September 14th, 2015
By Mark Di Somma
Every brand must change, but the extent of the change, and the size of the calls that accompany those shifts, are very different. So when should you refresh what you have to bring it up to date, and when should you “kill” the brand and start again?
Refresh a brand that is fundamentally robust and that has strong engagement and loyalty with customers. A refresh is about more than just the tweaks required to keep a brand current. (Those are brand updates and are now business-as-usual.) A brand refresh can in fact be a ceiling-to-floor rethink of how the brand not only looks but also how it delivers, speaks and operates. In essence though, the brand’s DNA remains intact. The brand retains its core market position and values, but opens the door to change other aspects of the business as required.
Every company that rebrands does so with high hopes. Their expectation is of course that this will mark a new chapter in the life of the business. Given how much is being invested, that seems more than a reasonable goal on their part. But is it realistic? How much change can a company expect to see through a rebrand, and where? This article by Laurent Muzellec and Mary Lambkin from some years back lays out some evergreen principles and reminds us that no two rebrands are the same in terms of the results they generate.
It depends on the degree of change. Muzellec and Lambkin draw a clear distinction between evolutionary rebranding – a brand refresh – and revolutionary rebranding. The former are the many tweaks that brand owners instigate to keep their brands up to date. These are a necessary and important part of keeping a brand current, and many brands make these changes without consumers being consciously aware of what’s gone on. While much of the onus here is often put on changes to the visual language, I see no reason at all why a brand cannot refresh other aspects of its brand structure and still remain largely recognizable as the brand that people know.
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.