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The rebranding dilemma – should you do it?

Rebranding a business can skew public perception and risk alienating customers. Here’s what you need to consider before you go down that path.

The rebranding dilemma

To rebrand, or not to rebrand? Some businesses see a rebrand as a silver bullet in the form of an exciting new logo. Want renewed attention for your business? Need to change the topic when your business is under fire? Made some changes to your business so want to change branding too? These are some of the more common reasons for businesses to rebrand.

But if it turns out that a business is using a rebrand as smoke and mirrors to run away from its problems, a change in logo is not going to fix things. Because branding is more than just a logo, it goes much deeper. What customers connect with are the core values and attributes that a business has.

So, how can you figure out whether a rebrand will work for your business? It’s a process that requires a little soul-searching to find out what isn’t working before you modernise your logo.

The risks of rebranding

Brands, by their very nature, represent something. They are like people and the relationships we have with them. Is your business trustworthy, dependable, consistent, supportive, understanding, fun, cool, or nice?

These are the attributes that people relate to and successful brands live up to their promises. Just like good friends, brands help and support their customers in their everyday lives.

It should be no surprise then, that people get attached to brands and the things they represent, so changing your brand risks alienating the customers who are devoted to it.

The bad news is, the more entrenched your brand, the harder it is to change. You could lose everything from your positive reputation to your digital presence.

So while you’re not exactly starting from scratch with a rebrand, you don’t retain the amount of goodwill you think you do when transitioning from old to new.

All brands, big and small, need to constantly reinvent themselves, but not every reinvention requires a complete rebrand. Introducing new product and service lines with their own branding, or even having spin-off projects or ventures, are some of the methods organisations use to keep their core brand intact while trying on other looks.

Not only does this reduce the risks associated with a complete brand overhaul, it gives businesses a flavour of what works and what doesn’t as a marketing feasibility study.

A cautionary tale

A brand can reach a zenith and then fall victim to its own complacency by failing to reinvent itself. We’ve all seen examples of when titans of industry fall; what was once a household name is now just a footnote in the history books, like Kodak or Blockbuster.

These two businesses didn’t respond to changes in technology, the market and their customers; they were disrupted and destroyed by innovative competitors that didn’t settle for mediocrity and gave customers what they wanted.

Kodak, for example, made its name in film photography and failed to act fast enough to take advantage of the digital wave. But it was not just synonymous with photography; Kodak’s brand was as much about innovation as it was about images.

By lagging behind it was no longer an innovator leading the pack, so its brand lost lustre in that regard. And a facelift isn’t going to fix that.

When to rebrand

Now that you know about the risks of rebranding, what about the opportunities? First of all, decide whether the writing is on the wall.

Branding is largely about fit, so if what the brand ‘says’ no longer matches what the business does, then it’s time to change it.

A business that persists with stale branding will lose potential customers because the branding is no longer relevant, does not communicate what needs to be said, or is simply not a good look for the business.

Typically, business transformation is the catalyst for businesses to rebrand. A smart business will see the opportunity to respond to changes in the market, its product or customer base. Redefining the business is a great time to change the brand and how it presents itself in a modern-day market.

Recently, we worked with Rugby Australia, formerly the Australian Rugby Union, on a rebranding strategy. Already a well-established brand representing the sport, the organisation wanted to be more accessible, inclusive and relevant to the wider community. This was part of a deeper change within the organisation, and our rebrand represented these planned changes.

In addition to a name change to Rugby AU, we designed a campaign with an emphasis on ‘U’ to put people at the centre, so they could see themselves in the sport’s community.

Simply redesigning a logo and switching to a more modern palette won’t change any fundamental flaws, bring necessary innovation to how the business operates, or open up new target markets.

A rebrand should reflect a business’ refreshed mindset rather than being a mask that looks like change but hides more of the same.

My advice? Re-establish the business premise first and then let the rebranding follow. Then, your rebrand will be effective.

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