“We haven’t updated our website in more than eight years.” That was the sheepish declaration of a CEO who called me recently inquiring about my rebranding agency services. He explained that he thought his company’s online disarray was the source of losing business. One quick peek behind the curtain at their Google Analytics told me the whole story. Lots of traffic, very low conversion. “It’s time to not only update your website,” I told him. “You need to rebrand your entire business.”
Keeping a brand fresh and relevant in today’s rapidly changing business environment and shifting economy is an ongoing challenge. But what does it mean to rebrand your business?
What is a Rebrand?
Rebranding is a marketing initiative in which a company’s visual identity and overall positioning is updated for the purposes of influencing how that company is viewed in the minds of its customers, staff, community, and the world at large. The entire company can be rebranded, or just one or more of its services or products which are in need of a refresh.
A business can do a full or partial rebranding, scaling up or down. It can involve a simple tweak of a logo or an entire revision of the company’s look, feel, and positioning. Think of it as remodeling a house. You can bring your whole home down to the studs and rebuild or just simply remodel the kitchen. Alternatively, you can give the bathroom a new coat of paint and call it a day. The bottom line is that a business has many ways to approach rebranding.
The Proactive Approach
In addition to the scope and scale of a rebrand, there are two approaches – proactive Vs. reactive rebranding. Proactive rebranding occurs when a company takes actions to refresh or even transform its brand because they want to stay on top of changing trends, pursue new markets, acquire new customers, and stay current. The chief advantage of proactive rebranding is that the company protects itself against threats before they occur.
The Reactive Approach
On the flip side, reactive rebranding involves the company responding to a situation that demands they make a change – usually after the horse has left the barn. The rebranding may be a reaction to a change in the market, a negative situation, a merger, or a competitor’s move, among others. The chief disadvantage of reactive rebranding is that the company can miss opportunities since they are focused on reacting to the immediate circumstances, rather than i focused on creating the future.
Regardless of the scope of the rebranding process or if it is being driven by reactive or proactive rebranding, there are profitable upsides to be gained.
Even if you think rebranding is a good idea, many business leaders are intimated by the time, cost, and effort a rebranding can take. The question at the heart of the matter is, “is it worth it?”
In answering that question, one thing to consider is that your company brand is the heart of who you are. It’s one of your most valuable assets; making you a viable competitor in your space. So, when rebranding is in the cards, the benefits outweigh the costs. Still not convinced. There are many rewards to rebranding; here are five of the top benefits of rebranding.
1. Distinguish yourself from your competitors.
Nowadays, anyone can throw up an online shingle and claim to be anything. In almost every industry, competition has never been more intense. At the same time, there has never been a more significant difference in the quality of services and products offered. Spot-on branding helps potential clients distinguish you from others in your field. A rebrand that makes your look, feel, tone, and brand voice distinct helps drive the market in your direction.
2. Keep current with market changes.
Have you ever looked for a service provider or product seller, only to land on their website and think, “when was the last time they updated this?” If you have, then you know the negative impact of an old, outdated brand. As markets change, a rebrand can let clients know you are on top of what’s happening and can be trusted to have the latest trends in mind in your work with them.
3. Increase your bottom line.
A successful company rebranding not only boosts your inbound inquiries but can also be a boon to your conversation rates. A good rebrand helps new clients find you, distinguishes you from your competitors and influences them to purchase once they know about you.
4. Reflect on new products, services, goals, and values.
As a business grows, creating new services and products is natural. But often, a company finds that its goals and values may also progress. A brand that reflects these changes shows clients, staff, potential clients, and the world how the business has grown and evolved over time.
5. Connect with a new audience.
One of the best reasons to rebrand is that it allows you to find new customers and markets. Promoting your business in a new way (in look and language) can encourage your staff to innovate and inspire potential clients to reach out and connect with you.
11 Signs It’s Time to Rebrand
Even if you are convinced that a rebrand is an excellent opportunity to move your company to the next level, there is no one magical sign that flashes above your computer on a Monday morning telling you it’s time to rebrand your business. For most of my clients, it is a matter of a few things they notice over time. Here are the 11 most common signs that it is time for a business rebranding.
1. Your website looks old and out of date.
If you are embarrassed to send people to your site or find yourself apologizing for how it looks, it’s probably time to rebrand.
