5 Signs It’s Time To Rebrand

June 4th, 2015

Even the most successful brands need the occasional update or refresh. Go ahead and Google the logo histories of brands like Apple, Starbucks, and Coca-Cola.

So how do you know when it’s time for your brand to make a change? Here’s a list of the “Top Five” signs you should consider a rebrand.

  1. Changing Business, Static Brand

Companies rarely last long without making adjustments to their products or services. In one sense, these adjustments are strategic moves to keep up with changes in technology and market demand. A hotel might open another location, while a conglomerate might spin off its retail division.

Over time, though, strategic changes can leave your business doing something very different from what you had originally intended. There was a time (believe it or not) when Apple had only one product line—personal computers—with a very specific target market. Apple’s transition to a mass-market consumer technology brand with many products has been successful in part due to intelligent changes to its brand identity. The look, feel, and messaging have helped guide the market’s perceptions over time, keeping them in lock-step with the company’s products offering.

At what point does your brand need to change? The changes to your product line need not be so drastic Apple’s. Every company that changes its offerings or adds a product line must consider whether its old brand will remain effective for the new business. Ask yourself: Does your brand still reflect what you do? If you’re addressing a new market, will the old brand still hold appeal? A changing company must periodically evaluate its brand identity, and may need to pivot and or even undertake wholesale changes in order to remain relevant within its competitive space.

Changing identities is not an easy thing to do—not for a person, and certainly not for a brand. The list of companies who were unable to shake their old brand identities is long—think Blackberry, Blockbuster, and Suzuki Motors. True, your company must first offer a viable product or service; yet even the best product can fail when its brand is a bad fit for the target market.

For proof, look at the many brand extensions that fall flat. Ben-Gay made aspirin that worked just fine, and Life Savers soda fared extremely well in taste tests—which shouldn’t surprise anyone, by the way, because candy-soda sounds like pure deliciousness to us. However, both products failed miserably, and it’s not because the products themselves were bad. What happened was, the market too strongly associated Ben-Gay with pain-relieving ointments and Life Savers with ring-shaped candies. The brand extensions failed because their brands were ill-suited to their respective markets. No one wants to drink a Life Saver; no one wants to ingest Ben-Gay.

We can apply the lessons of failed brand extensions to any company that has altered its product offerings. That is, if your products or services have been changed, but your brand has remained the same, then your brand might now carry the wrong associations. Does your brand accurately reflect what you do? Does it communicate the right message, the right look and feel? If not, now is the time to re-evaluate.

Your business may be cutting-edge, but your brand identity might reflect outdated thinking. Meanwhile, your website and messaging, once a perfect fit for all your products and services, might now portray something inaccurate—a way of operating that no longer applies, a message you no longer wish to convey, or even products you no longer offer.

The takeaway: When your business changes, a rebrand helps shift and guide market perceptions accordingly, thus keeping you relevant to your market.

  1. Sales Are Slowing

Most companies experience occasional sales lags. But when tried and true sales and marketing campaigns are no longer giving you the same results, it’s time to think about why. It’s easy to blame the Marketing and/or Sales teams. It’s a bit harder, but also more important, to critically examine the tools your marketing and sales reps have at their disposal.

We’re talking about your company’s brand assets.

Many sales issues stem from the target market’s neutral or negative perception of your brand—whether they find it old and stale, think it represents something they don’t want to be seen with, have heard bad rumors, or any number of other problems. Under these conditions even the smartest marketers and most likeable salespeople will struggle to overcome the doubts of your customers.

So take a closer look. Change is a constant, and your customers are no exception. Their sensibilities change; the ways (channels) in which they engage your brand change. Your brand assets—in order to move potential customers and clients closer to a sale rather than farther away—should adapt accordingly.

So if you think your campaigns are well-designed, and your marketing and sales teams well-trained, then it’s time to look at potential brand gaps between the market’s perceptions and your own. What does the market really think of your brand? (Want to find out? Contact us.)

  1. Your Pitch Takes More Than 30 Seconds

You know that eyes-glazed-over look on the face of prospects? We hope not.

Your brand is more than just a static look and feel. Your brand is determined, in part, by how you and everyone in your company talks about what you do. That’s right: a big part of branding is your sales pitch.

So here’s an idea: take periodic surveys among the employees you count on to represent (i.e., to sell) your company to potential clients and customers. How good are they at describing what you do? How consistent are they? If the results are disappointing, you can start fixing the problem by developing a standardized way of talking about your company, a consistent and coherent message that Captures, Compels, and Closes the target market.

After you align on your new company pitch, you may find that your brand assets fail to match up. For example, if your pitch describes a “revolutionary new technology” but your website says “Welcome to 2008,” it’s time to give us a call.

  1. You Look Familiar… Too Familiar

An uncanny brand has its benefits. For one thing, young companies that manage to look similar to well-known companies can piggyback on the reputations of more established brands—brands your customers know and trust. There is such a thing as looking too much alike, though.

How do you know when your brand has reached the point of too much similarity? When the market is confusing you with your competition.

It should be easy to tell when this is happening, but many companies overlook it. You’ll get comments from business prospects about companies who do something similar to what you do. You can listen to your market’s comments on social media. If you look closely, you can probably even see the similarities yourself.

In many markets there is a “standard” brand identity that most companies adopt. While there’s something to be said for doing what everyone else is doing—it can seem less risky (though this, too, is misleading)—having a too-similar brand places unnecessary stresses on marketing and sales. When there are few perceived differences between your brand and your competition’s, you’re forced to involve your company in awareness and pricing wars.

So if your brand feels similar, there is a big upside to breaking away from the mold with a new, creative brand identity. Think Dos Equis leaving other Mexican beers in a pool of uninterestingness, or Old Spice defining what it means to smell like a man. In mature markets, you can capture market share by having the courage to do something different from your standard-brand competition, which are paralyzed by fear of change. In newer markets, your differentiated brand can be its own barrier to entry—a wall of creativity that would-be market entrants would find difficult to climb.

  1. Changes in Management

Changes within the company bring new ideas from bright people with valuable outside perspectives. This in itself can justify a brand refresh. New managers frequently bring different visions and goals for the company—often, it’s why they were brought in.

A rebrand can help complement this new company direction with a new look and feel, picking up PR and spreading audience awareness of the company’s new feel. It’s an excellent opportunity to shift the audience’s perception of a stuffy or outdated brand, and to begin building their emotional connection to a new one.

In the case of a mergers and acquisitions play, the new brand has two differing identities, audiences, messaging and much has been promised to deliver “synergy”, “economies of scale”, and “combined sales power.” A highly strategic rebrand delivers on these promises.

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