Rebranding is an exciting undertaking. It’s an opportunity to turn the page, to move ahead, to realize a new growth plan or fix what’s currently not making your organization successful. A rebrand should occur due to some kind of evolution or transition in your organization or business. But how do you know what those shifts or trigger are? How do you know when it’s time to rebrand?
Face it. Rebranding is a daunting task. And if you do decide to pursue one, it’s even more important to ensure everyone in the organization understands how to properly use it and embrace it over the long-term. The last thing you want to do is rebrand a few years down the road.
Organizations who think strategically about why a rebrand is necessary and who understand how the rebrand will be a catalyst to their organizational growth will ultimately reap the best benefits from it. As long as it’s done with purpose, and there’s a plan for how that rebrand will be carried out and embraced once completed.
To help measure whether a rebrand is worthwhile for your organization, I’ve assembled:
12 Signs it May be Time to Rebrand Your Business
1. Your Brand (or Company Name) No Longer Reflects Who You Are
Sometimes a company name or brand belief system is no longer reflective of the way the business operates today. Technology changes. Consumer preferences adapt. In order to stay relevant and desirable, organizations often make the conscious choice to change their name and the overall fabric of what they stand for as a company. The traditional company of the past advertised themselves in accordance to the features and benefits of their product. Today’s consumers choose to resonate with your story and the vulnerability and heartfelt transparency of your company. They buy into your purpose, not your sale price.
Believe it or not, Google was not always known as Google. In its very early days, the world’s leading search engine was once known as BackRub. Can you believe it?
According to this article on Business Insider, BackRub existed at a time when the program helped analyze the authority behind web backlinks, and the company’s site existed on Stanford University servers. But as they evolved to become a search engine, co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin felt the name and mandate needed to evolve. Ironically, through sheer accident, the name Google was born.
For entrepreneurs and business leaders, if your company name no longer reflects the product, service or experience you offer to your customers, it may be time to change. Or if your organization lacks an updated set of ideals or beliefs that resonates with your current corporate direction, it may be time to address your brand.
2. Business is Rapidly Growing
I love the very nature of a new business startup. It’s an exciting and frightening time where an entrepreneur first surfaces with a new product or service idea. But for those that do succeed, success leads to growth…sometimes rapid growth.
As a startup, the business is often a reflection of you. As growth takes shape, the business likely is no longer about you as the entrepreneur, but rather it becomes an entity unto itself. And as it grows even further, it demands infrastructure such as staff (salespeople, marketers, HR), policies/procedures, equipment, distribution, facilities and more.
In those early stages of a company life, the brand of that organization may not be as defined as it should be. And the faster the company growths, the more critical it is to ensure your brand is completely on-point. Team culture takes shape. Others who present themselves on behalf of your business also become the face of your brand. That influences someone’s impression and brand experience with your organization. Further to this, what you stand for as a company and what your value proposition is also becomes an even more crucial tool for the company to use to build business and customer experiences.
Organizations with a period of rapid growth generally need to re-assess their brand.
3. The Company Has a Major New Product or Service
From personal computers to cloud or machine learning with Watson, or even a push into Blockchain, IBM’s brand transformation has been one of the most profound of any organizations in the world today. Could you imagine the IBM of 10 or 15 years ago educating the media on AI, just like this video?
Clearly we’re not all playing in IBM’s spectrum, but for organizations who pursue a new product and intend to make that their focus, a rebrand may be a necessary thing. The key is to take a look at your brand today and identify whether it reflects the audience, impression and experience you wish to provide to those buying your new product or service. If it doesn’t, you may have a concern with your existing brand.
The introduction of major new products or services change an organization’s focus. That can affect the way the organization communicates and behaves to its consumer and the value proposition or story it tells.
