Rebranding is a way for companies to reinvent themselves. Businesses can change their identity and messaging to freshen up their brand and leave their past behind. It’s a common business strategy that can solidify relationships with current customers and attract new ones.
Learn why a company might decide to rebrand, what it takes to change your branding, and tips for executing a successful rebranding strategy.
What is rebranding?
Rebranding is when a company refreshes or completely changes its identity to create a new look and feel for its brand. A rebrand could involve updating or overhauling the company’s visual identity, including its name and logo, as well as its messaging and overall philosophy.
A company might use rebranding as a marketing strategy to appeal to a specific demographic or to differentiate itself from the competition. However, a rebrand can be complicated and expensive, since both customer-facing content and internal processes may need updating. A successful rebrand can improve a company’s reputation and help it remain relevant. It can also frustrate existing clients familiar with the old brand.
Common reasons for rebranding
There are many reasons why a company, whether a small business or large corporation, might choose to rebrand. A company that can successfully rebrand may achieve the following:
Improve the company’s reputation
If a public relations crisis has given your company a black eye and left it with a bad reputation, a fresh visual identity and updated messaging can signal to your customers the company is making a fresh start.
A company might hesitate to change its brand if it has a long history with the current image. However, a rebrand can demonstrate that its products and services can compete in a modern market. An old image made new can help a company identify with younger customers who may not know the brand’s legacy.
Capture a new market
Sometimes, a company might want to change its brand’s image to help attract a wider audience or target a specific group. The company’s new brand could be more generic to appeal to a wider audience or more niche to attract a particular demographic.
Differentiate from competitors
Changing up your brand can be a great way to make your business stand out from competitors. Companies can develop a new visual identity that will grab the attention of customers who have many options in the same market.
Accommodate a merger
When companies merge or significantly change their leadership, they may take on a new corporate identity, including a new company name and new company logo, to better match the new business. Rebranding can demonstrate the company’s commitment to its customers, despite the change in leadership.
When innovation consultant Alex Yurek acquired Canadian brand Detour Coffee Roasters, it was already a decade old. “We bought Detour Coffee because I’ve been a massive, massive, massive fan of the product, but there was so much opportunity to renovate the brand,” Alex told Shopify Masters.
One of those things that a lot of people don’t do enough of is bring their prototypes out into the world to be able to understand what works and what doesn’t.
The Detour rebrand involved two main phases: revamping the website and redesigning the packaging. Alex’s team started with the website. “Doing some light web redesign and relaunching and seeing the traction and what people thought … allowed us to really test where we were wrong,” Alex said. “I’d much rather make mistakes with web design that we can easily edit, change, and shift and lift around than make those changes [to the packaging] and have to live with 100,000 bags.”
After revamping the website, it was time to update the packaging. “The previous iteration of Detour’s packaging was actually craft paper packaging with the tin tie-downs, and with a label on the front and a label on the back,” Alex said. “Craft paper and tin ties don’t necessarily communicate to the customer that this is a premium product.” Detour didn’t want to lose existing brand loyalty, so the challenge was to elevate the packaging while keeping what customers loved about the original packaging.
Yurek’s team hired a freelance designer and tested hundreds of package designs before arriving at the right one. Showing the packaging design to loyal customers was a crucial part of the decision-making process. “One of those things that a lot of people don’t do enough of is bring their prototypes out into the world to be able to understand what works and what doesn’t,” Alex said.
The rebrand worked. “Ecommerce represents roughly about 20% of our overall sales now, which is double from what it was when we bought the company,” Alex said. “We’re not done yet. Now that these exist in the real world, we now have learnings that will make our next iteration of packaging even more effective.”
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How to develop a rebranding strategy
- Set goals
- Identify your audience
- Write a positioning statement
- Create your new identity
- Test and iterate
- Apply your new branding
- Listen and adapt
Developing a rebranding strategy takes time, effort, and money. However, a successful rebrand can create a strong brand with loyal customers and a differentiated identity from competitors. You can use these seven steps to plan your company’s rebrand:
1. Set goals
Start by establishing what you want to accomplish with your rebrand. You might want to capture a new market by changing the tone of your brand, or maybe you want to distance your brand from the company’s past. Try to be specific about what you want the new branding to accomplish and set realistic goals.
