As this article in Entrepreneur reminds us, plenty of brands try to re-set the market’s understanding of their brand and are well and truly spanked for doing so. If rebranding is the hot topic of conversation at your place right now, here’s 10 reasons to leave things as they are:
- You don’t need to change – yes, I know it seems obvious…but it needs saying, because there are still brands that rebrand for reasons that escape everyone who missed the slidedeck. In many cases, the decision is taken not because the brand needs to change but because there’s been a change in role or people internally are bored with the brand they are responsible for. Neither reason flies with consumers of course – and they quickly voice a view for things to revert to how they were.
- You’re guessing what change is needed – too many brands come to believe that any change signals refreshment and therefore any change will do. So they make changes to their brand that mean something to them or that they feel comfortable with, or that the agency has talked them into, but that are neither as significant nor as interesting as the brand itself believes they will be. The fact is that unless you are rebranding for a reason and to achieve a specific goal, change for its own sake achieves nothing good.
- The strategy is wrong – a rebrand that misreads the market can do a lot of damage. Read the assumptions and market analysis around your rebrand carefully. Ask for proof, look carefully at the opportunities, evaluate the need for change (and the nature of the change required) from the point of view of the consumer. Working with the right consulting or agency partner is vital. You need them to be objective, well versed in your sector dynamics and committed to getting you results not just taking you through their process. As Galen DeYoung points out, “Marketers and corporate executives get consumed with what they would ultimately like the company to be versus the position it can reasonably attain in the marketplace at the present time: i.e., the next permissible step in the company’s evolution.” I love that word ‘permissible’. It’s a potent reminder that the power to change the brand rests with different people than those who must accept the new brand.
February 19th, 2015
By Mark Di Somma
Branding Strategy Insider helps marketing oriented leaders and professionals like you build strong brands. BSI readers know, we regularly answer questions from marketers everywhere. Today we hear from Karen, a VP of Marketing in Washington, D.C. who writes…
“We serve various government sectors and completed a complex rebrand last year for our B2B company. We needed to build some distance from a government contract name that evolved into serving as a name for a division of our company, giving us two identities. All key stakeholders were in full alignment on the decisions that were made during the rebrand. Now we have a major customer questioning these decisions, influencing some stakeholders to rethink the path we have chosen after a great deal of work. What suggestions do you have for staying the course and facing resistance from customers and employees who prefer our identity the way it was?”
Thanks for your question Karen. It’s always hard when, having taken decisions and set a path, someone wants to revisit the decisions. From what you’ve said here, it looks like you’ve put in the hard yards to get the organization back to the point where it has a single name and with that, one assumes, a new identity that reflects that sense of who you want to be. You don’t identify who’s leading the charge for a reversion at the major customer, or whether they were involved all along in the rebranding consultation, but let’s assume they had some involvement and that they were consulted. The key point is that your brand is your brand – not theirs. Their views are important because they are a major customer, which is why they would have been consulted, but equally it’s not their role to tell you what your brand is.
Today on Branding Strategy Insider, another brand strategy question from the BSI Emailbag. Jim, an Executive Director at a nonprofit organization in Seattle, Washington writes:
“I work for a nonprofit organization that needs to rebrand. I am getting resistance from the board and a major client. Do you have any advice to help me get the buy-in I need to accomplish this without alienating critical stakeholders?”
Hi Jim, thanks for your question. Given the potential resistance to the rebranding effort, I would start with a survey of key stakeholders to determine how they are feeling about the organization and its brand including the strength of its unique value proposition, its traction against competitive organizations, any concerns, etc. Without being too biased or leading, help the organization’s stakeholders come to their own conclusions by getting them to think about the issues that could be solved by a rebranding effort. I wouldn’t initially talk about rebranding.
I would then share the results of the survey and create a discussion around it. If people begin to see the need for some changes, I would then talk about brand strategy refinement. If the discussion starts out as a strategic discussion, it avoids the issue of people’s attachments to specific brand identity elements. I might then conduct more customer research to determine organization and brand perceptions. Using all of this input, I would conduct a consensus-building brand positioning workshop with key stakeholders. The result should be a new brand positioning statement including the brand’s essence, promise, archetype and personality.
My colleague, Brad VanAuken made this excellent observation about rebrands. “Identity systems are designed to encode and decode brand information to and from people’s brains,” he said. “If you change the system, the associations may be lost and will take a long time to rebuild.”
Always that dichotomy. People like what they know. And we live in a changing world. While brand managers often struggle with the timing and implementation of an identity change, I’m far more interested in the specific motivations behind why brands choose to change how they visually express who they are – because that’s where I believe things can really go askew.
If the motivation is wrong, then the rebranding will be wrong. By way of proof, a great article from Business Insider examines recent rebrands that have hit the wall at speed. Two clear principles emerge:
- Be clear about who you are and stay true to that. The very essence of identity I would have thought but it’s amazing how many companies still think they can convince people they’re something they’re not by changing their brand identity. No amount of focus-grouping with the youth-set (or anyone else for that matter) is going to make your brand something it just isn’t. Same goes for changing the name to make it more street. If you’re not a street brand, you’ll just ring hollow.
- Don’t cover up. An identity that seeks to hide the truth isn’t a rebrand, it’s a revisionist attempt to hoodwink investors and consumers. Might have worked before we were all connected and had digital memories. Doesn’t work anywhere near as well now.
So how should brands go about choosing to rework their identities? My cardinal rule: before you make any changes, think about the consumer. Change your branding only if it will make the identity more fascinating and relevant for them (not because the marketing team is bored or a competitor has changed so it’s time to follow suit).
10 reasons why you would change a brand identity:
Regular readers of Branding Strategy Insider know we welcome and answer marketing questions of all types. Today, Ely Portillo, a business reporter from the Charlotte Observer in Charlotte, North Carolina asks…
"Hi Derrick. I'm looking for some insight into why a retailer might change its branding. Lowe's (formerly "Let's Build Something Together" and now "Never Stop Improving"), has had several quarters of disappointing results, especially in comparison to its main adversary, Home Depot. What is the potential of a branding shift to help boost sagging sales and shift the terrain versus a larger rival?"
Ely, the potential can be quite great if the new effort is better aligned with un-met customer needs than the competition. Often, when sophisticated marketers are faced with greater competitive pressure or a new economic landscape they turn to their customers for help in tightening the focus — drawing on deep customer insight to create greater value. The power of brands lies in focus. Lowe’s new tagline very well could be a response to a better understanding of its target customers through brand research.
"What else is generally required of a retailer to successfully carry through a re-branding campaign, besides a new tagline and ads?"