4. Your Consumers Are Not Engaged
Engagement can be identified in a number of different ways. If you look across social media channels, you may measure organic and paid content posted through likes, shares, comments and video views. For email marketing, open and click-through rates (and sequenced emails to follow) may be your top core metrics of success. If you were a restaurant for example, the number of online survey respondents and ratings they provide you might be a telling sign of how well consumers are engaging with your restaurant. Digital advertisers may acutely be aware of the number of click-throughs they receive and the engagement and conversion they obtained from the website landing page consumers land on. The stories and experiences being shared about your brand can play a critical role in how successful all of this engagement becomes. With lack of engaging content, it’s too easy for marketers and business development to leverage margin sucking discounts, specials and deals in hopes of infusing success. And of course, the product or service itself maybe the root of the problem.
Otherwise, engagement exists far beyond online activities including consumer reactions (or sales closed) through telemarketing, direct response rates (calls, in-store visits) through TV advertising, and the amount of earned media opportunities your team has been able to close. For retail, services, tourist attractions and experiences, lots of tell-tale signs of poor engagement can be identified as they walk through your facilities. But most importantly, overall engagement and sentiment can be most noticeable with your staff and team behind all of this!
Having a solid foundation for your brand value, tone of voice and internal culture fuels great content and much better engagement through all of your marketing and business development efforts. Companies spend millions on advertising every year. For some, imagine if they allocated just some of that money to better refine their brand voice and personality.
For entrepreneurs and business leaders, if your seeing a consistent pattern of lower engagement, look at your product or service first to see if that may be the root of the problem. If not, it may be time to look at your brand.
5. You Lack a Brand Story
Further to #4 above, people tend to buy into your story first and what you do second. Recently I came across a great quote highlighted by my team member Bonnie when she wrote her article “Take it from Ogilvy, We’re Selling Brands, Not Products”. One of the most brilliant and profound influencers in the advertising and marketing world, David Olgilvy had this to say:
There isn’t any significant difference between the various brands of whiskey, or cigarettes or beer. They are all about the same. And so are the cake mixes and the detergents, and the margarines… The manufacturer who dedicates his advertising to building the most sharply defined personality for his brand will get the largest share of the market at the highest profit.”
I love this statement. It certainly doesn’t mean that the product shouldn’t be as great as it possibly can be. Sometimes organizations can ride the high of having an amazing product to guide their business success. But for most products out there, your likely competing with other like-minded products for consumer’s attention and dollars. Your brand story offers that unique differentiate.
Motivational speaker and leadership/organizational consultant Simon Sinek has discovered remarkable patterns as to how the greatest leaders and organizations think, act and communicate. His video “Start with why” delivers a powerful message around how people buy from us. It articulates that people by in to why we do what we do first. Consumers then seek to understand how and what. If you have the time and you haven’t watched this video before, its worth it. I thoroughly enjoyed reading his book “Start with why”, which expands upon this further.
My point is that your brand story is a powerful influencer that can leverage the success of your business. We as consumers want the back-story about why your doing this, not what you offer. We want to know the product and process to obtain this product is legit and trustworthy. Of course we have other influences such as price and how the product is going to help me. But beyond that, you need something that distinguishes you as a brand.
For those organizations without a proper brand story and a system to tell that story, it may be time to take a hard look at whether it’s time to address your brand.
6. The Brand and Business is Stagnant
Perhaps one of the most famous rebrands over the last 10 years can be handed to Old Spice. By early 2000s, the brand image became one with the likes of what your grandfather might wear. The brand lost its desire. Something needed to change.
With declining sales and a difficult brand image, Old Spice chose to rebrand in dramatic fashion. Soon after the rebrand and a new media agency in place, the Old Spice Swagger campaign was born. The campaign is full of fun humour, and bold vision to bring out the best manly attributes of the tough Old Spice brand, and to introduce this brand to a much much younger audience then it was showcasing to previously. To fully understand the transformation Old Spice went through, take a look at this article.
For entrepreneurs, marketers and business leaders, environments change and brands need to adapt. If your organization is flat-lining or starting to decline, look for feedback about your product, service or brand appeal. Seek honest feedback as to how your brand is resonating. The answers about whether to rebrand may become clear at that point.