2. Identify your audience
You may already have a good idea of your company’s target demographic, but a rebrand could attract new customers with different interests. Clarify whom you hope to reach with your rebrand—whether new or existing customers—and establish a clear picture of who they are and what would draw them to your products or services. During this step, consider your competitors and why your audience would choose your brand over another.
3. Write a positioning statement
Your rebrand will apply changes to many areas of your company and involve many different team members, so you should start your branding process with a guiding mission statement to ensure everyone’s efforts are consistent. This brand strategy statement will act as a brand guideline as your team develops the new branding for your business.
For example, your new market positioning statement might be “to provide bright and cheerful service” to your customers. Your team can then use this direction and tone as they develop a new visual identity and brand processes.
4. Create your new identity
Using your new mission statement, develop updated brand elements that align with your new direction. Create a fresh logo for your company with a new font and brand colors. Develop messaging with a brand personality that establishes the right tone to reflect your new focus.
Your new brand identity will affect the whole company, so involve the entire team, including your marketing professionals, designers, sales team, and other stakeholders.
5. Test and iterate
Once you’ve adopted your new identity, it will be tough to walk it back, so testing is essential. A/B testing is a great way to test two different versions of a digital asset against each other by showing each version to a subset of web visitors or email subscribers.
For physical assets and bigger changes, like a new logo, ask for the opinions of real customers using focus groups to see how both the current brand’s audience and new markets will respond.
6. Apply your new branding
Once you’ve found a new brand identity that you feel will take your company in the right direction, it’s time to apply it to your business. You will need to incorporate your new visual elements and messaging in marketing materials, your website and social media accounts, physical locations and materials such as product packaging, and your internal communications. Plan ahead and implement your new brand quickly so your old branding doesn’t overlap with your new branding and confuse your customers.
7. Listen and adapt
As you monitor your new branding and receive customer feedback, adjust your visual elements and messaging as needed to best capture customer interest. It may take some time—even a few years—for your company to grow into its new identity, but with time, your rebrand will become the new face of the company your target audience comes to recognize.
Tips for rebranding
It’s important to know the common pitfalls and hurdles a business might face when undergoing a wholesale rebrand. The following tips can help you execute a successful rebrand that boosts your brand recognition with old and new customers and increases your market share in your industry:
Make your rebrand an event
Creating a new company identity is a big deal, and you can use it to put your company in the headlines. Prepare press releases and other marketing materials to showcase your new brand identity and make it a marketing event to attract potential customers. Your rebrand launch could be a great opportunity to announce new product offerings or provide deals and special offers to new customers.
Consider your budget
Rebranding involves updating many elements of your company and can be quite expensive. You might need to replace physical assets, update your web design, apply your new brand logo to marketing materials, and train employees on new processes. Be sure to allocate resources and finances accordingly to meet the needs of a complete brand overhaul.
Any change is almost guaranteed to be met with some pushback from customers, so don’t worry too much if some of your audience isn’t immediately pleased with the change. Listen to feedback and be open about the changes you’re making, but don’t get discouraged if some customers aren’t happy at first.
Stay true to your company values
Although you may be changing your company’s image, you don’t want to lose your business’s core identity. Consider your culture and the company’s mission as you rebrand, and carry over the best elements of your current business into your new image.
Use research to your advantage
Don’t rush into a rebrand without doing some due diligence first. Take time to study the successes and failures of other companies as you roll out your new brand image. Consider performing a brand audit to evaluate your current strengths and weaknesses and to determine your potential in new markets.
What is a rebranding strategy?
A rebranding strategy is when a company changes its brand—including its identity and messaging—to increase sales and capture new markets. Successful rebranding strategies often involve changing a brand’s identity with a new logo and creating a new brand personality to attract potential clients.
What are the benefits of rebranding?
The benefits of a rebrand can include capturing new markets and attracting new audiences with updated and targeted branding and updating an old brand to make it more competitive in a modern market. A rebrand can also be helpful if a company wants to distance itself from its past.
When should companies avoid rebranding?
Companies should avoid rebranding if they have a legacy of success with their existing brand and a loyal customer base that continues to return to them. Additionally, a rebrand may not make sense if it has no clear objective or has a high risk of alienating current customers who identify with the original branding.