Friday July 15, 2016

To Rebrand or Not to Rebrand


We all want to be the Disney’s, the Apple’s, and the Beyonce’s (yes, Beyonce is a brand). We want our brand to be strong, timeless, and relevant, even if it is on a smaller scale than some of the brand kings.

The idea to then take our brand and rebrand is deeply personal and should not be taken lightly. Plenty of companies have tried—and failed—at a rebrand. And others have come out on the other side with something stronger and better than ever. The key is to make sure you adhere to a few golden rules when considering refreshing your brand. 

The Element of Surprise is Not (Necessarily) Your Friend

In 2010, Gap threw the world a curveball and rebranded—complete with a new (and awful) logo—without warning. Everyone woke up one morning and gone was the navy box with skinny white letters and in its place was a hot mess of horrible font and even more aesthetically offensive gradient usage.

If you blinked, you may have missed it, since the public outcry was so severe that they reverted back to their original brand in just one week. But hey, at least we can credit the Gap execs for being willing to (quickly) admit when they were wrong.


This is a classic example of why a rebrand should not ever come as a total surprise. No matter how much research, planning, and effort was put into Gap’s rebrand, they failed to foresee that doing something that drastic without any warning would be seen as rash and random.

A rebrand should be slowly and effectively communicated to your customer base so that they know you are proactively looking to serve them in a new and improved way.

You don’t need to give away the farm—but you should certainly warn them that the winds are changing with some tactful messaging. That way, your rebranding initiative is not seen as thoughtless or completely self-serving, and your customer base will value that they’ve been considered in the shift. 

Consider WHY You Think You Need a Rebrand

My personal favorite victim of failing to understand the “why” is Sears. For years, Sears has been struggling with how to reinvent themselves in a way that might save their brand from extinction.

Doing everything from completely reinventing their commercials to bringing in the Kardashian name to their products, they sought out ways to stay relevant. What they failed to look at was WHY their numbers were suffering so much.

It wasn’t necessarily that they were a department store in a post-department store era. It was that they were trying to rebrand externally when they needed to focus on important internal improvements as well. In spite of their efforts to change their outward appearance, the in-store brand experience continued to remain unchanged. Shelves were empty or disorganized, clothing racks were over crowded with no method to the madness, and don’t even get me started on the lighting.

In order to avoid this type of rebranding pitfall, you need to understand your why. If your answer is something akin to “well, we just haven’t changed out logo in a while,” then perhaps you don’t need to rebrand and might want to try a less invasive “spicing up” of some things.

But, if you can honestly come up with a why that warrants a bold change, you might be ready to think about rebranding. In Sears’ defense, wanting to stay relevant can absolutely be cause for rebranding, however you just need to make sure that you’re prepared to tackle this from all angles. External marketing means nothing if your customers’ experience  with your brand doesn’t mirror it.

Go Big or Go “Slight Refresh”

There is a difference between a brand refresh and a total rebrand. Sometimes, all you need are some minor changes to something that is otherwise functioning well overall. A revitalized logo, a fresh tagline, some different creative, etc. You can maintain your brand integrity and still make some refreshes.

However, if you want to completely reinvent your brand, then a new logo alone isn’t going to do it. With a total rebranding, you need to invest the time, energy, money, and faith into your new vision. A rebranding is taking your best qualities, shedding everything else, and voila! A whole new you.

If you aren’t willing to fully commit, then your rebrand could be missing some key elements for success. If you fall into that bucket, a slight refresh is a great alternative since rebranding is not for everyone. It isn’t for the faint of heart. In a rebrand, you need to go big, or go home. 

“Going big” encompasses quite a commitment, like your creative look and advertising strategy, but remember that it is not only the external components that get a facelift.

When I was a kid, my grandpa drove a Cadillac, and it was a total “old guy” mobile. Then, all of a sudden Cadillac rebranded (without any big hoopla, it just kind of happened) and the auto-elite were scrambling to get theirs hands on an Escalade.

As we saw with Sears, in a rebrand it is imperative that your products and brand experience are also updated to sync with your new direction. Cadillac’s success here is largely due to the fact that they were willing to take everything “grandpa” about their brand, throw it out the window, and reemerge as something much shinier. They made absolutely sure their products and experience were as luxurious as their new brand said they would be.

The Final Verdict

Rebranding can be a great idea, but pulling it off successfully requires a lot of planning. Make sure you understand why you’re in need of a rebrand, and take the necessary steps to implement it correctly if you decide to go in that direction.

Prep your audience (surprises and rebrands don’t get along). Do the research (make sure you know your “why”). Go big—make sure you’re willing to fully commit to this project—otherwise consider some targeted refreshes in place of a full rebrand.

At the end of the day, if you’re bidding adieu to a brand you’ve grown to love over the years, then make sure you are replacing it with something whole, meaningful, and magnificent.

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