7. Competition is Inching Ahead of You
Sometimes competition turns up the heat. Whether it be increased competition, new product releases, more aggressive marketing efforts, increased focus on business development, or perhaps a recent rebrand themselves, competitors eat into revenue and profits. But have you ever envisioned a world where there is no other replacement for the product you offer?
Companies who are exceptional at articulating their unique core values have discovered a secret recipe that positions them to be remarkable in their field. The product may be similar to many other competitors, but the unique lasting impression they offer to their customers is what sets them apart from all others. Its felt both inside and out.
Take Zappos. There’s quite possibly no other company like them. And they win big for it. From exceptional and over the top customer service to a culture of being a little weird, fun and wacky, they demonstrate exceptional value to both inside and out. Internal culture is critical to their success, and that success is reciprocated naturally through the service it provides its customers. As a billion dollar company, they’re winning big. And oh yeah, they want you to know (at some point) that they happen to be an online retailer of shoes.
The shoes that Zappos offers are no different than any other online or bricks and mortar retailer out there. It’s the way in which they sell things, and the method to their process and overall experience that builds business.
Creating and practicing core values certainly is not the only way a brand gets ahead of their competition. But the quality or differentiation of your product likely is not the only reason.
As an entrepreneur, marketer or business leader, if your company feels like it’s being left behind by its competition and you don’t appear to have any plausible solutions in relation to your product, a rebrand maybe a very viable solution. Rebrands may solve problems through visual appeal, core values, customer experience improvements, internal culture improvements, and more.
8. Your Audience is Changing
Throughout this article, I’ve subtly suggested that a change in audience can change the parameters around your brand. Take visuals for example. Imagine if your visual brand uses a lot of pink. Should a change in product or a decisive move to go after a male audience become a strategic focus, clearly a visual brand identity with a lot of pink may isolate the audience the company desires.
I’ve painted a pretty basic picture with this, but all in all, the entire experience you shape with your brand, from message to story and of course visuals, will have a tangible effect on the audience you attract.
Particularly, if your company’s primary audience changes, you should be taking a good look at your existing brand to see if its still serving the new audience well.
9. Your Team is Not Cohesive
Sometimes an organization’s staff lacks cohesion. Whether it be a lack of organizational policy, a leadership team that’s not respected, lack of guidance or expectation, conflict amongst team members, lack of consistent tools and protocols or simply a lack of empowerment or training, the performance and attitudes of any team play a vital role in how customers perceive the organization. Some companies exercise a culture where team members on the front-line are highly encouraged to make decision in relation to customer wants and concerns. Other organizations, such as franchises adopt a well rehearsed work process meaning work and the customer experience is very predictable and proven. Whereas there are additional organizations who play an emphasis on team collaboration, engagement and spirit and prefer a place in which employees are highly valued and satisfied. These companies, who execute their core ideals benefit greatly. Profits follow satisfaction. Positive customer experiences are reflective of exceptional employee behaviour.
As entrepreneurs and business leaders, do you have an exceptional team spirit? Does your organization instill core ideals into every employee (and subcontractor) that works for it? When recruiting, how much emphasis do you place on not only finding the most qualified candidate for the job, but how they will fit in with the team dynamic of your business? Does everyone in the organization have a culture playbook and core ideals that they live by everyday?
When the team dynamic suffers, struggles to succeed will eventually follow. In the world of rebranding, fixing cultural problems is a sub-industry in branding that exists for the sole purpose that a positive and dynamic team culture breeds brand success.
10. Your Organization Lacks Goals
This may or may not influence a decision to rebrand, but if your organization was asked what its future goals are, are you able to answer them effectively?
Recently I met with a company who I asked them about their goals. It was a mature and reputable company that has garnered a lot of amazing success over the 20+ years they’ve been in business. They had just hit a period in which the owners chose to retire from the business and now a set of partners (who were previously senior managers) were acquiring the business as partners. The partners had only officially taken over for a few months when I met them.
