4 Myths About Rebranding

Chris WrenNovember 28, 20184 min

Last year, many of our Branding Strategy Insider authors offered their perspectives on one of the most difficult brand strategies to pull off successfully: The rebrand. In our Rebranding Strategy Guide, Hilton Barbour observed, “Rebranding initiatives are typically driven by a need to reignite sluggish performance, capitalize on a new positioning or highlight the arrival of a post-M&A brand. In many cases the focus of these initiatives is external and therefore marketers look to rebrand for maximum impact among customers, prospects, partners and suppliers.”

With change comes risk, and in the case of a rebrand, it means transitioning established brand equity from one form to another. It can be an intimidating process for brand managers who’ve not yet gone through the exercise. Key to making the right decisions at the start is to remember that rebranding always sits downstream from business strategy. Take the time to, “include, consult, and decide,” as Mark Di Somma says, with those ‘hero’ senior managers from teams outside of marketing who will be responsible for helping drive the change and adoption that a rebrand carries with it.

Rebranding is about participation, not presentation.

With that in mind, here are four common myths about rebranding that work against successful outcomes.

Myth #1: The Rebrand Will Change Everything About Who We Are

A rebrand is going to change some things, but it doesn’t have to be the complete death of everything you once were. For many brands, the need to change and rebrand comes from the addition of new solutions that sit outside the zone where the brand resonated in the past. In these cases, the existing culture and values can evolve to incorporate what has been added or changed.

A recent rebrand of Pitney Bowes demonstrates how a rich brand heritage can be the foundation for a powerful and effective rebrand. CMO Bill Borelle commented on their rebrand saying, “We are at an important inflection point in the 95-year history of our company. Our new brand strategy brings clarity to how we enable physical and digital commerce and underscores our focus on getting it right in areas such as Location Intelligence, Customer Information Management, Global Ecommerce and Mailing & Shipping. We are incredibly proud of this work and what it represents for the future of our business.”

Myth #2: Loyal Customers Won’t Like The Change

Customer reactions to rebrands can range from outrage to delight with change for the most part being accepted, unless it comes with no purpose. Without this it’s seen as wasteful. Contrast the story of Pepsi and McDonalds. Pepsi spent $1.2 billion to rebrand back in 2008. The logo alone was $1 million. And for what? The new brand wasn’t a vast departure from the old one, and that subtlety left customers questioning why the change was needed.

But McDonalds’ rebrand directly addressed perceptions that the restaurant was cheap and unhealthy. Changes to their menu to include healthier options, modernizing locations to feel more like a Starbucks and less like greasy food joint, and a fresh campaign drove increases in sales and delighted loyal customers. We see similar success stories in the way Target and Wal-Mart executed their modernized rebrands.

The takeaway is to know what your audience wants and expects. Surprise them with positive change that directly addresses their needs instead of arbitrary change that confuses them.

Myth #3: The Logo Must Be New

Don’t confuse rebranding with a new visual identity. Both processes can be massive, which is why they are easily muddled. UPS mounted a massive rebrand to compete with FedEx in the late 1990’s, replacing their slogan with “Moving at the Speed of Business” and offering new services like overnight shipping. While they modernized their logo slightly, it was not a radical departure from what customers knew and recognized. Not all rebrands have to be radical and often they are most successful when they are evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

Myth #4: Rebranding Is All About The Visuals

Visuals are a part of your brand, but they’re not everything. As Paul Friedrichsen says, “They should be a signal of what has happened, not the sum of all that has happened.” This is why the 2016 ‘rebrand’ of Uber was such a disaster. Instead of using the controversy surrounding their CEO and bro-culture as a springboard for rationalized, strategic transformation, they led with the visuals. In this rush to change, they ditched important visual equity associated with Uber’s U… the sort that any brand would kill to have. Further, they failed to provide any sort of narrative (because there wasn’t any) and this kind of confusion leads consumers to wonder what the brand is doing and where is it headed. Not good questions to leave unanswered.

As Derrick Daye puts it, “The paradox of branding is you have to change to be consistent.”

Remember, brands are never finished, and a rebrand may very well be in your future. Be sure to think it through, myth-free.

The Blake Project Can Help: Please email us for more about how we help our clients successfully rebrand.

Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Licensing and Brand Education

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