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Business Observer Friday, Jul. 25, 2014 7 years ago

When and why should you rebrand?

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The more you monitor your brand, the easier it is to decide when your message needs some refreshing.
by: James R. Contributing Columnist

It seems like it was just yesterday that you launched your new logo, website, signage, and advertising campaign. Now your marketing team is telling you that it might be time to give it all an update. What should you do, and just how often should you rebrand your company?

The answer is something akin to servicing a car. If you regularly research your brand's power and relevance with your key audiences and periodically fine tune your brand positioning, then you will get a lot more miles out of the brand than if you drive it off the showroom floor and never get it serviced. 

Let's assume a starting point of having just launched a new positioning and identity program. In that case, I suggest market research in three-year intervals to evaluate the brand positioning. Any small issues or inconsistencies found by the research can be easily adjusted, and the basic positioning can be good to go for another three years. The three-year interval is long enough to help you recognize when change is needed and short enough that you will remain current with your industry. 

Some industries, like technology, have a quicker servicing cycle of around two years. Conversely, industries such as the electric utilities can usually utilize a longer, four-year cycle. We recommend the three-year cycle for most industries as a good rule of thumb for researching the strength of your current brand positioning.

We find that most major repositioning programs are on a 10-year cycle — (three, three-year cycles plus one year for the repositioning). While this all sounds very clear-cut and routine, you still have to deal with budgets, management changes, the economy, etc. It is usually a more lumpy process than I've described. I have found that if you explain your plans in advance to senior management and the board, they tend to understand this simple model and will accept it with less gnashing of teeth over the budget.

How should you go about rebranding?
Rebranding is a delicate issue requiring a balance between respecting the heritage of a brand and positioning it for the future. CoreBrand has been at the center of hundreds of rebranding campaigns, and we know firsthand how a trusted partner can make or break a rebranded identity. Our point of view on rebranding is straightforward. The first rule is: “Do no harm!” If the existing brand has value, don't make change for change's sake.

Rebranding a company is also an expensive process. You should only do it to solve a strategic issue, or to create a positive image if the current one is becoming lackluster. Again, consistent market research of your key constituencies will tell you if ground is being lost to your competitors. When that starts to happen it is time to consider rebranding.

Key constituencies to research periodically can include but are not limited to the following groups:

Employees
Management
Stockholders
Customers
Media
Local community
Government regulators

It is informative to understand how they feel about the existing brand and what needs to be changed or updated from their perspective.

Respect history and heritage
Finding the new brand positioning often begins with understanding the equity of the existing brand. Quite often, the founders of the company had a vision of the future that is more far-sighted and universal, which easily stands the test of time. Learn from their vision before developing a new one.

Once a new brand positioning has been fully explored, there are a number of steps that need to be taken to bring the new brand to life:

Build an updated brand architecture;

Refresh or re-create the corporate identity;

Prepare a communications strategy and rollout calendar;

Test concepts with key constituencies making sure they buy into it;

Launch the new brand like you really mean it, including: 

Big initial push with fanfare;

Everything launches at one time (as practical);

Events that include significant visibility of top management; and

Sustained and consistent communications program supporting the new rebranding for a full year.

If you really want to see your rebranding campaign take hold and thrive, make the senior management team accountable for supporting the program. Make it part of the job review and you will most certainly generate greater enthusiasm and support.

No matter where you are in the process today it is never too early to start thinking about the next rebranding. Measuring periodically will help you get the most ROI out of your brand for years to come.

James R. Gregory is founder and CEO of CoreBrand, a global brand strategy, communications and design firm headquartered in New York, with offices in Los Angeles and Tampa. He helps clients develop strategies to improve their corporate brands and profitability. Contact him at [email protected].

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