When one of the partners approached me, I asked the very question around what the company’s goals are over the next 3 – 5 years. Surprisingly, the answer was “I don’t know”. This caught me off guard, but lead me into a number of other questions surrounding their brand and organization. I identified that several of the key principles noted noted in this article were areas they were suffering. What I was not expecting to be a rebranding discussion suddenly unearthed to become a major discussion around the brand as a whole.
Without future goals, no one in the organization knows who the organization is and what they are striving for. It’s hard to be purpose-driven without goals being aligned with that purpose. For team members, it’s difficult to work towards something special when you have nothing to work towards.
Just as in our own life as it is in business, we all need goals. We then need a path to achieve those goals.
For entrepreneurs and business leaders, a rebrand alone certainly won’t help you to build out goals for your organization. You can do that on your own. But when goals aren’t formulated or formalized, it may be the symptoms of much greater concern with the brand.
11. Your Advertising and Marketing by Special Offers, Not Value
Heads up, every city in North America is having a massive sale this week. Better yet, every city has 50 of those sales. Are you thrilled?
The approach to offer a weekly special, massive blowout sale, one-time offers and so much more is short-term and unsustainable if not backed by a solid brand experience. Choose some products and throw out some loss leaders for this coming weekend. Lower the margins and bring in the masses. But be ready, because you’ll need another mind blowing sale for next weekend. Companies churn out millions in ad spend to show off products that have the lowest price at that particular time. How insane is that?
Too many organizations rely on this unsustainable methods to bring people in the door. And guess what, they’re not interested in respecting you for your exceptional customer service, amazing in-store experience, quality of product or unique problems you solve for them. The focus is not on delivering an exceptional experience and to obtain brand loyalty. Instead, they are hunting for a deal that allows them to get the lowest possible price, at the expense of the businesses’ profit or future brand affinity.
There’s no question that many industries need product specials. The commoditized business of many must exercise a degree of this.
Exceptional organizations understand the punishing nature of this vicious cycle and choose to look at things differently. They instead focus on their brand value first and their unique way of connecting with people. From the experience they offer, the products that change people’s lives or the unique way in which they care about you and the world, they put the brand first because they know that in order for consumers to value what they offer, they must value them first.
Companies who are disciplined in communicating their brand value and connection to people create loyal followers and engaged buyers. Some of the best companies have build their own brand communities. Some of the most amazing and recognizable companies in the world don’t advertise. Instead, they let others talk about them.
If your marketing and business development efforts talk about the sale of the week as opposed to the value you bring to the world, it may be time to consider a rebrand.
12. Your Visual Brand Presence is Being Used Inconsistently
This is probably one of the most fundamental and obvious things to look at, but for those who don’t use their visual brand identity, brand collateral and voice consistently certainly need to start.
From the logo design to the brand marketing materials or taglines or tone of voice on social media, a brand is meant to provide a first impression and a consistency of what to expect. If you look high-end, you’ll attract a high-end clientele and a better price for your products or services. If you look cheap, you’ll attract bargain hunters and demand a lower price for your products or services. If your brand looks fun and a bit wacky, your customers will be ready to have fun with you. When your brand is shown consistently, people receive an expectation as to what to expect from your product, service and/or experience.
When it comes to brand support materials, your team also benefits from having consistent brand templates and branded collateral that they can use to promote and communicate about your company. I’m amazed by how many organizations choose to reinvent the wheel every time they decide to create a new PowerPoint presentation, design an ad, build a tradeshow booth…and the list goes on an on. Why shouldn’t the brand styles be pre-set and visually consistent?
For entrepreneurs, marketers and business leaders who have a visual brand presence (and voice) that’s used inconsistently, it’s time to start addressing consistency.
So there you have it. Your brand is at the core of some many things in your business. Sometimes a brand or rebranding effort is very hard to measure in terms of ROI. But the potential it offers you is so high. Should you choose to rebrand, remember that the effort you put into making it does not end there. Once you have your new brand, it takes a lot of effort to also embrace it. A brand is like a muscle. You must continue to exercise it after you build it up.