Branding matters. Your brand defines how you conduct business and differentiate yourself from competitors. Once a company has solidified these areas and established brand awareness in its market, its focus will often turn (as it should) to consistent application of these principals.
But every market evolves as new competitors and technologies arise, and brand qualities that might resonate with an audience today can shift quickly. Just ask McDonald’s, which after decades of selling cheap burgers and fries struggled to pivot when consumer tastes shifted to healthier fast food options and upscale burger experiences.
So how will your organization know when it’s time to rebrand? In Young Marketing Consulting’s experience, there are three signs.
Three Signs it’s Time to Rebrand:
1. Your current branding is visually outdated
This sign that it’s time to rebrand is an easy one – here’s an example. We recently found ourselves in a room with a client discussing the visuals they were choosing for the next iteration of their website. Their senior leadership had great affection for the design style that the company had been using since its inception, but its competitors had gone through several iterations of visual design and their websites looked much more modern and cutting edge when placed side-by-side.
Whether the organization liked it or not, it was going to have to keep up with the proverbial visual joneses and our advice was to modernize its execution. In a Google-driven world where a visitor will judge you instantly based on the appearance of your website, your brand’s initial impression is more important than ever.
Brand logos go out of style just like fashion does. Fonts, colors, and execution that once seemed modern can soon look about as cutting edge as a pair of bell-bottoms, which will quickly turn away potential customers.
In many ways, visual refreshes of your brand are the easiest to process. As the chart at right shows, you may not need to make significant changes. Logos like McDonald’s and Apple haven’t always looked like they do now; they’ve continually evolved to communicate the same visual message, but with a contemporary and fresh look.
Looking for examples of the latest “modern” designs? Check out How Design’s Logo Design Award Winners.
2. Your business is changing
The second sign that it’s time to rebrand is if your business is changing. This could occur for any number of reasons, with the most common being:
- A merger or acquisition (a la FedEx’s acquisition, and subsequent rebranding, of Kinko’s)
- A shift in operational focus (PPG, once known as the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company, is refocusing on its paint business)
- A divestiture or split (for example, Hewlett-Packard recently split in two companies so that its separate businesses could better focus on their respective markets)
- And desire to re-establish market position (see Yahoo!’s 30 brands in 30 days campaign)
In each of the cases above, the operations and capabilities of the business changed significantly, which required a communications to the market in order to inform customers. This is a fairly straightforward rebranding trigger, although its execution is often quite difficult due to internal conversations and disagreements about exactly where to focus. in many cases, an outside facilitator can best mediate these discussions to help a company work toward its new brand in non-biased fashion.
Two notes to consider when your business changes:
Brand Consistency: the larger your organization, the more difficult brand consistency can be to maintain and the more individuals will need to be involved in delivering that consistency. It’s important that you spend the time to iron out consistency issues internally before you decide on or announce any changes to your brand. Otherwise, you run the risk of appearing ill-prepared.
Rebranding Won’t Fix Business Issues: If your business is struggling, as Yahoo!’s has been for some time, a rebranding won’t fix the issues affecting your sales. It might generate a bit more attention for your company, and you may see a sales lift as a result, but those gains will not be sustainable unless you’re able to correct the core issues limiting your growth.
3. Your audience is changing
The third, and most difficult, way that you’ll know if it’s time to rebrand is if your audience is changing. Audience changes come in two flavors: your business might be targeting a new audience, or your current audience’s tastes might be changing and forcing you to adapt.
The first scenario is usually growth related: you have a product or service that you feel would benefit a different audience, and you want to start a conversation with them. The second audience scenario is growth related, but usually negative: you’re seeing declining sales or having a hard time finding new customers, and the pressure forces you to reexamine your audience’s needs.
In both cases, audience-driven rebrandings are best positioned to succeed when accompanied by strong market research to understand exactly what your audience wants. Young Marketing Consulting has done a number of these studies, and while sometimes an organization’s initial hypotheses about its market proves correct, other times what our clients have thought would resonate in a market simply doesn’t add value in that audience’s eyes.
The worst thing to do in these rebranding situations is to assume you know your audience’s needs better than they do. If for example you’re dealing with a struggling product, your research might find that it takes too much time or effort to go through a rebranding in the first place and it would be better to kill off the product entirely.
If any of these signs are relevant to your business and you are going to rebrand, remember that it takes careful planning and execution. If you need additional help with your branding strategy, feel free to contact Young Marketing Consulting.