When a computer malfunctions, the easiest step is often a quick reboot. For many tech hiccups, that’s all it takes to get back on track — problem solved. If only a company rebrand were that simple.
A comprehensive rebrand is more intentional and nuanced than hitting “reset” or initiating superficial changes. After purchasing Whole Foods, Amazon had to shed the grocery chain’s “Whole Paycheck” image. Customers had come to find the store overpriced when compared to competitors, so Amazon cut prices significantly and set up Amazon Prime customers to save even more. The best way to deal with an image problem, according to Amazon? Face it head-on.
This brand realignment didn’t happen for Whole Foods overnight. It took a willingness to dig below the surface to spot signs of consumer disengagement.
Monitoring the Migration of Consumer Wants
Successful rebrands hook people. When Phillips 66 found itself lumped together with a litany of other gas providers, for example, the company launched the Live to the Full campaign, which connected the idea of full gas tanks with emotional journeys. The spots garnered attention for their uniqueness and vibrancy, but more importantly, appealing to human emotion — and not being afraid to do so — differentiated Phillips 66 from its competitors.
In addition to connecting with customers psychologically, modern brands must provide perceived value in terms of time. For instance, people pay to join Amazon Prime for its rapid delivery options. Amazon is handing those consumers precious minutes of their lives back.
However, consumers will willingly give up time for brands that have the “cool factor.” This is why people will gladly wait in line for the latest iPhone or drive a few extra miles to Target, even if a Walmart is within walking distance. Consumer decisions will always be personal. But as the majority swells in one direction, brands would be wise to mark the change. Sometimes, that necessitates an inside-out overhaul.
Know the Signs: Getting Ahead of Rebranding
You might be unsure of whether it’s time for your business to rebrand, so if you spot any of the following flags, take note.
Positive consumer sentiment is waning: Do consumers feel connected to your brand? Are they out there spreading the word? Do you have die-hard fans? If your company doesn’t have a groundswell of support, it may be time to generate some.
Your customer base has declined or flattened: Are consumers aging out of your offering? Are you struggling to connect with the emerging demographic? Unless you’re replacing lost buyers with younger or different-minded customers, you’re headed toward problems.
Influencers aren’t interested in promoting your brand: If you can’t find brand advocates to endorse your offerings, this could be a red flag that consumer sentiment truly isn’t in your company’s favor. Influencers earn a living through paid sponsorships, and many are selective about the brands they work with. When they pass on being associated with your organization, it’s not a good sign.
Change Course: The Steps to a Rewarding Rebrand
Rebrands that are done well are achieved by pairing a healthy dose of reality with a clear sense of where the company needs to go next. To get from the status quo to new frontier, brands can combine a variety of tried-and-true tactics.
- Come to terms with the current state of your brand and business. While it can be tempting to put a positive spin on negative numbers, now is the time to take stock and surface your company’s problem areas. You can’t fix what you can’t see.
To help with your stock-taking, seek out an objective external partner, such as a global research firm, to get a true sense of how consumers view your company. You can explore the data the firm gathers to see where you stand, allowing you to make necessary changes to your brand’s image to ensure its survival (and revival). Many organizations conduct internal research, but the results are usually biased when compared to the results from an outside agency.
- Think ahead. As you decide on a direction for your rebrand, ensure you have a long-term plan. Flash-in-the-pan rebrands tend to fail pretty quickly. On their own, new logos and websites are not rebrands. Storefront changes spark chatter, but they don’t provide a sustainable shift in business practices. A true rebrand upends the actual brand experience.
J.C. Penney is a good example of short-term thinking. It launched its “Fair and Square” repositioning — which eschewed high-low pricing practices — without long-term board member backing. Shoppers were confused at best and unimpressed at worst. According to a consumer survey, shoppers had trouble understanding and comparing the new pricing model and deals. In fact, they said the new scheme actually provided “low value” for their money. The rebrand became a cautionary tale instead of a success story.
- Put in the creative work. Make sure your organization is structured in such a way that the rebrand is real from top to bottom. Can this brand image sustain your company for the next several years? Does this shift affect everything from your advertising to your sales associate uniforms? You have to check all the boxes, or there’s going to be a disconnect for consumers. Any change in your company image needs to be holistic.
A rebrand is about changing the identity of your company to communicate your DNA in a new, exciting way. While a good rebrand can be complex, it should also point out the possibilities that lie ahead if you plan, invest, and trust in the process.