During the course of a business or company's lifespan, it often undergoes several iterations, some better than others. As the market changes, a business must adapt accordingly, and unless it was built with change in mind, any deviation from the norm can leave business managers scrambling for answers.
Rebranding is not a new idea, although lately it has become something of a buzzword. As we find ourselves in the midst of the digital age, many longtime businesses are having to change their look and feel in order to accommodate the changing environment. However, issues arise during these times of change, because there are no hard and fast rules for rebranding a business. Worse yet, many businesses start a rebranding campaign for all the wrong reasons.
So here's 3 essential tips for rebranding that should act as something of a foundation when you begin to undertake the process. It doesn't have to be obscure or arduous as long as you begin in the right place.
1. Know Why You are Rebranding
Rebranding isn't something that should be done on a whim. What exactly are you trying to accomplish by rebranding? Do you want to attract new clients? Are there new products you want to advertise or new demographics you want to reach? It is important in the infancy of any rebranding campaign that you do some self-reflection and research. Look into the reasons why you think your business needs to be overhauled in such a way. Acquire some hard data - don't do this off of gut instinct alone or you and your team will be scratching your heads, wondering why you have no direction.
Your business is only as strong as the purpose it exists for - think about that for a second. Your products, your message, these are the reasons why your business exists. Start from a client-first mentality and slowly build up imagery and substance around it. You'll find that your rebranding campaign will automatically take shape when you have the right data to make judgment calls from.
It might not be a bad idea to conduct surveys or utilize focus groups if the campaign is large enough. Rebranding can have huge consequences for your business. Remember always that your brand communicates a constant message to your clients and customers. What kind of message do you want to send? Over the last decade we've seen both highly successful rebranding attempts by major businesses, while we've also seen rebranding attempts that have tanked. Hershey's and Netflix are two companies that decided on a more flat, minimalist brand image and ended up with backlash and consumer confusion. If something works, don't follow a trend just to follow it. Your rebranding should be about communicating a fresh message to your clients, not simply hopping on a bandwagon because you see everyone else doing it. The "flat design" craze is going to be passe a couple years from now anyway, and then they might be forced to rebrand once again.
2. Continuity is the Key
It's noble to say you want to transform your business model or switch up your branding, and done responsibly, this can net a positive result. However, it is easy to get lost in this process. Far too often, rebranding means "let's blow it up." Just because it might be easier to start from scratch on some aspects of your business's imagery, doing so will often have unforeseen results on your overall market reach. Branding, after all, relies primarily on client and customer perception. From this perspective, a rebranding project isn't so much about what you might personally believe is a good new look for your business, but what is the natural next step for your business to remain competitive and relevant in regards to its base.
This is the kind of outside-the-box wisdom that is easy to forget about when you get the urge to take another direction. Remember that whatever the end product is, it needs to be connected to what came before it, otherwise you stand a great risk of confusing your client base and breaking their connection with your brand. If your new logo does not impart the same energy of your original, you could very well lose people. This is a very real issue, one that often blindsides businesses, even ones with long histories that should know better. In fact, some rebranding efforts go so far out to left field, that they do much more to harm the brand image than to help it. If your new imagery doesn't organically follow from the old, it will almost surely give off the wrong impression.
It is easy to dismiss the subjectivity of consumer opinion as something that should be led by the brand, but wisdom tells us that it is often the other way around. A smart business listens to its base, and adjusts accordingly. If the general feel of a business is fine in the minds and eyes of its consumers, rebranding is likely not what's needed. The most important factor of the rebranding process is continuity. How well does the look and feel of the brand emerge from the old, how well does it form a bridge so that its clients and customers may walk across. If you don't supply the bridge, don't expect everyone to find a way to follow you.
3. Have a Gameplan in Place
Don't put pressure on yourself or your team to perform a full rebranding in a small amount of time. Chances are if there's an issue large enough to warrant a rebranding in the first place, it will warrant careful planning and strategy in order to address properly as well.
First and foremost, market research is a must, and this can be a process that spans several weeks. You should get the advice of branding professionals and designers who gel with your ideas, form a team, and start hashing out a plan. Is this just about the logo or will the entire visual message of the business get changed? Does the website need to look more modern or does the storefront? Weak tagline or textual messages on the website or on other branding materials? Write down exactly what needs to be changed and why, then go from there.
After the foundations of the gameplan have been thoroughly investigated, start planning out what will be done in phases. Making an instant switch is not only impractical, it can affect how your customers view the business. Start making small adjustments and record customer feedback. Get your base involved and run a few polls, incorporate them into the process. This is one common tactic businesses use to ease a transition process. Don't be afraid to take your time during every aspect of the rebranding. Spending a month longer than you would like to get this off the ground will pay dividends when the alternative is a confusing brand message that has to be retracted. If you have a solid plan in place that takes your clients and customers into account, even if the branding doesn't work out, you will be better prepared to backstep or adjust, and there will be much less chance for confusion over the message being sent.
Putting it all Together
Your brand is the sum of your reputation others have of you, their perception of your value as it exists in the market. As your going through your rebranding, get continuous input from others, including friends. Ask them what your core strengths or greatest assets are. You're on the right track if this is an easy question for people to answer, because a muddied message will instantly show up in your branding. You need to be clear and concise, and there is no better way to tell if that is the case than from consumers themselves. The world wants to hear what you have to say as a company, and branding is the means by which you accomplish this. The work involved in rebranding may seem daunting, but the results of a proper rebranding campaign can pay off in spades if you are able to better communicate the message of your business. Your unique brand message separates you from the pack, giving customers a way to internalize what you are all about without going into a long-winded explanation. This is invaluable in our over-saturated society. Rebranding is about clear communication. As long as you remember that, your campaign will stay on the right track.
Photo credit: Treasure Keep
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