You’re familiar with rebranding, whether you know it by that name or not. Usually we hear about rebranding when it’s done poorly; Pepsi, Gap, and JCPenney have all been victims of heavily publicized rebranding gone bad. I’ll get to why that is in a minute. So what is rebranding? It’s an attempt by a business to shift the perception of their organization or their product, usually in an effort to make it more relevant to their customer. It’s a noble cause, both for the business and for consumers, but it’s not always necessary.
Many companies have been publicly shamed for their attempts to reconnect with a lost customer base. I think we like to make fun of these blunders because it shows us that huge corporate entities don’t always know what they’re doing, or at least don’t always know how to pull our heart strings (or our…mind strings?) and get us to fall in love with their products. But the other reason bad rebranding becomes such a sensation is because companies like Pepsi, Gap, and JCPenney already have an enormous following. They’re nationally, or internationally, known. They’ve been providing products and solutions for years. They may even have significant social media engagement. So why are they choosing to rebrand? The public knows and loves these brands because of who they are and what they stand for. We’ve grown accustomed to them, so when they rebrand their identities it’s like the personality we knew has been replaced with something completely different. And it’s unsettling.
But the question isn’t why are these prolific brands trying to rebrand themselves (maybe the topic of another blog post), it’s how do you know when to rebrand. How do you know when you need to do an overhaul on your business and how you are perceived, or when you just need to make an adjustment to the way you’ve been communicating with your audience?
The answer isn’t always black and white, but there are some key points that you can use to gauge how much you need to change your brand. First of all, if you don’t have a consistent, communicated story that motivates every part of your business, then you need to better develop your brand. I’ve talked about finding this brand motivation in my post Who Is Your Brand?
But let’s say you’ve tried to make your brand meaningful and consistent, and you still feel like you’re getting almost no reaction from people who need your product. If you think there is a complete disconnect between you and your ideal customer, then you need to rebrand.
If, however, you’ve noticed a significant change in people’s lives as a result of your product, but think you can simply double or triple that impact, then you might just need a brand redirection. Or, better yet, you just need to give it some time!
Another aspect is something attributed often to large companies, but it can happen to small businesses too: when a business becomes associated with a negative experience by the public. Even if it’s not legitimate, the consumer’s perception can quickly become the reality of your brand. So, if you find your brand being tainted by its past, or by someone else’s past, you need to rebrand. Carefully.
On the other side of this issue, it’s smart to associate your brand with positive experiences that your consumer is already familiar with. This has a lot to do with identifying your customer, so when you already know your customer’s lifestyle, you can partner with organizations and experiences that are appropriate parts of their daily life.
The third aspect to consider is you logo and visual identity. It takes a professional graphic designer and branding expert to create a visual representation of your brand that is effective for your audience. If you don’t have such an identity, you need to rebrand.