The media is full of reports about companies “rebranding.” Typically, what they mean is a company has refreshed elements of its visual identity: adopted a modified logo, updated signature colors, reimagined packaging and marketing collateral, and possibly made slight tweaks to messaging. Companies refresh their corporate image when they want to update their look. The process and effects are analogous to donning a new hairstyle and wardrobe.
True rebranding, however, is a much larger undertaking, requiring a bigger investment of time, creative energy, and resources. Companies that rebrand change everything about their public image in order to overcome significant challenges: The market has shifted in a new direction, they’ve suffered a public-relations crisis from which they are unlikely to recover, or they want to enter a new marketplace or appeal to a new type of consumer. Companies that rebrand must let go of almost every aspect of their former existence and create a new self, much like newlyweds leave behind singledom and create a new entity society perceives in a different way.
Small companies can expect to spend up to three months and as much as $200,000 rebranding. Large companies may need to spend up to twenty-four months and millions of dollars. Obviously, a rebrand is not something to be undertaken on a whim.
So, how does one know whether a rebrand may be necessary? Telltale signs exist, according to award-winning branding and design agency Clover Collective. Founders Brionne Griffin and Tina Caye suggest companies consider these five signs.
The company’s vision or mission has changed.
When a company’s public image no longer reflects what it offers or believes, it’s time to design a new brand. Do potential customers struggle to understand what the company does and stands for without a long, involved explanation? Has the corporate culture undergone a dramatic transformation? If so, consider rebranding.
The market is changing.
As consumer tastes shift and industries mature, companies must adapt or risk becoming irrelevant. Is a marketplace that once demanded luxury products now more interested in high-value, low-cost merchandise? Companies that thrive update their corporate personas to indicate they’re in tune with the times.
A negative event damaged public perception.
Public-relations nightmares happen. After British Petroleum suffered a series of facility and production disasters, it faced ruin not only from lawsuits and fines, but also because consumers became convinced the company cared more about profits than people or the planet. BP undertook a $183-million rebranding campaign, changing everything from visual elements to its executive team and adding well-publicized system modernizations and charitable activities. Polishing its tarnished image and upping its emotional appeal increased regulator and consumer confidence.
Growth has stalled.
Even the strongest brands become stale over time. Revenues plateau, the customer base stops expanding, and new products and services fail to find a market. If the company responds to a long period of flat income by overhauling its strategy, it may also want to rebrand.
The target audience has changed.
Over time, companies’ definitions of an “ideal consumer” shift. Has a significant new demographic or psychographic emerged? Are there opportunities to expand into new verticals? When companies target additional consumer groups or add divisions to capture market share, rebranding may be required.
Professional assistance is imperative for rebranding success, Caye and Griffin said. Competent professionals can help companies with tasks including:
- Researching the brand’s position, competencies, and opportunities.
- Identifying and communicating specific points of differentiation.
- Using messaging and positioning to inform brand strategy.
- Making structural changes to the brand to expand market opportunity.
- Creating a strategy to share and promote the new identity.
Ideally, rebranding teams include experts in fields including researchers, brand strategy, graphic design, web design and development, copywriting, and social media. Well-rounded teams can address every aspect of a brand’s identity, thereby approaching the issue from a unified perspective.