When’s the Right Time to Rebrand? Five Signs You Should Consider a Refresh
Ah, the big rebrand. It’s a process that all kinds of companies—from small and medium-sized businesses to major corporations—have tackled. Rebranding is a powerful strategy that can bring your business to the next level or save it from obscurity, but at the foundation of every successful rebranding initiative needs to be a solid reason for the rebrand. Knowing when it’s time to rebrand is the first step in strengthening your brand for the future.
Looking Past the Logo
Before we go into the key reasons for rebranding, though, it’s important that we’re on the same page as to what branding actually is.
Like in most decisions, the customer should be top of mind when it comes to branding. It’s easy to fall under the assumption that branding is just about updating your logo. After all, countless rebrands often involve a company proudly announcing a new visual look. But the true power of a brand comes from how your customers actually perceive you, not how you want to be perceived.
As Scott Cook, co-founder of Intuit, said, “A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is — it is what consumers tell each other it is.” Your brand is not defined by you. It’s defined by your customers. Effective branding, then, is when what you want people to think of your company and what they actually think are aligned.
This alignment is best supported by brand consistency. The risks of ignoring brand consistency are high. Inconsistent branding is like sending out mixed signals. It leads to confusion and distrust, which damages your brand image and reputation.
On the other hand, when all aspects of your brand—from your visual identity to your message to your positioning—are consistently presented, then the customer is more likely to see your brand the way you want them to. Effective branding is dependent on consistent branding.
In addition to effective branding, you want to have a strong brand in comparison to your competitors. When all's said and done, there’s no benefit to having your customer accurately perceive your brand if they just end up going to a competitor instead. Branding strategies need to consider both consumer perceptions and competitive advantages.
Once you define branding as how you are perceived by your customers in comparison to your competition, then the value of rebranding—or changing that public perception—becomes clear. At the end of the day, how someone sees your brand is a force that directly impacts your bottom line.
When Should you Consider a Rebrand?
Ultimately, you want your target customers to choose you over your competitors. If how you want to be seen isn’t aligning with how consumers actually view you or if you’re having trouble differentiating your brand from competitors, it’s likely time for some rebranding.
Here are five signs you should consider rebranding.
1. You’ve “glowed up,” but your branding hasn’t
A good problem to have in our book! Sometimes, growth or change happens in a way that outpaces one’s brand. When your branding no longer accurately reflects your business’ current iteration, rebranding should definitely be considered.
Maybe you’re in the same position Apple found itself in in 2007 and need your brand to reflect your expansion. After years of innovating, Apple Computer renamed itself to be Apple, Inc. the same year that it added the Apple TV and iPhone to its offerings. Not only did the new name better reflect Apple’s business, but it was a clear message to customers that it would no longer be defined by its computer products.
Or perhaps there’s been a change in the business model that necessitates a more fitting brand. In the technology space, not many brands have undergone as many dramatic business changes as Nokia. Originally a paper mill in the late 1800s, the brand has undergone several rebrands as it adapted its business model and strategies over time. These changes allowed Nokia to survive from its origins as a 19th-century paper mill through years in the industrial sectors and then eventually as its modern iteration as a technology brand.
Needing to rebrand because your business is growing and changing is a great situation to be in, but don’t make the mistake of waiting too long to start the process. If your business is showing signs of outgrowing your brand, start taking those first exploratory steps in rebranding.
2. It’s been a hot minute since you’ve rebranded—and people can tell
It’s a tale as old as time. You’ve been working hard, perfecting the details of your business. Next thing you know, years have gone by and your brand’s suddenly looking very outdated. Whether we like it or not, change is inevitable. As the world continues to spin forward, brands that don’t keep up get left behind.
Over the years, your customers’ perception of your brand is likely to change with the times. What was once cool or clever can quickly become obsolete or offensive before you know it.
Burger King, which recently went through its first rebrand in over twenty years, is one example of a higher-level rebrand. The fast-food brand cited a need to move away from its old imagery and upgrade its brand to fit what customers prefer today.
Debbie Millman, who was on the team that designed the previous 1999 logo, agreed with the change to Insider: “Swooshes and gradients were all the rage back then … I think people are craving less manufactured shine in the construction of logos and experiences, and prefer more straightforward honest identities now.”
Aunt Jemima, on the other hand, is a food brand that underwent a much more dramatic rebranding when it was renamed as Pearl Milling Company. As cultural standards evolved, it became necessary for the breakfast company to move its brand away from the negative foundations upon which Aunt Jemima was built.
