When change is necessary: Five reasons to embark on re-branding

You’ve been working hard to reinforce your brand. Lately, however, people are starting to stick their heads in your office and suggest it’s time to re-brand. You’re getting comments like, “our brand is tired,” “out of date,” “time for a change,” “have you seen what the competition is doing?” But is re-branding the answer?

Ten years ago, you headed up an initiative at your organization to define and build your brand. It took a fair amount of work to build your case for making an investment you knew wasn’t going to pay off immediately, but you convinced your colleagues that having what you mean, and what you promise out there ahead of your more tactical efforts would ensure a better reception for those efforts. Any “push” marketing and sales initiatives would also be more effective, within the “pull” context a stronger brand would afford.

Working with a consultant, you assembled a cross-functional team, conducted a small online customer survey, got input from your colleagues, defined brand attributes you wanted to be known for, and developed a convincing positioning statement and some topline messages. With this work in hand, your consultants tuned up the logo your founder and CEO had originally drawn on a napkin, developed some directions for the use of type and color, and provided guidelines for you to make some needed print pieces in house. You worked with other collaborators to launch a new website.

And for ten years you’ve been reinforcing that work. Lately, however, people are starting to stick their heads in your office and suggest it’s time to re-brand. You’re getting comments about your brand like, “it’s tired,” “out of date,” “time for a change,” “have you seen what the competition is doing?” These comments clearly express some dissatisfaction, but they’re a little too fuzzy to act on. You want to make sure that if you’re going to embark on another branding initiative, you’re clear on the problem you’re solving.

Your colleagues are telling you it’s time to re-brand. They say your brand is tired, out-of-date, and not up to what the competition is doing. But you’d like to know what problem you’re really trying to fix, first.

Fortunately, there are some parameters by which you can measure your need for a re-brand, They’re ordered below by the amount of effort (least to most) you’ll need to effect change. Drivers for re-branding can be external or come from within your organization: do any of these sound like you? If not, then perhaps your brand is not the problem…even if your CEO thinks it is. (If you need to explain why not to rebrand, see part II of this series.)

1. Your communications—print and digital—don’t look and sound like you.

Your offerings are solid and relevant––and you get good feedback from customers once they’re on board––but connecting with prospects is getting harder. The messages you’re putting out there aren’t telling your story effectively and you have to apologize every time you slide a brochure across the table or give someone your URL. Your print and digital materials––perhaps even your logo––are underselling, or even subtracting value from, your offerings. Updating how you express yourself verbally and visually is in order.

2. 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 market share. The good news: you’ve a vision, model, and value that can inform evolved messages, visual expression, and a refreshed brand. Do it.

Drivers for re-branding can be external or come from within your organization: do any of these sound like you? If not, then perhaps your brand is not the problem…even if your CEO thinks it is.

3. Your customers’ expectations of how a brand in your space should look, mean, and behave have changed.

The environment in which you operate is not what it was, and 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 succeed. Your brand is out of sync with the direction your industry is taking and with what your customers are wanting: issues that are deeper than those that can be addressed through re-invigorating the look and feel of communications. You need to look at your underlying brand promise, position, and meaning––and then reflect this new thinking across communications. To not catch up with your competitors––or, better, leap over them––will take a toll.

If 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 succeed, you need to look at your underlying brand promise, position, and meaning––and then reflect this new thinking across communications.

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––perhaps even your name––needs to be re-thought and re-built. While you’re not remotely a start-up, in some respects you are. You need to carefully 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 re-invented to be exactly in sync with your transformation; and new print and digital communications 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 with the capabilities and people you need, but in assembling a more robust set of offerings, you’ve also 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.

Before you embark on a process to re-define and re-articulate your brand, you first need to know where your organization is––and where it’s going.

Different conditions, goals, and trajectories demand different amounts of work on your brand. But before you embark on a process to re-define and re-articulate your brand, you first need to know where your organization is (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.