Identifying the right time for a rebrand requires good judgement and courage but there are also some signs to look out for.
Mergers or acquisitions are the most obvious indicators that a rebrand may be needed as there is a natural desire to adjust the look and feel of a brand to reflect its new, enhanced offering.
It is important to remember that a brand represents an entire spectrum of business activity, with its ‘look’ and ‘feel’ just being the first step on the road to an entire customer experience.
The fact that fast-changing consumer behaviour, competitor activity and indeed, changes to the business itself all come to bear on a brand means that it is constantly evolving, whether this is desired or not.
General good judgement is no guarantee of getting the timing right for a rebrand. Business owners therefore need to be aware of the right signals to guide their decision making.
Changing means engaging
The most obvious need for a rebrand is when there is a fundamental change to the business or its products and services. As branding should represent the business in its entirety and should not be mere window dressing, any changes should be reflected in the more symbolic elements of the brand to ensure it remains closely aligned with relevant customer groups.
Stepping up to match the marketplace
On the flipside, if there has been a noticeable change in the demands of a specific target market, it may be necessary to adapt the style and ‘voice’ of the brand in order to create a better fit. If the market changes and the brand remains the same, there is a risk of it seeming outdated or out of step with current tastes.
Eyes on the prize
Another key influence is competitor activity which if unchecked, can age a brand overnight. A key example of this is the confectionary retailer, Thorntons, which until recently was a market leader with a well planned product offering. However, Hotel Chocolat redefined premium chocolate, and the Thorntons brand instantly seemed old fashioned – there is a clear lesson here that a seemingly strong, even dominant position in the market can rapidly change.
One major trigger for implementing a rebrand is when the main channel, through which products or services are sold, changes. For example, in the case of the retailer, Blockbuster, when the decision was made to move the business online, some adjustment of the brand was needed. Despite this, nothing was done and unfortunately, this meant that the negative impression left by the existing brand came to bear on efforts to reposition the business. Although primarily, consumer habits resulted in the downfall of the original in-store format, continuing to use the same symbolic representation of the business simply served to remind people of the failure of an outdated business model.
Finally, for global brands, cultural and language-related specifics must be considered as part of any branding decisions. For example, recognising that red has negative associations in certain countries or ensuring that the translation of certain phrases and wording has the desired meaning can make the difference between success and failure.
Rebranding is an integral business activity
Proactive ongoing brand management is no longer an ‘optional extra’. This includes continually considering how the brand should develop, from minor refinements through to a major rebrand. Ensuring a brand has room to evolve with its target audience requires regular and close examination of changes affecting it.
Failing to recognise and act on external influences can destabilise even the most established brand. Finally, overarching everything is the need to react quickly to capitalise on potential opportunities to embed a customer group or target new ones. It is far easier to anticipate required changes than to back-track once the horse has bolted.
Simon Ward is chief executive of Holmes & Marchant, which led on the recent rebranding of creative agency CMW, which is now called Stack