Some of the most well-known companies have rebranded — in many cases not just once, but twice, three or even five times. While you might not have the marketing budget of worldwide organizations like Dunkin Donuts or Southwest Airlines, you can learn about what these companies did to make their rebrand a success as you embark on your own rebranding journey.
I spoke with multiple company leaders who facilitated successful rebrands, in order to understand their processes and strategies, and here’s what I’ve learned:
1. Evolve Your Messaging with Your New Audience
Your target audience evolves along with your business, which means your rebrand messaging must evolve along with them. HealthMarkets was in business for 35 years before CMO Michael Stahl came on board and led a company-wide brand overhaul. Stahl explained that, prior to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), their company consisted of licensed health insurance agents that helped clients choose plans that fit their budget and needs.
To evolve with the current environment, as well as scale as a company, HealthMarkets needed to rethink who they wanted to target and how. This lead to the creation of their direct-to-consumer stream of business.
“With the introduction of the Affordable Care Act, HealthMarkets needed to change the way we did business to meet the needs of our customers. In making the various digital transformation changes to our business practices, we also wanted to promote the HealthMarkets brand in a way it hadn’t been before.”
To promote the new brand, they developed a cohesive and integrated marketing campaign that reached their new audience via radio, direct mail, social media, and SEO. But they didn’t stop there: “One of the ways we did this was by launching advertising on various media with a spokesperson we knew would resonate with consumers,” says Stahl. That spokesperson is Bill Engvall, who is now a brand ambassador for HealthMarkets.
What’s more, to ensure they effectively communicated their new offerings, as well as assess how the service worked, HealthMarkets also built customer satisfaction surveys into the process. This allows them to continually grow as a brand and reach more customers within their new direct-to-consumer industry.
2. Communicate the Rebrand to Your Existing Audience
While keeping up with new demographics is important, you want to be careful not to alienate (or worse, lose) your existing audience. Whether its customers or clients, when you rebrand, make sure to communicate to them that you’re still the same business — just better.
Energy Window Fashions had been around for eight years and it was time for a change. As such, with the help of a digital marketing agency, they became Amaru. While they wanted to attract new customers, they also had an existing customer base to worry about.
To reassure their current audience, the rebrand was communicated on all channels: website, social media, direct mail, and email newsletter. They even build a dedicated area of their website. “A dedicated landing page was created on the website explaining the changes and to reassure customers that it was business as usual; same owners, same staff, same contact details. A focus was placed on customers with existing orders to ensure them that their order remained unchanged,” explains Sukhbir Mehla, Founder of the agency.
In the rush to reach new customers, don’t forget the ones that are key to your business already — the ones who already know and like your brand.
3. Take it One Step At a Time
Ebates was a company with a lot at stake: a beloved brand, billions in revenue, 3,500 retail partners, and 13 million customers. So when they went through a rebrand to become Rakuten, Trever Gregory, their VP of Brand Marketing, explains that they did so in steps. “In order to realize our vision, we mapped out the rebrand in multiple phases. This made it easier to see our progress, react appropriately, and remain excited,” says Gregory.
If you have a large established business, creating a multi-step strategy will help break down your rebrand into a manageable process. Gregory details how they did this for Rakuten: “Each phase was composed of different objectives, creative campaigns, and media strategies that built off each other, which allowed us to simultaneously tackle multiple objectives to maximize the time we had for the rebrand.”
Gregory cautions not to be too rigid in your strategy, however: “Having a flexible plan with very deliberate campaigns and creative was critical to the success of our rebrand.”
In the end, their multi-step rebrand process was successful, with no loss in revenue, a 260 percent growth in brand awareness, and approximately 2 million new customers.
4. Get Buy-In from All Stakeholders
Pamela Webber was the CMO of design website 99designs when it went through a major rebrand four years ago (since then, Webber has taken the role of COO). Webber told me one simple but important piece of advice: Involve your entire company— staff, leaders, managers, everyone — from the beginning. “As we know, the brand your customer sees doesn’t come from just one person or team. It takes a village to create a strong brand,” says Webber.
In a blog post detailing their rebrand process, Jolene Chen, Director of Brand Marketing, further explains: “Since everyone in the company — from our engineers and marketing team to the customer service representatives — contributes to what customers think about as our brand, we wanted our entire company to feel invested.”
This company-wide effort takes your rebrand from a C-level decision to one that gets everyone excited throughout the entire process: “A rebrand doesn’t happen overnight. The person leading the rebrand, as well as leaders across your company need to be cheerleaders from start to finish,” says Webber.
5. Don’t Sleep on the Details
Previously known as MODe Sports Nutrition, ATAQ Fuel has recently completed a rebrand, guided by a marketing consulting agency. While Brandon Amoroso, the agency’s CEO, told me the interesting details behind the why for the rebrand, I was more interested in the how. Amoroso detailed some of the nitty-gritty digital points that are easy to overlook in the excitement of a rebrand.
Line up all assets
Before undergoing a rebrand, make a list of everything that goes into it: emails, verbiage on your website, domain, marketing material, packaging, etc. Think of both digital and physical items that need to be changed.
Carefully change your domain
If done improperly, you will absolutely tank search traffic to your site. Google has no way of knowing that “myfitmode.com” and “ataqfuel.com” are the same. We made sure to keep all of our high ranking content pages the same and implemented 301 redirects from every old URL to the new URL.
Plan your transition
To help ease the transition for the audience, we created a logo and packaging that says, “ATAQ by MODe.” This is gradually being phased out as more and more customers become comfortable with the new branding.
You don’t want to lose SEO value during your rebrand, so make sure to align your digital assets and plan for the details that are easy to overlook. If not, your rebrand may suffer the same fate as that of Maxwell-Scott. Julia Munder, Marketing Director, learned this the hard way during their rebrand. “We didn’t have any CRO or SEO checks in place. Big mistake, as we lost 60 percent of organic traffic nearly overnight.”
Image source: Nick Fewings