The principle behind creating a brand in the first place is consistency. The message is, “look here’s that product you bought before it’s still the same good quality and price and the packaging is the same in all its size variants. You know it and you can trust it”. That being the case there is a clear logic for businesses to keep their branding consistent for a long, long time – Tate and Lyle Golden Syrup hasn’t changed in almost 130 years.
Yet at the same time brands do go through the process of redesign and, trust me here, they don’t do it for the fun of the thing! Big high profile brands take plenty of flak during and after the process. People feel a real affinity with their favoured brands. So, you are entitled to ask, why do it?
Branding becomes dated. It happens – you could argue that it should happen. If it doesn’t then it’s as anodyne as a sheet of white paper: hardly the mark of a cutting edge product. Barclays Bank faced this problem – their corporate style was extremely heavy. Yes a bank wants its branding to say ‘solid’ but Barclays looked old fashioned compared to other high street banks.
The branding no longer reflects a brand’s perceived values. Whatever you might think, this is not a piece of marketing hokum. Brands do have values built in and they change, the customer changes, too. BT had stayed faithful to the character Busby for rather too long. Yes he was cute and popular but BT needed to reach a business audience and in the process look professional, which Busby did not.
The products covered by the brand have changed, perhaps out of all recognition and the customer base has changed similarly. Adidas are a good example here – they successfully decided to target the millennials and stole business from the likes of Nike and Under Armour focusing on the athleisure sector. Most likely in such a case a minor product carrying the brand suddenly becomes a key part of a brand.
The company is consciously changing its market position and it needs its branding to reflect that. The decision may have been made to move up market or indeed down market as reflecting where the market sector is going. Tesco did their best to move up market with a range of premium products but they left the corporate branding alone which now looks like a mistake. The customer faced with the same old Tesco selling these swanky new products got confused.
The company has moved into overseas markets and needs branding which both reflects that and works across a range of geographical markets. Branding which works well across cultural and linguistic boundaries can be especially challenging.
So why are you contemplating the major step of rebranding? You absolutely need to have answered that question for yourself. It should certainly include the principle of ‘we are not the company we used to be’ – ‘we’re playing with the big boys now’ or ‘we sell a quite different range to what we used to.’ ‘I don’t like our logo any more’ is not the answer, although it could well be a symptom of bigger issues that demand a rebrand.
Deciding that you need to rebrand is not a sign of corporate weakness. Quite the contrary! A rebrand inherently means that the business is moving forwards, that it has evolved beyond its original identity and in all probability is looking to do new exciting things. Keep your existing customers informed about what you are doing and this becomes a fine opportunity to strengthen your relationship with them.
Be clear that there is no rebranding magic wand you can wave – there’s lots of work involved. Still that’s true of anything worthwhile in business. Look at your potential customer base (see above reference to Adidas) and check whether your branding fits the demographics.
Is technological change disrupting the industry? This is by no means as bad as it sounds – plenty of business sectors have gone through this and come out stronger. It may be simply a change in tastes in the consuming public. As anyone who has teenaged children will confirm, the food industry has recently been changed significantly by an enthusiasm for vegetarianism and veganism.
A common reason for rebranding is that a properly organised attempt at creating a cohesive brand has never been properly tried. When the company was first set up a name was chosen along with, maybe, a logo, a colour and a typeface. But over time that colour is not used consistently nor is the typeface. Asking them if they always spell the company name the same way (as I once did) doesn’t make the point, either.
Finally, do you need to rebrand or refresh the brand? It will be tempting to go for the lower cost, quicker option of refresh. Talk to a number of designers, get their recommendations and prices. Pick the best one, not the cheapest – you don’t want to do this again soon.