Time to Rebrand?

As Bob Dylan wrote, “The Times They Are A-Changin’ . . . ” and will likely never be the same.  Society cannot go through the kind of dislocations experienced during the current pandemic without being fundamentally altered, though in ways that may ultimately turn out to be good.  (For example:  During the global quarantine, scientific studies showed that the amount of pollution – especially in hotspots – decreased significantly.)

Hopefully, we have learned many positive lessons during this international “time-out” and developed a new openness to change.

Necessity may have changed your product or service . . . perhaps in a good way.

During this period of quarantine, perhaps (1) your business had to be closed; (2) you remained open but strictly as an Internet/Takeout-Delivery operation; or (3) you were designated as essential to survival and kept going as best you could under adverse circumstances.  Regardless of the category that applies to you, your business will have changed during this time.

Once the crisis has ended, business owners will be faced with deciding whether some of the changes should become permanent ones.  (For example, you learned that a segment of your operations could be conducted on-line.  Do you try to revert to old ways . . . OR do you capitalize on what you learned and maintain or grow your Internet activities – recognizing an opportunity for immediate profit as well as a hedge against a future need to run your business in a state of emergency?)

With changes of the kind we are discussing comes a need for you to consider whether you must also now REBRAND.

REBRANDING

Over the years, I’ve probably been involved in a half dozen or more different rebranding exercises.  Some were very necessary AND major, including top to bottom name, logo, byline, etc. adjustments while others were more minor and amounted to some after-the-fact tweaking of branding elements rather than new names and identities.

How do you know when the time has come?  You certainly know when:

  • Your product and/or service is no longer clearly or accurately represented by the brand. 
  • Your branding no longer resonates with your customers.  (You may learn of this need by asking via a formal survey or focus group . . . or you may recognize that a problem exists because your customers no longer remember or relate to your name, logo, or product.)
  • A change of ownership occurs.  (Perhaps your old name is no longer applicable or perhaps your new owner has a well-known name you want to promote.  For instance . . . when Berkshire Hathaway purchased my employer in 2012, we wanted to make the name of our parent part of our own name so their branding qualities also became ours.  While various permissions and legal ramifications must be addressed first, the results justify the effort.)
  • A new product or service has been added that you want to promote or a secondary activity has now become primary and dominant.
  • Sales suggest your current brand just is not working well enough.

So . . . how extensive a rebrand is required?  For instance:

  • Is a name change required?  If yes, do you want the new name to reflect the old name . . . or be entirely new.  (For example, many years ago, the company that employed me was known as “The GUARD Network.”  That name was chosen with the expectation of developing a diverse list of products that served many different industries.  When that did not happen and the organization dealt strictly with insurance, the name became a bit of a handicap because people couldn’t tell what the company did.  The decision was made to add the word insurance, but all parties believed the word GUARD communicated the right branding qualities of security and protection.  As a result, the company became GUARD Insurance Group.
  • Is a new or modified logo needed?  When a name changes in a significant way, a new logo is probably required.  However, a logo might be changed or tweaked independent of the name.  At that same prior employer, our logo was finetuned multiple times across a five-year period – always including a GUARD icon so the benefit of past branding could be maintained . . . but gradually simplifying that image, which became broader and a bit more abstract over time. For an interesting look at the evolution of some famous logos over time (as well as information on debranding), check out Debranding: The Future of Branding.
  • By-line?  A change of by-line is another way to communicate an important adjustment without necessarily scrapping the investment made over time to your logo.  (For Example, a restaurant that had started to feature delivery and take-out might start including that information as part of a new by-line – “Take out/eat in.”

Sometimes, the need for a rebrand is obvious . . . and I suspect that will often be the case post-pandemic.  If you are not sure about the necessity, take the time to do some research with current and potential customers.  In addition to evaluating the necessity, you might learn some useful tips about the correct measures needed to rebrand successfully.

Make No Mistake . . . Rebranding Comes at a Cost

Some of the expenses associated with a rebrand are obvious:

  • The cost of performing research (surveys, focus groups, etc.)
  • Cost of reprinting materials with the new logo
  • Signage changes to reflect the new name
  • Programming expense associated with changes to the branding elements in the computer system
  • Cost of promoting the new name via advertising, mailings, and promotional giveaways
  • Etc., etc., etc. (The list can keep going on and on.)

However, the less obvious costs must also be considered.  For example:

  • Lost labor.  Staff time associated with name change activities as opposed to normal duties is an expense.
  • Lost investment in the old branding.  If you succeed in cleverly linking the past and present, perhaps some of that investment will be salvaged.  If not – if a total break from the past seems advisable for some extreme reason – your effort in accumulated time and money will be totally lost.

Conclusion

Right now, we are still in the middle of a global health and financial crisis . . . so post-pandemic thoughts may seem somewhat premature.  Still, we wanted to introduce this kind of thinking now so you can subconsciously collect information as you go along that might prove useful in the future.   When that day comes, we have a number of blog postings that may be very helpful to you.  Be sure to revisit “Building Blocks: The Beginning.”  

The above illustration highlights just a few of the relevant topics worth reviewing.

Good luck. Stay safe.

If you have any questions or comments on this topic, we’d love to hear from you. Scroll down to the comments section at the bottom of this page.