How many times have we seen companies change their name or logo only to find nothing’s really changed at all? In those instances, it turns out the “rebrand” was just window dressing or worse — the brand actually delivered the opposite of what the new brand had promised. It’s a crying shame when this happens because a golden opportunity to capture the hearts and minds of customers has been squandered.
The Road to the Rebrand
Companies choose to rebrand themselves for any number of reasons. It might be because of a merger or an acquisition. Maybe the organization’s capabilities have evolved beyond what its name has come to convey, or perhaps the company is in search of a reputation reset.
Regardless of the reason, the essential challenge in rebranding remains the same: How do you transfer the positive equity you’ve built up in your existing brand and keep your loyal customers while enticing new customers to your new brand?
With a nod to Ricky Nelson, the answer is: You can’t please everyone, so you’ve got to please yourself. And for your brand that means representing your true brand promise to the people your company is dedicated to serving. This means you might lose some folks along the way, but that’s okay. The key is to have a brand that fully aligns with your business strategy and gives life to that strategy. If the two are not in sync, your chances of a successful rebrand are virtually nil.
How can you seize this moment and use it to propel your business forward? Keep these points in mind:
Remember less is more.
In today’s world where every company feels it has to deliver more, one of the hardest things for brands to do is simplify their message, reducing it down to its core. But when you’re going through a rebrand, communicating who you are in pure and simple terms is essential.
Case in point: After Coach, Inc. changed its name to Tapestry, Inc., to better reflect the growing number of brands under its roof and its position as a “house of modern luxury lifestyle brands,” CEO Victor Luis told the New York Times, “It’s a wonderful metaphor for what we believe in, which is individual threads of different colors all working together to create a picture.”
Capture the imagination.
Harley-Davidson is probably the poster child for a rebranding effort that nailed it when it comes to capturing (or re-capturing) its consumers’ imagination. Suffering from declining sales in the early 1980s, the brand figured out that it wasn’t about the motorcycles themselves so much as it was about the expression of freedom the bikes represented.
With taglines like “American by birth, Rebel by choice,” Harley appealed to that rebel in all of us. The company also did the hard work of addressing quality issues and pricing its bikes to engage a whole new crop of customers who didn’t necessarily sport long beards and tattoos.
Embed it deeply within your organization.
One of the most common — and in my opinion, egregious — mistakes brands make when rebranding is neglecting to loop in their internal audiences. An organization’s brand IS its people — they are the face, voice, and living embodiment of the brand value. If they aren’t on board and empowered operationally to live out the brand message, then all of the new brand equity you hope to build is dead in the water.
To be fair, even the mighty struggle with this. Since Amazon bought Whole Foods, looking to add that magic, uber-efficient Amazon halo to the high-end grocery chain, it has run into a few snags (e.g. pushback from employees and suppliers). Employees aren’t robots (yet!), and they need convincing as much as anyone about the mission and the future. Once everyone is on the same page, you’ll have a brand-building force that will be tough to beat.
Prove it every day.
This is the second part to the point above. When employees are keyed into your brand’s essential value proposition and empowered to live it, they can show your customers what it really means in ways that really matter. That could manifest itself as above-and-beyond service or the degree to which you stand behind the quality of your products or a brand experience that truly excites and delights.
Let your customers be the judge.
Lastly, don’t forget to ask your customers if they see your brand the way you see your brand. You can do this in many different ways that don’t drown your audience in surveys. This should be a part of every interaction, whether it’s online, on the phone, or in-person.
JetBlue is one of my personal favorites because the company so clearly get its brand value. The airline doesn’t just focus on getting me from point A to point B. It’s about getting me there in a way that makes me feel human and not like a piece of cargo. Every time I board a JetBlue flight, the flight attendants regularly thank me for being a loyal flyer and ask me about my experience. When I offer feedback, they make a point of letting me know they’ve taken some action on it.
A rebrand represents a point in time akin to renewing a marriage vow. It’s a recommitment to the promise you make to your customers. It’s inspiring and re-energizing as you move forward into a new day. But it only works when all parties involved are committed to the same promise and are ready to live it day in and day out. That’s how great brands thrive, whether they are new, old or somewhere in between.