Brands, like everything in life, age. Some of them age gracefully (think Jennifer Aniston)… others not so much (think Mickey Rourke). Some brands remain relevant for what seems like an eternity and others change almost on yearly basis. Some brands resist brutal external forces such as mergers, market changes, bad publicity or vicious legal battles while others change proactively as part of a growth path, as a way to penetrate a new market or reach a different demographic group. Fact is that, just like gray hair, the aging of a brand is inevitable and with it comes change (think of it as a little brand Botox). Whatever the reason for rebranding, there are a few things to keep in mind to make sure that your brand retains as much of its equity as possible.
Let’s begin with the understanding that any rebranding exercise will have an effect on the way your product is perceived. New brands will usually have less baggage to carry with them and will probably find it easier to make significant changes while established brands might find that even the smallest of changes could create shock to their core audience and have some negative effects on their reputation, credibility or trust level. Whichever the case, every brand needs to consider the effects that the rebranding will have and should have a plan on how to maximize all the benefits that come with such an exercise.
The first thing to consider is the effect the rebranding exercise will have on an existing customer base, on customers you aspire to gain and on your team members. To reduce the shock factor, you might consider involving these groups in the process. The level at which these groups participate in the rebranding exercise will vary depending on your overall strategy, but by involving them when possible, your insight into the project will probably be much deeper and better targeted. Your customer base will also feel appreciated and emotionally involved as will your team. Understandably, there will be instances where public participation will be impossible and some of your team’s insights inapplicable. But inviting stakeholders to be part of the journey is great way to make sure that your new brand gains traction and acceptance form them start.
Speaking of your team, make sure they understand the exercise, why it’s being carried out and are one hundred percent behind the idea. Deep meaningful change comes from within. While external stakeholders are extremely important, you should not forget the team that will make this happen. They need to understand the process and reasoning behind it and be comfortable with the idea in order to ensure success.
Highlight the benefits of the rebranding exercise in every relevant touchpoint whenever possible. Try to downplay any identifiable downside if any (such as in the case of a merger) and highlight how this exercise will benefit all stakeholders. Change is always scary and highlighting how this change in particular will be directly beneficial to your audience will help them embrace it.
It is always important to stay on brand but more so when carrying a rebranding exercise. All touchpoints produced should be aligned. This is a time for change, growth and progression for your brand. It is crucial that everyone involved is on the same page and that all marketing and business decisions are guided by the same vision. There are lots of elements comprising a rebranding, if there is no consistency you will end up with a weak new brand that fails to capitalize on the hard earned brand equity that the prior incarnation of your brand already has and will be incapable of communicating effectively all the new positives this new brand symbolizes.
And as we are speaking about brand equity, it is key that you maintain it. A rebranding exercise is a delicate balance act between what your brand was and what it wants to be. You must ensure you are still talking to your core audience and are true to your core values. You are changing, but you must ensure that this change does not create a disassociation between your product and your customer. You might understandably be trying to reach a new demographic group, but this is no reason to forget the group who helped you build your brand in the first place.
Change can be disconcerting, but it is also exciting. Everything needs to evolve and rebranding is part of this evolution. Don’t be afraid of change, embrace it. There are lots of factors that can influence your decision to rebrand, but once you have decided it has to be done, I assure you it will be an interesting little adventure. Have fun and make sure your brand is a more Jennifer and a little less Mickey.