Friday, November 18, 2011

When Should You Rebrand? (and when NOT to rebrand)

Good Reasons To Rebrand:
  • You are attracting the wrong clients
  • Your product, service, or style has changed and is no longer reflected in your brand
  • Your brand is out of date because it was created for a different market or decade
  • Your current brand has acquired a bad reputation
  • Your brand is easily confused with another established brand in your field
  • You want to publicly demonstrate dramatic changes to your business
When NOT To Rebrand:
  • You just want a fresh look even though you are attracting great clients
  • You are moving to a new location but continue to offer the same service and products
  • You have rebranded or just established your brand within the last year
  • Your current brand is well established and has a great reputation in the industry
  • Your competition got a new look and now you feel like you need one
  • Your sales are down and you think rebranding will boost them

Really, the only good reason for rebranding is when you want to change the direction of your business and/or the kind of client that you attract- any other reason may do more damage than good to your business momentum.

If you have decided that it is time to rebrand for the right reasons, consider the following questions carefully:

1. What does your current brand fail to communicate or attract?

2. How will a new brand better communicate your product or service and attract your ideal market?

3. Based on the strength of your current brand's reputation, what is the minimum amount of change that will have the maximum impact toward your goals?

There are many different ways you can make changes in order to serve your goals- consider which ones will have the greatest impact:

Changing your service methods is one of the easiest ways to change the perception of your brand without changing a look that has already established itself in the market. By simply improving the service aspects of your business, you can boost your word of mouth marketing and reputation in the marketplace. Consider the excitement that comes with new food offerings at your favorite restaurants, or a return of a seasonal only favorite item. Just be wary of making changes too frequently in the customer experiences so that your clients don't suffer from a type of "facebook frustration." Here are some examples of service changes you may want to consider:
- Reorganization and optimization of website menu and navigation
- Improve response times to inquiries and problems
- Improve delivery times on products and services
- Streamline customer options and selection process
- Change service or product offerings
- Product packaging and unboxing experience

Making changes to the tone and messages communicated in marketing materials can be a subtle way of changing directions and identifying with your intended market. McDonald's has changed it's slogan countless times as well as the formality and informality of its wording in marketing materials. It has moved from "you deserve a break today"- targeted to parents suggesting a break from cooking at home and entertaining their kids, to "i'm lovin' it"- targeted to young adults suggesting satisfaction of a craving when they see the golden arches on the side of the road. Here are several elements of a branding message that you may want to consider:
- Tagline or motto
- Written copy on website and in marketing materials
- Testimonials from clients
- Stories and Case Studies that demonstrate service and product offerings
- Integration of accomplishments or statistics that establish credibility
- Use of social media to deliver value and convey brand messages

This is generally the first thing people think of when they think of rebranding, but as you've seen, it's not the only influence on your overall brand. In fact, if you have an established brand, I'd recommend looking at the other changes you can make before you implement a visual change. We've seen plenty of iconic brands undergo visual changes in our lifetime (Pepsi, Apple, Adidas, etc.) and it's important to note that changes which were received positively in the market often held on to some elements of the former branding. When GAP took too drastic a departure from its former logo, the market responded negatively to the new look, which resulted in GAP changing back to their original logo. If you've created an iconic logo for your company, be very careful about how you change it. You may only need to make very subtle changes in order to attract a new market, convey a new experience, or bring it into a new decade. Consider these various elements of your visual brand:
- Color palette of logo or marketing pieces (website, business card, newsletters, etc.)
- Fonts, spacing, and layout of marketing pieces
- Shapes used in marketing pieces (going from squares and lines to circles and waves)
- Complexity or simplicity of elements used in visual marketing pieces

I place this one last and in its own category because the only reason for considering a name change should be when you want to make a complete departure from your former clients and reputation. A name change from "XYZ Studio" to "XYZ Photography" is not that dramatic if your main service has always been photography. However, if you're a graphic designer, this would convey that you are now ONLY offering photography, thus separating yourself from your design clients and reputation. Consider the impact Netflix had when it created an entirely different brand for DVD service and how separating it from Streaming Video services was not welcomed by its customer base leading Netflix to reverse their new venture. A subtle name change may not have that much impact on your business as long as you retain the original web address for at least 2 years after you make the change. However, if you are going from JD Photo to Jane Doe Photography- it should be because JD Photo was too easily confused with other similar names and conveyed a brand name that was more casual than the type of work you want to attract. Before considering any name change, google the name and see what other websites appear in searches to make sure you can carve out a unique name for your service in the online marketplace.

Test out any changes on your favorite clients or on people that you'd like to attract with your service or product. Get some good feedback from people who would have an impact on your bottom line before solidifying any changes. Just as there is beta-testing with new software, there should be some amount of beta-testing with changes to your brand. If you've gone through the branding process, or are in the middle of it, I'd love to hear about your experience in the comments!

Anne Ruthmann is a lifestyle & wedding photographer from Boston, MA. She spent 10 years practicing marketing & management in corporate and non-profit businesses before pursuing her passion for photography as an independent small business. She loves helping others find creative and low-cost solutions to business problems. Follow her on Twitter to see her daily adventures and thoughts.