The Strategy Behind Rebranding

09.08.2016

Deciding that your product, service, or company needs a rebrand is exhilarating and terrifying at the same time.

On one hand, it’s exciting to know that the leadership of your company understands the value of branding and brand management, and also that they don't have the "this is the way that we’ve always done it” mindset that prevents businesses from evolving and progressing.

On the other hand, rebranding can be a massive undertaking, even for small companies, and without approaching your rebrand strategically, your business runs a significant risk of losing a lot of time, money, and market share.

Thankfully, you’re not the first company to go through a rebrand, and with the rise of technology, we have plenty of examples of both successful and lackluster campaigns from newer and long-standing companies alike to guide us through the dos and don'ts of rebranding.

Before we start digging into the more in-depth strategies, let’s start off with the most important step in getting your rebrand off on the right foot: understanding the true definition of branding.

Before we start digging into the more in-depth strategies, let’s start off with the most important step in getting your rebrand off on the right foot: understanding the true definition of branding.

Understand the True Definition of Branding

Since the process of rebranding will most likely involve more than the brand manager, it’s paramount that everyone participating in the project, from the UX designers to the copywriters to the director of sales, has a thorough understanding of the definition of a brand.

So, what is it?

Well, there’s no cut-and-dry answer as a brand is a fluid and ever-evolving entity, but it most certainly is not your logo. The design is only a small piece of the puzzle.

According to branding expert, Seth Godin, “A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.”

As you can see, this means that even if your rebrand is focused solely on renewing your company’s visual aesthetic, like Microsoft’s logo revamp back in 2012, brand elements such as your mission, core values, and the needs of your audience all need to be at the forefront of every branding change. Here is how to set up your rebrand:

Determine What Your Rebrand Will Accomplish

We all know that going through the process of rebranding, which can be highly expensive, needs to ultimately boost the bottom line for it to be a worthwhile effort.

However, if your rebrand is approached primarily from the angle of, “how will this increase our sales?” chances are your leadership team will not see a return on their investment.

That’s because rebranding is a strategic move that can be executed to accomplish many things such as repositioning your brand in the marketplace or incorporating your brand into a new architecture after an acquisition or merger, for example.

Both of these goals are going to vary widely in the tactics used, which is why having a blanket statement of increasing profit isn’t enough to drive a rebranding effort.

When Old Spice rebranded their line of men’s body wash, they aimed to revitalize the connection with their target audience. However, based on their research, they found that it would be more strategic to appeal to women because they account for 50% of body wash purchases. After rebranding and crafting a campaign that spoke to women rather than men, their witty and clever campaign went viral and quickly repositioned them back in the spotlight of the marketplace for men’s personal care items.

Old Spice’s rebrand proves that when you embark on a rebrand strategically by focusing on what you hope to accomplish, the sales will follow soon after.

Talk with Your Target Audience

According to Marty Neumeier, author of The Brand Gap: How to Bridge the Distance Between Business Strategy and Design, “Your brand is not what you say it is. It is what they say it is.”

“They" being your target audience and dream clients and customers.

Audience research in the form of surveys, focus groups, and conducting interviews with your key stakeholders, or most loyal customers will provide some of the best insights as to what specific elements of your brand need to be changed. You'll also find out why something's not working for your customers and what can be improved, as well as the best ways you can communicate those changes by learning the specific language your customers use to describe your brand.

Although this element of a rebrand can take up significant time and resources, the benefits far outweigh the costs in what you find out by actually talking to your audience rather than assuming what you think they’ll like, want, and buy.

Hone in on Your Differentiation

Based on the definition of branding above, you know that identifying and communicating the differentiation point of your brand is critical for mobilizing a consumer to choose your brand over a competitor’s.

Without clear differentiation for the consumer, there’s nothing that leads them to believe that being a customer of your brand should be their preferred choice.

A classic example of differentiation between brands is examining Target and Walmart. Both brands sell a variety of everyday items at low prices. However, Walmart’s mission is “Saving people money so they can live better.” and Target’s brand promise is “Expect More. Pay Less.®”

Can you spot the distinction? Target wants you to expect more from your shopping experience despite the fact that their prices are low.

This messaging strategy positions their brand in a unique space where consumers equate Target’s low prices with quality rather than cheapness. Furthermore, they carry out their differentiation point of “expect more” through their overall customer experience with superior customer service and their store design, which is brighter, cleaner and more pleasant than their rival brand, Walmart.

Find the crux of what makes your brand different and amplify it to gain leverage on the reason why your audience should choose you over your competitors.

Explore Other Industries

Shifting away from looking at how you can differentiate yourself from competitors, it’s equally important to avoid tunnel vision on your competition, and turn your focus on other industries instead.

Examine what strategies they’re using to connect with their audience in a meaningful way, decipher how they’re differentiating themselves from their competition in the marketplace, find out what it is about their brand that gets their clients and customers excited.

Is it the product or service they’re offering? Is it their method of delivering their product or service? Their business model? Or intelligent brand messaging and advertising campaigns?

When we take our eyes off of our competitors and turn them to other successful brands that have a large following and stake in their industry, we’re able to look through the lens of research rather than comparison.

This practice allows us to glean insight and successfully apply strategies to the rebrand of our companies without risking copying our competitors or pigeon-holing ourselves in useless ideas and methodologies within our familiar industries.

Communicate Changes Clearly

Arguably the most important strategy in rebranding behind understanding the definition of branding is communicating your rebrand clearly and effectively to your audience.

Fail to do this and you can create a lot of confusion or anger for your audience, which could end up in losing them for good.

For example, when Gap revamped their logo in 2010, the change didn’t last long as their audience was less than pleased (i.e. enraged) with their unimpressive new design. It’s also worth mentioning that this result could have been avoided had Gap’s brand management team talked to their audience before the re-design.

In a case study for one Aeolidia’s client rebranding projects, they emphasize the importance of planting the seeds and communicating change with your current customers.

“As you’re working on getting everything dialed in behind the scenes, the goal in front of the scenes is to inform and build momentum!”

This means cluing in your email subscribers, social media followers, customers that changes are coming and explaining how these changes will make their life or experience with you better, and when they can expect to see them.

Done effectively, clear communication surrounding your rebrand defuses confusion and creates excitement, two things you want to have on our side as you navigate the ongoing change that comes after a rebranding reveal.

In Summary

Rebranding any aspect of your business, whether it’s your name or logo, or an entire product or service line, requires strategy, careful planning and sharp execution for a favorable reception from your audience.

To help in these efforts, we developed Frontify Style Guide to be the one-stop collaborative tool that makes the process of rebranding and creating brand guidelines a heck of a lot easier. Learn more about it here.

Regardless of how long your company has been established or how big your team is, a strong strategy is the ultimate tool for ensuring that your rebrand results in the emotional connection and stories that build the bridge for life-long relationships with your customers.

Roger Dudler
Roger Dudler CTO at Frontify
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