If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it, right? Maybe. When it comes to a brand, just because you’ve been doing something a certain way for years doesn’t mean that’s how it should remain. But rebranding could help you reach new audiences, increase engagement, and build your story (especially if it’s changed). And rebranding in a crisis requires quick thinking, lots of research, and a reevaluation of what makes your brand tick.
The purpose of rebranding
Rebranding entails changing the corporate image of your already-established brand. This could mean something as little as a logo revamp or a complete refresh. Within the rebranding world, there are two types: proactive and reactive.
Proactive rebranding occurs when you recognize your brand has an opportunity “ to grow, innovate, tap into new businesses or customers, and to reconnect with its users.” This is especially useful when you keep your finger on the market’s pulse and anticipate trends before they happen.
Reactive rebranding occurs when you are responding to a change or discontinuation of your existing brand. The novel Coronavirus could be a crisis situation that warrants reactive rebranding, for example. Especially if the type of service or product you offered in the past does not meet current (and supposed future) requirements.
Regardless of the motivation, the purpose of a rebrand is to “create a different identity for a brand, from its competitors, in the market.”
When to seek a rebrand
Besides recognizing a proactive or reactive situation, there are a few telltale signs that your company could benefit from a rebrand. One way to recognize these is to ask yourself the following questions:
Does my brand stand out among competitors?
No one markets their product to be the same as their competitors purposefully. That’s just bad business. However, with so many competitors on the market for any given industry, sometimes this happens without you even realizing it. When auditing to see if your brand stands apart from competitors, ask yourself if your idea is fresh, if your products or services are innovative, and if you are communicating this both visually and verbally in an authentic way.
Do we come across as outdated or tone-deaf?
If you’ve been around for a minute (read: a decade or more), it might be time for a refresh. That’s not to say that you need to give up on the core values or imagery that your customers know and love. Avoid that sort of brand suicide. But you do need to consider if your customers have begun to outgrow you or find your messaging and imagery outdated, stuffy, or tone-deaf––like Land O Lakes dropping their iconic and controversial image. These considerations are especially important in the unprecedented time we find ourselves in. Just be sure that you do your research before you modernize.
Has our mission or audience changed?
As a company ages, its mission or audience scope sometimes changes pretty drastically. This might be especially true if you began as a bootstrapped startup and are now a major corporation. Your core values might stay the same, but your overall mission could have expanded. If you find yourself in this position, “you may need to realign your brand so it accurately reflects your new mission or product offerings.”
Do we need to overcome a bad reputation?
While un-fun to talk about, bad PR happens. Sometimes, your brand makes a mistake or becomes associated with something that you never intended. “An environmental scandal, hidden data breach or a lawsuit,” for example, could be enough to make your brand infamous. For this reason, talk to your audience. Find out how you need to change and make these changes, both internally and externally.
Rebranding on its own is no small undertaking. But rebranding amid a crisis is an entirely different beast. As we mentioned, the main motivation behind such a rebrand is likely reactive to the changing times and sentiments. However, if your competitors are still sitting on their haunches, you could definitely still be in the proactive rebranding category.
Regardless, a crisis is situational and sometimes unavoidable. Right now we find ourselves in the middle of a global pandemic that has impacted every single industry, good (i.e. toilet paper) or bad. As a brand during any crisis, you need to do the following: address the situation immediately, find immediate steps you can take, consider whether a rebrand is necessary or not, “go back to basics,” and put your plan into motion. Remember that “any rebranding must be a reflection of – not the driver of – this changed customer expectation.” It’s also worth noting that your customers are likely stressed, angry, or frustrated so crisis rebranding should be done with total transparency and authenticity.
Pros and cons of rebranding
If you’ve taken quick action during a crisis, rebranding might make the most sense for your brand. But if you’re a detail-oriented marketer, you should also consider these pros and cons.
One of rebranding’s biggest pros is the ability to reach a new audience. Maybe, for you, this means getting to millennials and Gen-Zers with a new voice in social media. Or marketing your product to benefit Boomers during the pandemic and beyond. Rebranding allows you the opportunity to increase engagement. After you’ve completed your rebrand, you can then spread the word through your channels. And “you can show existing and potential customers what is great about the changes you are making, and why you are making them.”
Another pro? Rebranding helps you build your story. Loyal customers flock to a brand that gives them consistency and trust. When you rebrand, you can keep the elements your fans love the most, but can also strengthen your story, shed off your flaws, and “shrug off the stigma.”
