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Brand Repositioning

Repositioning vs. Rebranding


Repositioning vs. Rebranding

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 Lisa, a marketer in Washington D.C. who asks:

“What is the difference between repositioning and rebranding?”

Thanks for your question Lisa. Rebranding has become quite popular, especially for brands that want to shed a previously negative image. For instance, Philip Morris rebranded itself to Altria. Or brands that are facing increased competitive pressure like McDonald’s. Rebranding is simply changing the brand’s identity. It typically includes changing most or all of the brand identity elements such as the name, icon, colors, type font and tagline. The identity change may also be accompanied by brand repositioning.

However, a brand can be repositioned without changing its identity. Repositioning focuses on changing what customers associate with the brand and sometimes competing brands. This usually entails a change in the brand’s promise and its personality. Taglines often change with brand repositioning (to communicate the new promise). And sometimes the identity itself is updated or refreshed to reinforce the change in the brand’s positioning. However, most brand repositioning projects do not result in completely changed identities. That is, usually the brand name does not change. And frequently, neither do the identity elements other than the tagline and perhaps a slight identity system updating.

Another way to envision this is to think of a brand as a person. If a person rebrands himself, he gains or loses weight, changes his hairstyle and color and wardrobe and perhaps changes his name. If the person repositions himself, he changes his values, attitude, personality or behavior. Any combination of these changes can occur together or separately.

In summary, rebranding is an identity change. Repositioning is a change in the brand’s promise, personality or other associations. These changes can be performed together or separately.

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Rob Rosenberg
Twitter: RobRosenberg
on August 26th, 2014 said

Thanks for a great topic – re-positioning versus re-branding. The lines are thin, indeed. I disagree, however, that re-branding is merely a change of identity. It’s an entire strategy that attempts to achieve the goals of re-positioning – the two are intertwined. Trout and Ries established “positioning” as a goal – a place you want to end up your customer’s mind. Branding is the strategy to get there, including identity – yes, but also operational and cultural changes which support the brand promise.

If Person A loses weight, dresses differently, and changes his name, but acts exactly the same way – is it really re-positioning? Or just SSDD. Branding is about changing the behavior of an organization as well as its logo to be most effective.

My two cents. Thanks for bringing it up.

Carole Dupre
Twitter: carolecupre
on August 27th, 2014 said

Dear Mr. VanAuken,
I’m surprised by your explanation that “rebranding is an identity change.” In my experience, while serving in brand strategy and brand management roles for three “rebranding” initiatives, positioning was heavily researched and addressed, along with brand identity. Were the CMO’s I worked for incorrect, then, in calling these initiatives rebranding? Thanks for your help. Also, I’d like to thank you for the great information published regularly through this newsletter. Ever since I saw Derrick Daye a few years ago quoted in a news article about branding, Brand Strategy Insider has been my most trusted resource for brand strategy news, trends and advice.
Thanks again, Carole @caroledupre

Brad VanAuken on August 27th, 2014 said

Thanks for your quick and thoughtful comments Rob and Carole. I mostly use the term repositioning. I seldom use the term rebranding because I believe it is less clear in its meaning. In every rebranding project I have ever seen, rebranding includes an identity change. Often, but not always, it also includes repositioning. For instance, I think US Airways would say it went through a rebranding project when it changed its name from USAir to US Airways, but as one of its customers I never detected a brand change other than in its visual identity. I can see where people could use rebranding in its broadest meaning to include both brand repositioning and an accompanying identity change. In fact, this would make more sense. However, I think some organizations use it in its more limited sense. Perhaps, this is because those organizations don’t really understand the concept of branding. Brand positioning changes, on the other hand, do not always include brand identity changes, although some sort of brand identity change would call attention to and help reinforce the brand positioning change. Maybe a better way to define rebranding is a project in which the brand’s identity is changed and, in its broadest sense, in which the brand is repositioned as well. Thanks for your contributions to this discussion.

    Carole Dupre
    Twitter: CaroleDupre
    on September 01st, 2014 said

    Thank you for your response, Mr. VanAuken, and for clarifying your position on the term repositioning 🙂 I agree it is more specific and clear than rebranding. Good or bad, however, rebranding is far more common as the catch-all term these days for updating a brand positioning and/or identity. You are most diplomatic in saying “perhaps” there are many organizations (and marketers) who do not understand the concept of branding. No doubt there are. The term “repositioning” is rarely heard or understood. And that’s why resources such as this are essential and appreciated.

Twitter: ManyuVsManyu
on December 16th, 2014 said

Two things:
1) If Pepsi changes its logo and bottle shape, would you call it re-branding?
2) If it starts tasting differently (along with a different tagline), would it now mean repositioning?
3) Don’t you feel, going by these directions, rebranding makes way for repositioning? Or without rebranding, repositioning wouldn’t be as effective?

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