Originally inspired by minstrel shows and rooted in a racial stereotype, the company made the decision to rethink its brand’s visual identity, messaging, and entire brand story in order to keep up with changes in society.
To stay ahead of the curve, be sure to regularly analyze elements of your branding to see whether it needs an update to stay culturally relevant. While changes in a logo or imagery may be the most common, don’t shy away from reviewing deeper levels of your company, such as its brand story or mission, for signs of outdatedness.
3. The competition’s looking a lil different
Feeling like you no longer recognize your competition? Maybe new brands are popping up everywhere or technology is changing the way competing companies are doing things. When there are changes in the competitive landscape, your original branding may no longer be effective in encouraging consumers to choose you over your competitors.
If you’re finding yourself struggling to stay competitive, a rebranding can be used to reposition your business and differentiate itself from the other players.
Take Match’s recent rebranding, for example. In recent years, the twenty-five-year-old dating site found itself among a plethora of new competition. With the onset of dating apps centered around “swiping,” Match needed to elevate itself among new popular players like Tinder and Hinge.
With that purpose in mind, the brand’s rebranding efforts strategically repositioned itself as a “beloved service rather than a convenient game.” Its new brand elements, including an updated mission, strategy, and visual identity, worked together to consistently reflect Match’s “intimate and inviting” experience in contrast to the quick & exhausting nature of modern dating apps.
4. You’re making new friends in new places
That is, you’re going after a new target market! Since branding is ultimately about how your customers perceive you, if there’s been some kind of change in your customer base, then a rebranding may be necessary.
A change in the target market could come from a strategic decision on the company end. For example, your brand may have plans to expand into a new geographical location or serve a new demographic. A rebrand would be an effective way to communicate that change so that you could reach that new market.
Alternatively, your customer base could naturally evolve into something new. In this case, the decision would be between whether you want to adjust your brand to better align with this new market or to realign it with your intended audience.
Coach, for example, found itself struggling to stay relevant as its main customer base started aging up. Its intended target market of young fashionable women consumers instead found the brand to be outdated and its signature icon bags simply uncool. In 2013, the fashion brand underwent a major rebrand that affected its positioning, product designs, and more. The transformation proved successful as it started to see the fruits of its labor and was labeled as “cool again” just a few years later.
5. There’s been a merger or acquisition
Finally, rebrandings are often needed when you’re joining together different brands. Even those Marvel superheroes had to rebrand as the Avengers when they teamed up, right?
With mergers, the process is necessary to define what the new entity looks like as a whole, while rebranding after an acquisition may be essential in smoothly integrating the acquired brand into the acquiring company. Ideally, the positive identities of each brand come together to form an even stronger brand.
Starbucks is one iconic brand that got its start from an acquisition. When Howard Schultz visited Milan and saw how popular espresso bars were there, he hoped to create a similar coffeehouse culture in Seattle. He convinced the founders of Starbucks, which at the time focused on selling coffee beans, to test out the concept. The experiment was a success, but when the founders decided not to expand it further, Schultz ventured out and founded Il Giornale in 1985.
Two years later, Il Giornale acquired Starbucks. The rebranding involved maintaining the Starbucks name and imagery, but incorporating the coffeehouse concept and updating other visual elements. The end result was the iconic coffee chain that utilized the concept of “the third place” to its advantage.
How a Branding Agency Can Help
While rebranding can be a powerful tool, it shouldn’t be taken lightly.
With all the time, effort, and money that’s needed for a rebranding project, you don’t want to waste a single drop of your resources. Being aware of the situations where a rebrand should be considered and knowing exactly why you are rebranding helps make the planning and execution process go smoothly.
Remember, too, that rebranding is a process that takes time. Even if the situations above aren’t relevant to you now, think of the changes that are coming. Do you anticipate any of these circumstances popping up for you in the next few years? If so, being proactive and starting the rebranding process now will ensure that you’re well-prepared to take on the future.
Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t be. At PH3, we understand how daunting a major rebrand can be. Understanding the “why” of a rebranding effort is only the first step, after all. Luckily, our team of marketing creatives are experts at crafting strong brands and are here to help. By working with a branding agency like ours, you can reap the benefits of a powerful rebranding without having to neglect other important aspects of your business. United in the goal to “Make It Better,” our team here at PH3 has a track record of successful rebrands that help brands like yours drive sales and growth.
If you’re ready to make your brand better, we’re here to support you along the way. Contact us to get started.