Five tactics for making your rebrand easy

By Laura McLoughlin

At some point, every company decides to rebrand. It may be as simple as a logo refresh to bring your brand into the 21st century, or as complicated and unsettling as a complete overhaul of your brand name and company values, but at some point, your business will need some kind of update. When that happens, it’s important to get it right.

Avoid making the mistakes even industry giants are prone to with these five tactics:

  1. Identify your reason for a rebrand

First of all, work why you are rebranding. Does your brand feel old and stuffy, in a market of up-and-coming innovators, or maybe too young amongst established giants? Or, perhaps you have suffered more than your fair share of bad PR and now is the time to cut ties with your old persona and begin afresh. Whatever it might be, this reasoning will help you draw the line with where to stop with a rebrand.

For example, in 2016, Ashley Madison made front page news when the personal information of its 37 million users was compromised, including email addresses, credit card information and sexual fantasies. For a service which depended on the anonymity and secrecy of its users, it was a devastating blow to the company. It had no other choice but to rebrand.

Focusing on its core issue of security, Ashley Madison is moving forward with more discreet payment methods and a working relationship with tech giant Deloitte to make sure they get it right. Not only that, but they’ve traded out their garish pink branding in favour of a more understated monochrome colour scheme, and their tagline Have an affair has been replaced by a more ambiguous Find your moment.

Whether this is enough to win back the trust of their 53 million customers, is still up for debate, but there is no denying that Ashley Madison has the right ideas about its rebrand. Make sure that your company can pinpoint the brand weaknesses which prompted a rebrand in the first place.

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  1. Define your core values

What makes your brand your brand? For example, McDonald’s wouldn’t be McDonald’s if it wasn’t about quick, tasty meals. To attempt to rebrand it as a fine dining experience, or somewhere to get a swanky cup of coffee undermines the whole essence of this company and what people love about it.

What they can change however is how people perceive them. For example, Burberry, the British fashion brand, saw its reputation go down hill in the late 1990s, with the iconic pattern copied and printed on everything from baseball caps to cake tins. No longer an exclusive luxury, but increasingly common, the brand started to decrease in value, and when it became the style choice of anti-social hooligans, it was definitely time for a rebrand.

The brand stuck with its luxurious branding, but swapped out the thuggish overtones in favour of celebrity endorsements and social influencers from the likes of Emma Watson. It also cracked down on counterfeiters and sought to get to the heart of the Burberry brand’s desirability: exclusivity.

Animal Planet, on the other hand, rebranded in an effort to modernise and instead lost its essence. Ditching the elephant and globe of its namesake, the brand opted for a boisterous font style and green colouring, which indeed give a more wild appearance, but customers were more concerned with why the ‘M’ was tipped onto its side and why the rebrand was at all necessary.

  1. Competitor research

It’s important that your rebrand doesn’t rip off design elements or messaging from another brand, and definitely not someone you’re in competition with. Of course, it can be difficult to find a unique niche for your brand when you share so many similarities with competitors, but look to favourite brands for inspiration. Lush, for example, primarily sells beauty products and bath bombs. These products aren’t particularly unique in themselves, but Lush differentiates itself by being both ethical and indulgent, with equal emphasis on social responsibility and self-care.

It’s also worth expanding your view from your immediate competitors, to other players in your field. Tropicana made a big mistake with their rebranding, swapping their decade’s old design for a cleaner, more minimalist look. Unfortunately, customers didn’t consider it the modern makeover Tropicana had hoped for, but rather made this quality juice brand look like it belonged amongst the cheap supermarket labels. They could no longer recognise the product and sales dropped 20% as a result.

Tropicana reverted to its old design after two months and an estimated $137 million lost in sales, so do yourself a favour and research, research, research.

  1. Audience research

Do you know just why customers buy your product instead of another brand’s? If you are considering a rebrand, make sure that you are not getting rid of the part of you they like best.

For example, back in 2008, Radioshack rebranded as The Shack in an attempt to modernise and prove just how down with the kids it was. Unfortunately, this cringe-worthy change didn’t attract the young audience as planned, but the ridicule of scores of tech reviewers and Radio Shack customers.

Radioshack’s chief marketing officer finally conceded that the rebrand was a misstep, saying, “We had alienated the very consumer that had given us that core credibility in electronics.”

That means that if your core audience loves that you are a classic, established brand, use that. Even Coca Cola attempted a new ‘cool’ rebrand with New Coke in the 1990s, but has since returned to the curly font from its very first labels.

  1. Make it count

Like McDonald’s making real steps to change its image, if your rebrand is just a spruced up logo, you really haven’t rebranded anything at all. For example, GoDaddy was known as the most sexist brand on the market. Their Super Bowl advertisements were infamous and while 80% of Americans in 2012 were aware of the brand, few knew what it actually did. That meant that the tech brand was in dire need of a rebrand, but it didn’t come in the shape of a new logo.

GoDaddy rebranded itself from the inside out, taking real, tangible steps to address gender inequality in tech. They have sponsored conferences for women in tech, and as of 2015, women account for 39% of its new technical hires from universities (up from 14% the previous year) and 40% of its technical interns (up from 14%)

Not only does this put the focus back on their professionalism and technological know how, but in the era of mainstream feminism, this is sure to win more than a few brand fans.

Even if you manage to do everything right, you will still have your critics. People rarely like change, and if you are to win over customers, you may simply need to be patient. AirBnB’s new logo had its fair share of jokes, and Instagram’s recolouring was lauded as a catastrophic redesign by some blog, but both brands continue to go from strength to strength, regardless of the opinions of a few.

Be smart, be careful, but don’t be scared. Rebrands might be tricky to nail, but the benefits of getting it right, are worth the risks.

Laura McLoughlin works with Omnia, a branding and digital communications agency, in Dubai’s Media City.

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