The Complete Guide to a Rebrand — And When You Should

The complete process to pull off a successful rebrand
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Rebranding is a huge feat, and when companies get it wrong they risk losing hundreds of millions of dollars, not to mention their position in the market.

Even with careful planning, thought and time put into a rebrand, they are always at risk of blowing up in your face.

However, when they go right, rebrands can be the vehicle a company needs to find its place and rise to the top. Whether the business model has changed or the brand has become outdated, there are many reasons why a company should look to rebrand.

The good news is needing a rebrand is not a bad sign!

A rebrand often means that a company has evolved from its origins and is ready to reach new heights. It offers a great opportunity to strengthen a company's image, presence, and relevance to consumers.

In this article you will learn:

  • When to consider rebranding
  • The difference between rebranding and refreshing
  • Pros and cons of doing a rebrand
  • A 7-step rebranding process

A rebrand can be an effort-intensive process, so you need to be deliberate about the why and the how of going about it before jumping in.

Additional Resources: 12 Reasons Why Branding is Important for Your Business

When is Rebranding a Good Idea?

There is a lot more involved in a rebrand than just updating the logo. Changing the company name, purpose, website, and the like welcomes a new set of challenges. But with great risk is the possibility of even greater rewards.

As you are restructuring the way you bring customers to your doors, hopefully, your company can build even better relationships with clients.

The goal in rebranding is… to strengthen your brand’s message and allow it to evolve. Although rebranding can do many things… it should support your core message while connecting with your audience in a new, authentic way. — Greg Liberman,CEO of Spark Networks

To rebrand or not to rebrand is a decision that companies will face if they have been around for some time. Awareness is a great start — knowing that something needs to be changed and with the ability to leave egos outside.

However, identifying a problem is not where it ends. You must understand how deep the issue runs. It can be the difference between a surface-level update and hitting the reset button on the entire business.

Audit your brand before making any decisions to understand its current state.

What is the Difference Between a Refresh and a Rebrand?

Even though both words are often used interchangeably, a refresh and a rebrand are two separate processes.

A refresh is a re-imagining of a brand’s look and feel.

That can mean updating colors, altering the logo and tagline, refreshes are basically anything cosmetic. In a brand refresh, the core components remain the same. Elements like the values and goals of the business are kept intact.

Slack, the collaboration tool, decided to go for a brand refresh in 2019 by introducing a new logo. Slack’s initial logo was created before the company launched and offered too many opportunities for confusion.

A new brand identity for the collaboration hub captures its simplicity and ease of use

Their hashtag symbol (also known as an octothorpe) housed 11 different colors and if rotated any other angle than its precisely prescribed 18 degrees would elicit a completely different look. This took simple brand recognition out of the equation.

So the company teamed up with the branding firm Pentagram to create a more cohesive identity. They opted for a simpler color palette and a more usable icon.

Though the new logo was quite different from the old one, Slack’s brand at the core remained the same.

The identity updates Slack’s familiar hashtag logo to work consistently in different scales and contexts. — Pentagram Design Team, Michael Bierut, Parnter

A rebrand is a reevaluation of a brand’s fundamental attributes, such as its position in the market, target audience, mission, and services.

This can sometimes involve changing the company name.

For example, Dunkin’ (once known as Dunkin’ Donuts) did more than a refresh and dove fully into a rebrand.

New Name and Logo for Dunkin’ by Jones Knowles Ritchie

Dunkin’ dropped the “Donuts” in early 2019 to emphasize their changing product offerings. Now selling more than just donuts and coffee, the company underwent a makeover of its visual identity. This means updating materials, packaging, its logo, even its 12,800 locations worldwide.

Retaining the familiar pink and orange colors and iconic font that were introduced in 1973, the new branding will appear on packaging, as well as the company’s advertising, website, and social channels. — Creative Team at John Knowles Ritchie

Dunkin’ needed a rebrand to showcase its major shift in business.