Confusion can be one of the biggest downfalls in a rebrand. Even when you do your research beforehand, you may find that you lose customers or frustrate those used to your past image and brand experience. Luckily, you can help this “by publishing press releases, posting announcements to social media and sending email newsletters.”
Rebranding can also be a very expensive task. When you make the change, “every altered element has to be transferred across all marketing channels…to keep the new brand image consistent.” All of which can result in a very large bill.
Lastly, rebranding makes it hard to go back to original concepts if it turns out to be a big fail. Not to mention the cost associated with changing everything back again. A simple fix for this con is to do your research and talk to your audience before you make permanent changes.
If you’ve established a motivation to rebrand and think your pros outweigh the cons, now it’s time to put it into action. By following the below tips, you are setting your brand up for success when you relaunch the changes.
Do your research
Research is not only informative. It can mean the difference between success and failure. When starting a rebrand, talk to your employees and shareholders first and get their opinions and ideas. Then turn to your customers. You can survey them on social media or via your website or eNews. Your objective “is to find out what your current brand perception and competencies are from the consumer mind.” Assessing your competitors is also part of well-rounded research. See what other brands are doing, how they’re being received, and if what you’re proposing is different enough.
Start with strategy
Rebranding can be complex, especially if you’re doing more than revamping your logo. A rebranding strategy should include what elements you’re rebranding, who your target audience will be (and if it’s changed), why you’re rebranding, and your proposed execution. Something that will help keep the process smooth is to “designate members of your team to be in charge of each area.”
Communicate with your audience
We doubt that your goal in rebranding is to lose essential audience members. Which is why you need to communicate with them throughout the process. It might seem like a good idea to suddenly spring your new look and messaging on them but think again. As a customer, would you appreciate that? When you let customers know that a rebrand is coming and the motivation for it (i.e., the changing landscape from coronavirus), they can prepare and become for about the changes. Better yet, involve them in the process (surveys coming in clutch again).
Keep it consistent and relevant
Maybe most importantly is keeping consistency throughout the rebrand. You’re not making an entirely new company. You’re simply upgrading and elevating an existing one. Keep core elements the same even if your mission and audience have changed. This also goes for keeping all rebrand messaging consistent throughout your website and social media. It’s your job to cut through the confusion and make the rebrand make sense. As for keeping it relevant, look to the times. If you’re rebranding amid a global pandemic, keep the tone appropriate.
Successful case studies
Some of our favorite rebrands became instant classics after they altered their image and messaging. They each saw flaws in their current, outdated images, did their research, and brought something unique to the market.
Most people now associate Old Spice with Isaiah Mustafa’s shirtless hilarity. Not the outdated (originally for women) fragrance it was before. The company didn’t redo their logo––keeping what they knew was instantly recognizable given their long history. Instead, they “changed people’s impressions of Old Spice by using someone young, fun and attractive” and adding humor,
Since their rebrand, Burberry is associated with high-class English elegance worn by celebrities and models. Yet before the rebrand, Burberry was considered frumpy and was even associated with gang wear. The brand’s creative director Christopher Bailey said of the 150-year old brand: “Burberry is about heritage, but about making that heritage relevant for today.”
UPS’s rebrand motivation was born of its competition with FedEx. The delivery brand crafted an entirely new slogan (“What can brown do for you?”) and ads with characters like Mailroom Guy. Their strategy, to “remind customers of the ways UPS can meet their needs,” made their rebrand a success. And changed them from boring to innovative.
The rebrands that started after Black Lives Matter protests broke out in June 2020 over George Floyd’s murder are just starting to go into effect. And some brands have been more proactive than others. A notable change came from the band Lady Antebellum, who changed their name to Lady A to disassociate with the slavery era. Other changes followed from food brands like Quaker who committed to rebranding Aunt Jemima entirely, from the name and image to its racist undertones. Honorable mention goes to Band-Aid which (finally) announced “racially diverse bandages.” For many of these brands, it took a movement for them to realize their messaging and naming was tone-deaf––and to take action.
Now’s the time
Rebranding during a crisis is a big undertaking for some brands. Whether your brand needs to update its image or to reach a new and changing audience, a rebrand can help to meet the needs of your customers and stay relevant. At Savy, we know a thing or two about rebranding. And during a pandemic and global movement? We love a challenge.
Thank you for all the insights. I found it really useful for my first campaign.