2. Your core service offerings or products have changed.
Technology, market conditions, and your customer’s buying behaviors have changed. Being the responsive and on-the-ball company you are, you have created new services or product offerings to keep up. The only problem is that your brand is behind and needs to get with the program.
3. Your brand identity no longer reflects who you are today.
Your logo, color pallet, fonts, and overall look no longer fit with whom your company has become.
4. Your target audience is unclear (or confused) about who you are, or what you offer.
You have gotten feedback from potential customers or the marketplace that they need help understanding exactly what your brand offers or stands for.
5. You are not differentiated from your competition.
When the market can’t easily distinguish your competitive advantage, it’s less likely they will lean in the direction of hiring you. A rebrand can help point out the characteristics that set your business apart.
6. Your company has outgrown its brand.
Most companies find that their brand changes over time – usually incrementally. If, however, you have not kept up by making occasional adjustments to your brand, a more extensive rebrand may be in order.
7. You, your staff, and your customers need to be more engaged with your brand.
Your current branding may be fine as is, but over time it’s become boring. While nothing is technically “wrong” with the brand, it’s not exciting or inspiring. Brands, like bread, can become stale.
8. Your existing brand has become associated with a negative.
Events can occur that put a negative spin on your brand. Sometimes it’s a misstep on the company’s part, but not always. I had one client who had a product line titled “Isis.” Post 9-11, my client concluded that for apparent reasons, a name change and business rebranding was in order.
9. You have low conversion rates on visitors who come to your website.
Your company may be killing it with SEO, but what’s the point if all that traffic does not turn into customers? A business rebrand may be required if the potential business is finding you – but not hiring you.
10. Your company is having trouble reaching a new audience.
A business audience can shift over time, and a group that was once your core client base can be diminished or even disappear. Other times, it becomes apparent that there is a new audience out there that your company should be pursuing. A company rebrand can be just the ticket.
11. You need help attracting top talent.
In today’s competitive job marketplace, attracting top talent can be challenging. Research shows that employees want to work for a company whose brand and values align with theirs. If your current brand fails to bring the best and brightest to your doors, it may be time for a business rebrand.
Next Steps: The Core Elements of A Business Rebrand
If you are standing on the precipice of a rebrand and are ready to leap, you are likely looking at either a brand identity or brand positioning approach – or a combination of both. Each brings its own steps and challenges. Remember, your brand is not just a logo or a tagline. It’s a 360-degree representation of who your business is, what it stands for, what it offers, and how it delivers value – in look and language.
Brand identity approach.
The term brand identity typically refers to ways in which a business expresses its brand visually. In other words, a brand’s colors, font, logo, and other visual aspects. Think of Starbucks Mermaid, Apple’s apple, and the Nike swoosh.
One of my least favorite tasks in my capacity as a rebranding agency is when I need to deliver the news that a client’s logo or website no longer represents them in their best light. I always wonder what reaction I will get. Some clients say, “I know. Can you help?” Others say, “But everyone tells me they love our logo!”
What they don’t say is that “by everyone” they mean their best friend, mother, and the two employees who have been with them for a decade or more. Just because you love your logo or brand identity does not mean it’s on brand with your current business or the marketplace.
Brand identity design including typographical logos, logomarks, colors, websites, typographical elements, fonts, packaging, etc.- is as much about consistency with your brand as it is about style and preference. When embarking on a brand identity rebranding, here are a few things to remember.
Liking something does not make it on brand. Just because you love the color mauve and find it appealing to your eye does not mean it lines up with your brand message. Remember, subconscious factors in color and design inform the viewer about who you are.
Thinking vs. Feeling
Thinking Vs. feeling. Many businesses will test a logo’s effectiveness by asking their family, friends, and clients, “Do you like this?” But the real question is, “What does this say to you?” In his book Blink, author Malcolm Gladwell refers to “thin slicing,” the visceral and instant response we get about something without thinking about it. One study reported on by Forbes.com from Google found that it takes about 50 milliseconds (0.05 seconds) for visitors to form an impression about a website and determine if they will stay or go.
Whenever I need to test a new logo for a client, I start by asking a few people I know to tell me their first visceral impression of the logo with the simple question,
“How does this make you feel?” The answers always provide a great insight into how the logo (or another visual element) is coming across.
