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Analysis

Asking the Experts: When It’s Time to Rebrand?

They say that if it ain't broke...so, how often should a company change course?

Keith Loria
February 12 2019

It’s important to know when to reassess a company’s core brand and marketing assets. Sometimes, this leads organizations to consider a rebranding strategy.

As businesses grow and gain customer insights, they often outgrow their current branding, and aim toward strategies that better connect with their audience.

Jesse Ghiorzi, former director and brand strategist at Charge, said that at core, a brand is an honest, unique, and simple message about who a company is and what it stands for, and rebranding is about more than a logo or name.

Although there’s no perfect timeline for knowing when to rebrand, there are some clues which signify that it’s time for a change, such as “…if your business has evolved and your brand doesn’t reflect who you are anymore, when your business has grown from local to national, when you’ve acquired another company that’s expanded your scope, services, etc., or if your founder has left the company,” he said.

Following controversy around their product, drivers, and leadership, Uber rebranded themselves by changing their logo and core message.

“More recently, Dunkin’ dropped the Donuts as more of their revenue is coming from products like coffee and sandwiches,” Ghiorzi said. “They retained the differentiator that separates them from other donut shops and now make people think of more than just donuts.”

Businesses should consider rebranding when dramatically expanding their offerings, services, products, or reach. Other things to consider are shifts in ideal customers, target markets, the company’s vision, or its philosophy.

In September, Weight Watchers officially changed its name to WW and its tagline to “Wellness that Works.” The rebranding included the rollout of wellness-related initiatives to focus more on wellness activities and not just weight loss. While it’s too early to say if the rebranding was a success, it did garner plenty of attention.

Luke Beatty, CEO of Brandfolder, experienced first-hand the efforts and impact of the brand overhaul at Yahoo! in 2010.

“Brands are often simplifying or diversifying their messages and offerings – assessing the risks associated with a rebrand and choosing to move forward even if the outcome is unclear,” he said. “As we’ve seen in recent months, several are leaning heavily on a rebrand strategy – some for a brief time to drive interest and attention (IHop/IHob, Dunkin’ Donuts/Dunkin’, Weight Watchers/WW) or to undo a massive failure (Tronc/Tribune Publishing, Gap/GAP).”

Nate Masterson, CMO of Maple Holistics, a company dedicated to cruelty-free, natural, and sustainable personal care products, understands why companies want to rebrand, but suggests making the decision with care.

“Rebranding is like buying a new wardrobe, which is, that it should only happen when you’ve undergone serious changes in who you are, or when what you were doing in the past has gone out of style,” he said. “Rebranding is a drastic step and taking it too often takes its power away.”

His favorite example of rebranding is Old Spice, which went from the “old man’s” deodorant to the “manly man’s” choice, after a 2010 rebranding campaign that removed the “smells like grandfather” stigma.

Its new campaign was such a big hit that its first commercial under the rebrand—which ran as a Super Bowl ad that year—received more than 10 million hits on YouTube.

“Their ads don’t get old because they’re so clever and their product evolved with the times,” Masterson said. “Old Spice took a hard look at their product, took the market by storm and never looked back.”

Adam Pierno, Chief Strategy Officer of Santy, noted that the deciding factor of whether to rebrand or not should be relevance.

“A company should rebrand when it is slipping in relevance with its core consumer and typically it is more effective to rebrand at the top of that cycle than once it has lost relevance altogether,” he said.

If it Ain’t Broke…

Kyle Golding, CEO of The Golding Group, warns against making a change just because you’re looking to do something new.

“The most important aspect of your brand is a connection to your best audience. You need those who appreciate your brand to know they’re making the right purchase every time,” he said. “The most effective element of marketing is consistency. Changes to your brand dilute consistent messaging and connection to your marketing. Unnecessary changes are wasteful and slows your current and future marketing efforts by losing brand equity build up to that point.”

The only reasons to rebrand are to overhaul a negative brand image, fight stagnation in the market, or align with a pivot in your business model, according to Golding.

“When a brand becomes tainted by scandal or widespread quality failures you need to rebrand to disassociate from that negativity,” he said. “If a business becomes completely disconnected from their audience or is more misunderstood than not, this is also the appropriate time to rebrand.”

There are quite a few points of view on how, how often, and even if a company should rebrand at all. A general consensus might support the following: if your business changes enough to require a completely new audience without retaining previous audiences, then a rebrand could be a smart move. Otherwise, rebranding can be fairly risky, and should not be attempted frivolously. In most cases, companies should first try making minor brand alterations to stay current without losing identity, equity and loyalty.

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