At some point, most businesses will know periods of growth and change; particularly those which experience fast expansion. As this happens, many brands find that the immediate, knee-jerk advice is to go with rebrands for continued growth. There are a few different methods for rebranding and a few different reasons for doing so. First, we’ll take a look at some of those reasons.

Reasons for Rebranding

Moving targets
This is an extremely valid reason for rebranding and can give a new lease of life to the business. Similarly, a brand may discover that, as it evolves, its target audience has changed, making the original branding irrelevant.

Rapid growth
It may be the case that, when you started out, you could only afford low-grade branding and, now that you’re making a bit of cash, you’ve decided to go for a more in-depth process.

Negative publicity
Today, it doesn’t take long for a brand’s reputation to be dragged through the mud in the news and on social media and, in these cases, a rebrand may be not just desirable but also necessary. The vision of a founder can only take the company so far — after which a strong and clearly defined brand strategy is necessary. Some good examples are Airbnb and Andersen Consulting (turned Accenture) who both tackled reputational crises by rebranding their operations.

Reaching a new market
In these troubled times, a lot of brands are forced to pivot their business in order to survive. In instances like this, the company may choose to either rebrand or create an offshoot brand to reflect this new product or service and to make it clear that, whilst connected to your original brand, it’s a different product or service.

Reinventing the wheel

There are no hard or fast rules when it comes to rebranding, however, there are two main ways of going about this:

Partial rebrand
Relatively inexpensive, this type of rebranding may involve a few simple changes, such as a new logo design or a new color palette, in order to communicate a new brand image. This can even be as simple as changing a font, say Helvetica to Rockwell. Partial rebrands are mostly on the surface, tackling just the visual identity.

Full rebrand
This method involves a complete brand overhaul and requires a commitment in terms of time and resources. More often than not, a full rebrand will include a new company name as well as a new logo, to make sure that the public is aware of the fact that product offerings or services may be very different. An example of a successful rebrand is the American giant, Radio Shack, that beat out the competition with a thoughtfully executed new business strategy.

Reset or rebrand?

Although it may seem pretty obvious, the first thing for a brand to decide is whether or not a rebrand is necessary or, in fact, a good idea. In order to make this decision, you need to look at your reasons for rebranding and ask the following questions:

Is my business outdated? Does your business no longer seem relevant for the target audience or the times that we are living in?

Do I want to reach new demographics? Do you feel that you would be able to expand your customer base with new brand elements?

Has my brand achieved all of its original goals? Do you feel that your brand no longer has anywhere left to go in its original form?

Has my brand suffered an identity crisis? Has something happened which may have turned customers against your brand?

If you can answer yes to one or more of these, it may be time to create a new brand. If, however, none of these apply to your business, then rebranding your company may actually do more harm than good.

The risks of rebranding

By changing your company culture, you often run the risk of causing more problems than you solve. In this section, we’ll take a look at some of the dangers you may face by rebranding:

Hit and miss
When planning a rebrand, you’ll be looking at brand specialists creating strategic plans for your new rebrand, including the name, logo, and all subsequent materials — which, needless to say, will be expensive. The rebranding process is often a long and complicated one, in which employees will revamp every element of the company’s public-facing branding. This can work brilliantly and give your business newly found respect and improved perception — except for when it doesn’t.

In today’s market, business is all about risk — and although some risk is inevitable, the old adage, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, still applies. With the best will in the world, the rebranding strategy that looks so good on paper may just fall flat when put into practice. A failed rebrand can be costly to a business in terms of money and reputation. For this reason, it’s important that, as we’ve already said, you thoroughly examine your reasons for rebranding before getting started.

Trust issues
For any brand, a loyal customer base is a thing to be treasured. Having a large number of customers buying from you regularly means that they like and trust your brand — and you may just be throwing that away by rebranding. With older customers, in particular, trust in a brand is everything and is the main reason why people will continue to buy from a particular vendor rather than trying something new. Because of this, you really need to follow the customer’s train of thought and ask yourself if your shiny rebrand will cause sheers or confusion. There’s a very real chance that your customers’ brand recognition will fail and that they simply won’t understand that your company is still supplying the same product or service that they have enjoyed in the past. If you’re still determined to go ahead with your plans, then you’ll need to put a marketing strategy in place, that will:

  • Achieve rebrand goals. For example, reaching new customers;
  • Reassure old customers that the product/quality remains the same;
  • Explain the reasons for the rebrand in terms that a customer will understand.

