Congrats! You have diligently crafted a strong brand strategy. You’ve parlayed that strategy into core messaging and an on-target visual identity. You’ve been cruising along, doing business and making customers happy.
So when is the right time to rebrand? And more importantly, when is the wrong time?
GOOD REASONS TO REBRAND:
· Change in the audience you serve – your existing brand is no longer relevant to the buying customer you seek. Talbot’s is a great example of not keeping up with the changing tastes of their target customer and in essence, the brand “grew older” as their customers did. They finally took drastic steps – cutting lines, revamping merchandising – to get back in touch with their customer.
· Change in the core benefits or value that you offer – you may have launched thinking that you were doing a, b and c for people but after all these years, you have gotten feedback that they actually come to you for x, y and z. Remember Avon’s Skin So Soft lotion? Customers found many other benefits to using it, including as a very effective bug repellant, so they started marketing all the different uses of the product.
· Change in the products or service mix you offer – I’m not talking about adding new products or services under a consistent brand umbrella (same market, same benefits, same promise). I’m talking about you used to sell computer equipment and now you sell technical consulting. With a shift in what you sell, comes a shift in what you offer and potentially, to whom you offer it. You can either rebrand or build a completely new brand. Arthur Andersen, the formerly prestigious accounting firm, did this back in the day by spinning off their management consulting services away from their core accounting arm into Andersen Consulting (now Accenture). GAP did this, too. GAP has their core brand (GAP), a higher-end brand to a slightly older demo (Banana Republic) and a lower-end, trendy, better price-point brand (Old Navy)
· Change in competitive landscape – when you built your brand, it was as a white-space opportunity vis a vis your competition. When the competition changes, you need to adapt. And I don’t mean when they change their logo: I mean, are they fundamentally offering something different or telling a different story? Or has the industry become commoditized and now everyone looks and talks the same? Maybe you need to zig when they zag. Southwest Airlines saw an opportunity to break out of the monotonous airline industry landscape and changed the way we look at flying – soon followed by Jet Blue and Virgin America (who both upped the ante a bit more).
· Change in customer behavior – have the needs of your core ideal customer changed? If so, you need to either adapt your audience or adapt your brand. J Crew has added new lines such as bridal, evening wear and more accessories because that is what their customers demanded.
· Change in market dynamics – has the market changed? If so, you need to adapt or risk seeming behind the times. Walmart updated their logo and positioning to keep up with Target while still staying focused on low pricing during the recession. Microsoft is making great strides in Search with Bing and Cloud Computing (both in response to Google) and reacting to Apple’s market dominance with an alternate way to look at our cell phones with Windows Phone.
· Change in the times – do your logo and colors created in 2001 look like they were created in 2001? Are you using outdated terminology in your messaging? For example, sooner or later, people, using Web 2.0 is not gonna be cool anymore – if it’s not already. Hopefully your look and feel is more timeless than that, but perhaps your brand is “cutting edge, modern and fresh” in which case you went with what fit that definition at the time. Now, that might seem old and could be communicating something you don’t want customers to hear. Many brands do this – with varying degrees of success – and can be found on Brand New. Everything from sports teams to corporations are reviewed here. Sometimes you absolutely need to do this, but be careful how you go about it. You never know what emotional attachments people have to the brandmark – or if you’re just trying to fix a different brand problem you have with a new logo. How can we not mention the recent GAP debacle with their “new” logo that caused a furor, prompting them to return to their old one right away? Although methinks this was a desperate PR stunt and proof that some brand issues run deeper than just tweaking a logo. GAP has more fundamental issues – merchandise options, pricing all over the map, schizo competitive positioning (are they competing with H&M or J Crew?) – that a new logo won’t quite make go away, as much as they’d like.
BAD REASONS TO REBRAND
· Because you’re bored of your brand after 6 months – you need to give it time to stick and mean something to people.
· Because your competitor did something really cool – maybe they did what was right for their brand. If you just follow others all the time, you will soon be relegated to a “me too” brand. Just because they turned their logo green, doesn’t mean you should. Too many tech companies do this, to the point that we’ve plotted this on charts for clients and grouped competitors by how they look alike. And then they wonder why they have no brand awareness amongst the competition. Hint: IBM blue is not the only option: there is a whole color palette out there, people.
· Because one customer told you they didn’t like what you were doing – you’ll drive yourself crazy if you react to every outlying opinion or complaint. However, when you get many of the same complaints, that’s a trend, my friend, and you need to do something. For example, when Tropicana rebranded in 2009 they caught heat from customers who universally hated the new look and also couldn’t tell the difference between flavors easily. This deluge made them go back to their old branding look.
· Because you’re blindly chasing a trend – unless something makes sense for your customer, your market and what your business can authentically deliver at its core, don’t go there. Be true to yourself, your promise and your target customers.