It's Time to Re-brand. Or Maybe Not.
Even if people aren’t entirely clear on what a brand is — much less what constitutes a strong brand — they’re pretty sure they need one. But before you embark on a process to re-define and re-articulate your brand, you first need to know where your organization is now (and where it’s going), the branding environment in which you operate, and what your competitors are doing. And to marshal appropriate resources, make good decisions, and ensure that the effort and time spent will actually make a positive difference, it’s important to understand why re-branding is necessary.
Drivers for change can be external — or come from within your organization. And if they are within, different conditions, goals and trajectories demand different amounts of work on your brand. Some of these reasons may be applicable to your organization. If none are, then perhaps your brand is not the problem — even if your CEO thinks it is. Here are five reasons to re-brand, as well as five reasons to skip it.
Re-brand Is a Go
1. The environment in which you operate has changed, and along with it, your customers’ expectations. Worse, your competition is aggressively managing its brand to better connect with your customers. What you’re offering is still of value, but how customers and prospects think of you (and talk about you) is not what it needs to be for you to be competitive. To not catch up with your competitors — or, better, leap over them — will take a toll.
2. Your communications — print and digital — just don’t look and sound like you. The competitive environment isn’t the problem, you’re on top of your offerings and operations, and your organization isn’t undergoing change. But the messages you’re putting out there aren’t telling your story. Your print and digital materials — perhaps even your logo — are subtracting value from your offerings. A re-look at how you express yourself verbally and visually is in order.
3. You’ve evolved, but your brand hasn’t. Your organization is in the forefront. You’ve continued to innovate, but how you’re understood lags, and those out-of-date perceptions are dragging down both mindshare and marketshare. The good news: Your brand foundation is solid — you have a vision, model and value that can inform new messages, new visual expression and an evolved brand. Do it.
4. You’re transforming your organization. The change you’re undergoing is more revolution than evolution. You’ve identified new lines of business, a new model and new markets to serve, so your brand, down to its fundamentals, needs to be re-thought and re-built. While you’re not remotely a start-up, in some respects you are: You need to articulate who your constituents are and what they care about so you can develop new messages. Your new visual system (and name and tagline) can be invented to be in sync with your transformation. New print and digital communications also can telegraph and bring excitement to your transformation.
5. You’ve grown through mergers and acquisitions, but does anyone understand who you are now? You’ve assembled a great organization, but you also have piled up a raft of logos, taglines, brand promises and competing visual approaches. It takes five floors to get across your elevator message. Time to look at your brand architecture, decide which accumulated brands will live or die, develop messages that will communicate and connect and craft a visual system that will hold things together. Your almost-new-from-the-ground-up brand will present an organization that people will “get” and value.
Re-brand Is a No
1. You have a new CEO or CMO and he or she wants to make sure the world knows it. Your brand meaning is in sync with your organization and its offerings; your constituents understand and remember it; you’re differentiated in the competitive landscape. Head off change for ego’s sake. Perhaps a new marketing campaign (that also reinforces your brand) is in order. You’re not a dog walking by a fire hydrant.
2. What’s holding you back is a product or service that’s not compelling. If what you’re offering under-performs or doesn’t fill real needs, it’s unlikely that rebranding it — or your organization — will address those problems. Brands are comprised of offerings, communications, history and behavior — and the meaning and value that these components have in your constituents’ heads. Fix what’s really broken first.
3. You have operational issues in your marketing, sales or communication areas. Your brand, and branded communications, may be what they need to be, but if those charged with planning and delivering your message, making connections and following up are underperforming — or there’s dysfunction within and across these areas — expending resources to evolve your brand framework isn’t going to fix these internal organizational issues.
4. You want to present yourself as an organization that you can’t credibly be, or become. Your brand needs to be an honest, authentic representation of who you are — credibly informed by your aspirations. But your brand can only get so far ahead of reality: disconnects take a lot of time to repair. Years ago, Haagen Dazs tried to own the granola-fed Vermont brand attributes of Ben & Jerry’s. It didn’t work.
5. You’re looking for a successful “Hail Mary!” pass. Whether you’re an arts organization, financial services firm, institution of higher education or are selling vacuum cleaners, it’s a competitive world out there. You have to get the word out, make connections, resonate with consumers, create positive buzz and deliver something of value. It’s hard. If you’ve tired this — then that — and have not had success, your brand might need tuning up, but beware of digging in to what could be a very substantial project just because you’ve checked off all of the other boxes and they haven’t delivered results. Brand-building is a process, not an event, and even the best re-brands take time to deliver results.