Sometimes companies can go 50 or more years without needing much of a change, but that is not true for all. As technology grows and the world becomes more connected, rebrands can be a good idea when companies need to make a pivot or shed their past.

What are the Pros of Rebranding?

Rebrands can bring a lot of good things for a company. It can help attract more customers, create differences between competitors, and more!

Attract new customers

As the world changes, so do customers. To remain relevant, a rebrand may be necessary to capture the hearts and minds of potential customers. Reconnecting with a new landscape and the growing market can increase your bottom line.

Stand out and above the competition

Nothing beats a great first impression! Services and products can be similar between competitors, but if you establish a strong brand from the start, chances are your audience will connect with you on a level deeper than what they are buying.

Develop a clear strategy for success

Rebranding is an optimal time to reassess your company objectives. This can help motivate your team and bring alignment to the goals of the company.

Increase trust in your brand

This is an opportunity to refine your brand’s mission, vision, and values. Focusing on these aspects of your brand helps give your target audience a clear idea of who you are and what you care about. Once that is set, you can begin to build trust in your brand.

What are the Cons of Rebranding?

When a company rebrands, there are a lot of things that can go wrong.

You can be extremely prepared and never fully know how a rebrand will perform once presented to the world. Failure is real and always a possibility.

Lose significant traffic to your website or social media

This is particularly critical if you change your name or website domain. Unless you are constantly giving your audience a heads up of the changes to come, you may lose eyes online if followers cannot find you when searching.

This can be a short term issue where traffic picks up again in a few months or lead to the company being forgotten with a lot of work needed to recover.

Customers HATE the new you

Opinions are as abundant as stars in the night sky. Sometimes these opinions can come back to hurt you. Have you seen the Sears rebrand?

After months and loads of dollars spent on a rebrand, it stings when customers are far from fond of it. Keep in mind that every company that rebrands experiences this — you just want the volume of customer rejection to be as low as possible.

The value may not reflect your budget

Rebranding can be expensive.

If you have a website to develop, logo designs, product expansions, depending on the size of your business, this could potentially be a huge investment you’ll have to prepare yourself for. But if the benefits outweigh the risk, then there is a great case for moving forward with a rebrand.

The Rebranding Process: Strategy, Tips, and Advice

Ready to toss out your old business plan, pick your favorite colors, come up with some names and DIY a new logo to show customers an improved you?

Wait! Don’t it!

It will take a strategic, well thought out plan to successfully rebrand your business. Instead of jumping the gun, consider the fundamental steps of rebranding to get yourself started:

  1. Organize your mission, values, and goals
  2. Have a holistic rebranding strategy
  3. Create a powerful brand story
  4. Analyze and understand your market
  5. Begin the creative phase
  6. Handle stakeholder feedback
  7. Share with the world

1. Organize your mission, values, and goals

Whether you’re working with an in-house team or have chosen to outsource the work, a rebrand can’t be truly successful unless the brand and everyone in it is certain of its identity.

If your company does not have a clear mission, set of values, or actionable goals, now is a great time to discuss amongst the team. These are the cornerstone of your brand and help to maintain focus during the process.

2. Have a holistic rebranding strategy

Are you rebranding in an effort to solve a problem? Is there a question that needs to be answered? Is it necessary for the growth of the company?

All of these questions are relevant. Each one is a touchpoint that needs to be consistent and span across all design elements. This cohesiveness will contribute to your brand story and have it all make sense.

Take a brand such as Dropbox. The company was clear in its vision. Through their rebrand, with help from COLLINS, Dropbox repositioned itself as a place “where in-progress work happens as opposed to old finished project storage.”

The new system celebrates the strange, weird and wonderful moments of the creative process

With fresh illustrations, a new logo and an updated interface, Dropbox showcased a dynamic and personable brand image. Every piece of the rebrand came together thanks to a holistic strategy.

3. Create a powerful brand story

When understanding your audience and what resonates with them, it’s easier to give your brand a story. Let’s use the eyewear brand Warby Parker, for example. The company used consumer’s growing awareness of their product origins and mission of sustainability.

