. Everyone wanted to know if the term “Washington” would remain in the title, if the same colors would be used, or if the team would start over from square one with a new name, color scheme, logo, voice, tone, and everything else that goes into a successful brand.
The situation brings an interesting question to light: what considerations go into an effective rebrand?
Defining a Rebrand
The dictionary definition of a rebrand is “to change or update the brand or branding of a product, service, etc.”
This definition provides a good deal of wiggle room when it comes to how a rebrand should look. For example, there are multiple versions of a rebrand:
- A full rebrand consists of completely overhauling a company’s existing brand by choosing a new name, new logo, new colors, and creating an entirely new set of guidelines for your company’s voice, tone, and style.
- A brand refresh attempts to gradually phase in change by strategically altering the existing brand, such as using a new font, reworking a logo, or updating a color palette.
- A visual rebrand walks the line between a full rebrand and a brand refresh by creating an entirely new visual identity through new colors and a new logo design.
While recognizing the need to rebrand is a critical first step, choosing the kind of rebrand that is required is an equally essential follow-up decision. If possible, you should always attempt to work with the established brand and only resort to more extreme measures — i.e. a full rebrand — when completely necessary.
A rebrand can either energize or alienate your customer base and should always be approached with respectful caution. With that said, there are certainly many reasons to rebrand. For instance:
- Your products or services may be too closely associated with a competitor and require disassociation.
- Your brand, colors, or logo may fail to stand out or attract attention.
- There may be negative associations with brand activity or product offerings that require you to distance yourself from your company’s past image.
- Changes to your products or services could be significant enough to warrant a new face for your business’s operations.
- A shift in your market or industry may have left you out of the limelight or generally at a strategic disadvantage.
- Your brand may no longer reflect your company’s vision or goals.
While all of these are legitimate reasons to rebrand, it’s important to understand that rebranding is risky and can have a negative impact on your company if done poorly.
For instance, during the 2010 Christmas period, the popular clothing line Gap decided to rebrand suddenly and without warning. They shifted away from an iconic logo precisely during the time of year when constancy and recognition are essential. The move was so detrimental that they about-faced in just six days, walking back the rebrand and reverting to their original design. The entire debacle was estimated to cost the company a staggering $100 million.
The point is, rebranding should never be done flippantly. Nor should it be done for poor or even unnecessary reasons. For instance, if the push to rebrand is purely coming from a desire to mirror competitors, generate buzz, bow to the wishes of new leadership, or distract consumers from a bigger issue, that should be a sign to tap the brakes and think things through more thoroughly.
When Is the Best Time to Rebrand?
Rebranding is an extremely in-depth process that impacts nearly every aspect of your business. From changes in packaging and products to reworking marketing collateral and even retraining staff as you implement new brand guidelines, the process can be extensive. In addition, as the example of Gap’s failed rebranding attempt above demonstrates, the timing in your sales cycle can have a significant impact on how a rebrand is received by the public.
With that said, it’s always important that you carefully consider when is the best time to execute a rebrand. Look for a period of time when the external market is quiet and your internal operations aren’t too busy. The idea is to find plenty of time to properly shepherd the change through in order to ensure that it is positively received by your customer base.
If you’ve assessed your situation and decided that a rebrand is indeed the best solution, here is a nifty set of tips and tricks to help you cover all of your bases as you attempt to reinvent your company’s public image.
Tip #1. Identify the Reason for the Rebrand
This may sound obvious, but it’s painfully critical that you spell out the details for why you’re rebranding before you commit to a specific plan.
For instance, if you’re feeling the pressure of a changing market or shifting customer interests and expectations, that doesn’t mean you necessarily need to rebrand. Levi Jeans proved this point when they successfully revamped their line of jeans in response to a changing market. The well-known company updated its marketing look and appeal in order to attract younger consumers without abandoning its respected and well-established brand.
Tip #2. Plan Thoroughly
Even if you have an airtight reason to rebrand, you never want to initiate the change without thoroughly planning it beforehand. Everything from your logo and color scheme to your product packaging, website, and even your letterhead will need to be changed — especially with a full rebrand.
Always take the time to go over what must be addressed, where changes must be made, and when the best time will be to make said changes.
Tip #3. Stay True to Your Core Beliefs
All companies have a vision and values, and these should be properly reflected in their brands as well. It’s tempting to get distracted with flashy colors and a new logo during a rebrand. You may also be fixated on addressing a problem, such as slumping sales or being outshone by a competitor.
While these are all legitimate concerns that shouldn’t be ignored, one aspect of your rebrand that is far too easy to overlook is reflecting your vision and values in your new brand. If you’re all about sustainability, make sure to incorporate it into your new style. If you exist to provide snappy, punchy entertainment for your audience, make sure to reflect that in your new colors, logo, and so on, as well.
The point is, as you go about the rebranding process, remember to harken back to why you went into business in the first place. Then make an effort to integrate that vision and focus into your new brand.
Tip #4. Be Quick and Decisive
If you want to effectively pull off a rebrand, it’s essential that you execute the event quickly and efficiently. Your goals should be:
- To cause as little drama as possible.
- To make the new brand convenient and comfortable for consumers.
- To immediately attempt to create a new “iconic” feel.
If excessive time or attention is spent dwelling on the change, it will only create a further backlash and likely come off looking like nothing more than a PR stunt.
Tip #5. Remember UX
Rebranding is typically seen as a visual endeavor. It’s all about the logos, the splashy colors, and the “fresh new look.” Occasionally things like the voice and tone of the brand will come into play as well, but even that fails to consider one of the most important aspects of all: user experience (UX).
A rebrand often requires extensive reworking of existing marketing collateral — including your website. And, of course, user experience is absolutely critical to website success. It’s the very reason that giant companies invest tens of millions of dollars into their sites. It’s also the same reason that companies, like Hertz back in 2019, are willing to go to court for damages when they don’t get a smooth, functioning, responsive website in full and on time.
UX is a critical factor in website success, and a rebrand can often significantly impact your site’s usability. Menus, navigation, calls-to-action, shopping carts, and countless other UX considerations can be thrown off due to a new layout, logo, or color scheme. If you’re going to rebrand your company, always consider the effect that it will have on your existing UX in order to avoid losing sales in the future.
Needless to say, there are numerous considerations that should be kept in mind if you’re thinking of a rebrand.
What are the reasons for your rebrand? What is the best time to execute it? Have you thoroughly planned the changes? Is your company vision reflected in your new brand?
As you parse through these questions, remember that a good rebrand should be organized and efficient. It should be done quickly and in a way that is convenient for your customers. Only then can you expect to avoid the negative repercussions and tap into the positive benefits that a properly executed rebrand can offer.
About the Author!
Dan Matthews is a journalist and tech enthusiast with a degree in English from Boise State University. He has written extensively online at the intersection of business tech and digital marketing.