A good example of this in action is the fast-food stalwart, McDonald’s. Some years ago, the brand became aware of the fact that its food was perceived as fattening and unhealthy, particularly in the USA. Subsequently, McDonald’s launched a rebrand that retained elements of its original branding but included new ‘family-friendly’ slogans and healthier food options. As a result, the company is more successful than ever.

Crisis management
A brand that has suffered a reputational blow might be tempted to start again with a rebrand in order to move past its problems. This can backfire spectacularly if it’s not done thoughtfully and sensitively. When a change in the creme egg recipe saw customers turning away from buying, Nestle hatched a plan to revert to the original recipe with new branding. Unfortunately, the brand’s once-loyal customer base wasn’t convinced and sales of the eggs and its brand loyalty have never recovered since that time.

It is possible to recover from a crisis, as long as it’s presented honestly and with sensitivity. This involves:

  • An apology for the original incident or mistake;
  • An assurance of improvement;
  • An explanation as to why the rebrand is happening;
  • Transparency at every step of the process.

By following these guidelines, it is possible to regain the trust of your customers but you will need to be prepared to put in the work.

Ulterior motives

One of the big reasons that businesses state for rebranding is the desire to upscale their product or service. This can mean introducing higher-quality materials or simply making a product more luxurious in order to reach a new level of customers. Although this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s not without its dangers:

Old customers
If you have a loyal customer base, it’s unlikely that they’ll be thrilled to discover that the product they’ve been buying is now more expensive. Savvy customers tend to equate ‘new and improved’ with ‘heftier price tag’ and may end up boycotting your brand on a perceived principle.

New customers
If your brand is reasonably well-known, new customers may not be convinced by your rebrand. If a luxury customer has always seen your brand as ‘budget’, it may be more difficult for your rebrand to change their minds — but not impossible.

Winning over old and new customers with this kind of rebrand is tricky but not impossible. The key here is to explain exactly what changes have been made in order to justify any price increase. For example, your new product is now made with superior materials to make it last longer or more functional. Similarly, if you’ve added new features then you’ll want to make this clear in your marketing. A famous example of this would be KFC, formerly known as Kentucky Fried Chicken. After a series of PR disasters, the brand chose to go with a new name and logo in order to shake off the bad press. During the rebrand, KFC was upfront and honest in explaining to its customers the reasons behind the new look and, as a result, the brand was able to hang onto its existing customers as well as attract new ones.

Money, money, money

Whatever your reasons for rebranding and whichever method you decide to go for, it’s not going to be cheap. The costs of a rebrand tend to run so much higher than simply hiring a designer to change your logo. In terms of rebranding costs, you’ll need to budget for things like:

  • The services of a brand strategist;
  • The time-cost ratio of your team;
  • Legal costs, if a name change is involved;
  • The cost of new online domains;
  • The cost of new branded materials;
  • New packaging, if selling a physical product;
  • Implementation costs;
  • Losses in equity;
  • Marketing and advertising regarding the rebrand.

As well as budgeting for the above, you need to keep in mind the fact that it may take a little while for customers to get on board with your new identity. This means that there may be a period of time during which sales stagnate as customers get used to the new branding. You’ll also have to think about the fact that your business will be out of pocket if the rebrand doesn’t work.

To rebrand or not to rebrand?

Although I may have sounded a bit ‘doom and gloom’ in this article, rebranding can very much be the making of a business. Whether we like it or not, the business world is constantly evolving, and the business that makes no effort to keep up will, inevitably, be left behind.

Making the decision to rebrand is very much a personal one and involves examining a number of moving parts. You can minimize your risk of failure by being sure about your reasons for rebranding and being clear about the results you expect to achieve. In the age of social media, you might even consider reaching out to your customers to see what they think — who knows, they might just have some great ideas that’ll help turn your rebrand into a roaring success.

Cover image source: David Pisnoy