“Our customers, employees, community and environment are our stakeholders. We consider them in every decision that we make.” — Warby Parker

The brand operates as a socially-conscious business, offering affordable designer eyewear. Warby Parker adds deeper meaning to their story by sharing how their glasses are made from concept to construction.

A CNC machine cuts a general frame shape from raw acetate sheets

The brand’s transparency and contribution to sustainability resonate with potential and existing customers. Who wouldn’t want to support that?

4. Analyze and understand your market

A significant amount of research needs to go into understanding market trends and the consumers you wish to interact with.

This will help you make important decisions in determining elements such as product offerings and brand messaging. When executives and staff within the company are not aligned on these elements, it’s safe to say consumers will be just as confused. Make sure to research all of the following:

  • Current customer wants, needs, and opinions on your company.
  • Current brand assets.
  • Competitor products, services, and public sentiment.
  • Employee opinion of your company and brand.
  • What lost prospects think of your company and brand.
  • What thought leaders think of your company and brand.

5. Begin the creative phase

Now that you’ve got a handle on where your brand currently is and a map of where you want to be, you’re ready to develop a vehicle to get you there.

This is how you will position your brand within your industry.

Your messaging is the starting point for brand elements such as your slogan and voice (how you speak to your audience). Your core messaging includes:

  • An elevator pitch that sums up your brand and what it offers
  • User personas to represent your main audience group
  • Key features and how they benefit your customers
  • Interactions with your audience on social media

The visual identity is what most people think of when they hear the word ‘rebrand’. But as you can see, there is a slew of steps before we get to actually designing anything.

Developing the visuals for a brand can mean choosing a color palette, logo, fonts, artwork and any elements that will be updated or introduced. The items that will be developed depends on the extent of your rebrand.

6. Handle stakeholder feedback

Once the design team has come up with different approaches for messaging and visuals, now is the time to evaluate.

The final contribution is from the business’ stakeholders (i.e. CEO, COO, Head of Marketing, etc.). The feedback should be objective and directly speaking to the mission, values, and goals set at the beginning of the process.

Some tips for giving your brand designers useful and successful feedback:

  • Assign a single person from the top of the organization as the point of contact who will deliver feedback to the creative team. This avoids any conflicting suggestions or contradictions.
  • Be clear and specific in your feedback. Give actionable comments rather than subjective critiques like “it doesn’t feel fun enough” or “I don’t like that color”. Explain what it is that triggered your reaction.
  • Focus on what is working. Shine a light on what you would like to see more of instead of calling out the things that are not working.

With the feedback accepted and resolved, designers can hand over final deliverables. These might include a new logo, brand guidelines, color palette, and other assets.

7. Share with the world

As you showcase your new branding, be transparent. Share why and how you got to this point with your target audience. This way you minimize the risk of confusing customers who have supported you from the beginning.

Strengthen customer loyalty by involving them in your brand story.

Don’t Rebrand as a Means of Escape

Understand if a rebrand is necessary for your specific business.

If you’re trying to distract from internal issues or are having a crisis in reputation don’t consider a rebrand.

Not only will this lessen your brand credibility, but it can be a waste of time and money (especially if it isn’t successful). Work within your team to fix any problems before taking on something as big as a rebrand.

Are You Ready?

Rebranding is not an easy process and not one that should solely be taken on internally. Many companies choose to outsource to an agency or brand professional. Having an outside set of eyes and ears can broaden the perspective and take away any bias while making tough decisions.

As exciting as a rebrand may sound, it’s important to know where the need stems from before going full-steam ahead. Take a step back to evaluate your business and brand (and know that the two are not the same).

There is so much to keep in mind and many design elements that must be worked on.

If you’re feeling stuck at any stage (or not sure how to begin), don’t get overwhelmed. Reach out to us if you think you could use some extra hands. We’d love to help deliver your brand to the people who need it most.

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