Brand positioning approach.
Brand positioning refers to the unique value a brand presents to its staff, customers, and the world. It conveys, among other things, its value proposition, differentiation, target market, specific offers, and company vision. Remember that positioning is not just one thing but can cover a wide range of areas. A typical business rebranding usually involves a rebrand in one or more of the following areas:
• Convenience-Based Positioning Strategy
• Price-Based Positioning Strategy
• Quality-Based Positioning Strategy
• Differentiation Strategy
• Social Media Positioning Strategy
To determine which of these needs addressing, the starting point is research into the current state of the brand. Information from the research phase is what informs the recommended brand positioning.
What’s In a Name
Creating a name change is one of the most difficult of all business rebranding efforts. It can be challenging to take a name representing a company for years, sometimes decades, and throw it out the window. The reality, however, is that sometimes a name that represented a brand ten years ago no longer does—case in point. Google used to be called Backrub. Enough said.
If your brand needs a new name or even tagline, take your time. It’s more complicated than it looks to design a name that represents the brand, is available both offline and as a URL, and speaks to the audience. A rebranding agency can help facilitate you through an effective naming process.
How to Achieve Rebranding Your Business in a Merger or Acquisition
A few years ago, I was hired to conduct a business rebranding offsite for a client who had merged with a former competitor. It immediately became clear that the two entities were at odds about whose “brand” should dominate and win out. At one point, it was even suggested by the senior executives from both businesses that they should each maintain their own brand identity moving forward. Hold on there, Sparky! I pointed out that doing so would only create division, confusion, and, more than likely, resentment.
A new brand strategy is necessary to ensure an optimal brand post-merger or acquisition. The approach can be integrating one company into the other company’s brand, a melding of the two companies’ brands, or a whole new brand that reflects elements of both businesses to create something new.
Create a Rebranding Brand Guideline Document
Once the hard work of rebranding is done, it’s time to update or create your branding guideline document. This document is meant to serve as an internal and external guideline for staff, vendors, agencies, and anyone responsible for representing your brand out in the world. Remember that a rebranding agency can help you with the rebranding itself and is often the perfect partner to put that information into document form.
Think of these brand guidelines as the rules for how your brand comes across in all media. How it looks, feels, sounds, the language used, and how it is described. Consistency in the representation of the rebrand is a critical last step. Brands that fail to crystalize their rebrand in a brand guideline document risk confusion in the marketplace and undermining thier rebrand efforts.
Of course, creating the rebranding guideline is only half the work. It is challenging to get it out, read by, and followed by all internal and external stakeholders. One study on brand consistency found that 95% of organizations had branding guidelines, but 81% said they dealt with off-brand content. And these brand inconsistencies had an impact. While consistent brands are “3-4 times more likely to enjoy excellent brand visibility” and increase revenue by 23%, inconsistent brands create marketplace confusion, damage their brand reputation, and lose revenue (marq.com, 2022)
The Bottom Line of A Business Rebrand
If it survives long enough, every business will be faced with the question “to rebrand or not to rebrand?” Here’s a hint. If the answer to that question is not “yes,” at least once every 5-7 years, someone in the company is not paying attention. Far from being an indication of something being wrong, rebranding at the appropriate time indicates something being right. Rebranding is a natural part of a business’s growth and evolution.
Achieving business rebranding takes awareness, courage, and an interruption of the status quo. For companies that survive and thrive, business rebranding becomes a natural part of their business.
How SMG Helps Our Clients to Meet These Challenges
For over 20 years, I have helped CEOs accomplish their business rebranding goals. Much of what I’ve learned about this topic comes from up close and in the fieldwork consulting work with leaders from Inc. 5000 companies, mid-cap companies, and startups.
As an author and columnist for Inc.com, I constantly search for studies, surveys, real-world examples, and techniques to help my clients achieve stronger rebrands that keep them on trend, on brand, and up to date with the marketplace.
If, after reading this article, you find yourself thinking, “yes, I get it. I need to hire a rebranding agency to help me with this,” but are in a quandary about how to get there, consider booking an initial consultation with me at no charge.
I will review your current brand before our call and give you at least one or two specific ideas you can use to rebrand: no sales, just useful information, and insight. You can book a session with me here.