The term ‘brand’ can encompass not only the look and feel of a company, but its value proposition and core offering.
The decision to rebrand is a serious one and can effect how customers see your company, good or bad.
We spoke with a few experts to glean advice on when to rebrand and when to stay put.
When should companies rebrand?
“If you are experiencing a decrease in sales and customers, it may be time to rebrand,” said Maria Ross, author of Branding Basics for Small Business: How to Create an Irresistible Brand on Any Budget (2010, Norlights Press) and founder and chief strategist for Red Slice, a branding and marketing consultancy based in Seattle.
“If you see that more of your customers are going to your competition, you have to look at your entire business and also your brand,” she said. “Ask yourself, ‘What is my visual identity saying to people. Am I attracting people or repelling them?’”
Look and function don’t match
“From a cosmetic point of view, when you look old and your looks don’t reflect what you are or what you deliver, it may be time to rebrand,” said Susan Betts, senior strategy director for New York-based FutureBrand North America. “It is important to match your [look] to who you really are.”
Attracting wrong customers
“If your company is no longer attracting the customers you want to be attracting, it may be time to rebrand,” said Samantha Hartley, principal consultant for Enlightened Marketing, a marketing consultancy based in Conway, Ark.
“Also, if you want to attract a new kind of target audience. Rebranding is about switching your target audience and the benefits you offer.”
“When companies bring in new management with a different set of values in doing and delivering business, it may also be a good time,” Betts said. “That is a time when companies often want to show their audience that something is new and fresh.”
“Companies often consider rebranding when they have a new philosophy or a changed philosophy,” Betts said. “For example, BP changed from ‘British Petroleum’ to ‘Beyond Petroleum.’ Rebranding can be a good way of bringing something out that people are not currently aware of.
“Also, You may want to rebrand when you establish a new direction for your company or expand what you do,” said Betts. “For example, if you are a bakery and are planning to expand to a café and open a service side, it may be a good time to think about rebranding.”
When should companies not rebrand?
New management, no change
“Sometimes when you have new management, it is tempting to leave your own mark,” Betts said. “But if you aren’t changing the purpose, direction or value proposition of the business, you shouldn’t rebrand.”
You are sick of it
“Branding is not an over night thing,” Ross said. “You need to give your brand and message time to stick and permeate the marketplace. Don’t rebrand every three to six months. People will get confused.”
“If your problem is not a market problem, but an internal problem, it may not be time to rebrand,” said Hartley. “Rebranding cannot solve internal problems in a company. Rebranding happens once you get your act together.”
You can’t afford it
“Figure out the cost of rebranding,” Ross said. “Remember that when you rebrand, you have to formulate new messaging for your business cards, brochures and signage.”
“If you can’t do it right, don’t do it at all,” Hartley said.
Strong recognition exists
“If people have an emotional attachment to a visual aspect of your brand, you need to be careful with how you deal with that,” Ross said. “If you have strong brand recognition, it isn’t always good to change your look and feel.”
Time for a brand makeover? Learn more about how your brand can represent – and shape – your business in the Project RE:Brand webisode series by American Express OPEN. Project RE:Brand follows five small businesses as five creative agencies help them re-envision their brands.
Katie Morell is a Chicago-based freelance writer specializing in small business concerns.