There are various reasons why an organization may find itself in a position where it is considering a rebrand. If you are considering rebranding your organization, start with an understanding of the business need behind the rebrand. Do you need to accelerate growth? Have you been subject to a merger or made a significant acquisition? Are you hovering between being a mid-sized and large organization and need to position yourself to compete with businesses more sizeable than your current competitive set?
Before launching into a comprehensive rebrand, you need to understand the business problem you are trying to solve and realistically assess whether a rebrand can effectively address your challenges. Broadly, the business reasons that may trigger a rebrand can be divided into two classifications: proactive and reactive.
Preparing for growth: If you are a business teetering on the edge of rapid expansion, a rebrand can help position your organization for growth. It can act as a signal to your customers, competitors and stakeholders that you are here, you are ready, and you have the momentum to drive your company forward.
New strategic direction: If you are preparing a strategic plan that will change the future direction of your organization, a rebrand can help communicate this new intent to your market.
New product or service offering: If you have added a new product or service to your business offering that has changed the focus of your organization, a rebrand may act as a circuit breaker to signal to your audiences that your offering has changed.
New audience: You may find yourself in a situation where you are marketing your products and services to audiences that were not previously relevant to your organization.
Finding talent: Despite the recent economic downturn, Canada continues to enjoy low unemployment, and financial services companies continue to struggle to attract and retain top talent. Rebranding your organization can position you to attract candidates who, in the past, may not have considered your organization as a prospective employer.
Relevance: As your organization grows, your markets expand, and new challengers enter your competitive set, you may find your sales are declining or your current brand is looking dated and your brand story lacks relevance to your target audience. A rebrand can be an opportunity to revitalize and modernize your brand positioning in line with the expectations of a rapidly evolving market.
Merger or acquisition: If you have recently made a significant acquisition or been part of a merger that changed the strategic intent of your business, you will need to rebrand to reflect the different intentions of your newly expanded organization. In this situation, a rebrand can act as a unifier for your new team, and can launch your new company or new structure to your external audiences.
Reaction to recent growth: Sometimes businesses experience periods of rapid growth and find that, over time, their business strategy and brand strategy are no longer aligned – in a sense, that the brand has been left behind. Their brands start to collide in different channels and against different customers, and their customer segmentation is no longer clear. In situations like this, it is often also the case that the internal culture has drifted away from the organization’s aspiration.
Changing business environment: The introduction of new industry regulations or a new competitor in your market can rapidly alter your ability to compete and can very quickly make your brand appear dated and irrelevant. In such a situation, an assessment and review of your brand positioning can help reinvigorate your organization internally, and can communicate a new sense of innovation and energy to your customers, allowing you to compete more effectively.
Trademarking or legal issues: From time to time, trademarking or other legal issues may arise and necessitate a rebrand. An example of this might be a Canadian business expanding to the US, where its current name may already be trademarked and unavailable for use. If this should happen, seek the advice of trademarking lawyers to ensure that you protect your rights to use your new brand name and logo on an ongoing basis.
Negative publicity: A worst-case scenario is when your organization is embroiled in a controversy so significant that you need to rebrand to demonstrate to the market that you have moved on from the contentious situation and are ready to begin rebuilding trust with your stakeholders and customers.
REFRESH, DON’T REBRAND
In some situations, you may not need to rebrand; you may simply need to refresh or strengthen your existing brand.
Reacting to a sales decrease: Broadly, it is unlikely that a decline in sales can be solely attributed to brand. Similarly, rebranding alone will not necessarily fix a sales challenge. However, declining sales may be in response to recent negative publicity or new challengers in the market, and may signal the need for an organizational strategic shift.
Low brand awareness: Low brand awareness alone is not a reason to rebrand. You may simply need to invest in educating your customers and prospects about your brand and the benefits it can offer. On the other hand, low brand awareness may be one symptom of a broader relevancy challenge, and may be a sign that a rebrand is needed.
WHEN NOT TO REBRAND
It is generally not advisable to rebrand if you have launched a new brand within the past three years. Building a depth of understanding and trust in a brand takes time, and brands that are continually changing and reinventing themselves can risk not being taken seriously by their target audiences. Additionally, rebranding can also be a costly process, so a reasonable ROI is difficult to obtain over a shortened period.
If your organization does not genuinely meet one of the criteria for needing a rebrand listed on the previous page, consider why you are pursuing a rebrand. Minor tweaks to the logo could achieve the revitalized look and feel you are seeking, or an innovative new marketing strategy or brand communication campaign might help you stand out from your competitors without requiring the complexity and cost of a true rebrand.
Finally, a rebrand will not help you to grow and prosper if it doesn’t reflect a genuine change within your organization. A rebrand alone cannot turn a poorly performing firm into a market leader. All a rebrand will do is to create a polished and professional-looking version of a poorly performing firm, and the market will see through the guise almost instantly.
Paul Nelson is managing director of BrandMatters. He is an accomplished international marketer with more than 20 years of marketing and brand management experience obtained in a diverse range of industries.