When Frances Moreno noticed that her company seemed to be getting lost in the shuffle of the vast and competitive Southern California staffing industry, the founder and managing partner of Vaco Los Angeles decided to rebrand and make her company stand out.
“Since rebranding, our company now resonates with our customers and prospects, as well as our candidates and the consultants we place,” Moreno says. “We’ve experienced growth in our revenue and customer base, attracted attention and even won a wide range of awards.”
What Is a Brand?
Before you embark on a rebrand, it’s important to understand what constitutes branding, says Tara Stoutenborough, principal at Strategies, a marketing communications corporation with 30 years of experience in brand development, positioning, messaging and content creation.
“Branding is not a company name, logo, tagline or the newest marketing campaign,” Stoutenborough says. “A brand is a company’s or product’s identity, and to understand what that means you must go to the customers and prospective customers of the company or product and ask them what they think, feel and expect when they see the company or product, because those thoughts, feelings and expectations are the brand. A company does not own its brand—its customers and prospects do.”
Time to Rebrand?
Just because it’s been X number of years since you’ve rebranded doesn’t mean it’s time to rebrand, says Chris Wechner, director of marketing for The Ultimate Analyst, an online marketing company that generates leads for emergency-based businesses. “Before rebranding, analyze if you’re failing to reach your target market and why. Is your target market ignoring you or unaware of what you’re offering? In that case, you may have a perception problem, and rebranding can help.”
Don’t fix what’s not broken, adds Steve Blue, CEO of Miller Ingenuity, a 60-year-old company that successfully implemented a corporate rebranding effort. He points to Coca-Cola’s attempt to rebrand with “New Coke” in 1985. “The public was outraged and let Coca-Cola know they wanted their old Coke, so the company responded within a few months and brought back ‘Classic Coke.’“
Steps to Rebranding
1. Influence and shape the brand with a series of brand promises.
In order to arrive at those promises, Stoutenborough suggests gathering key employees who have contact with customers in any way and ask the following questions:
- What qualities and characteristics do you want people to think of when they hear your name or see your product?
- What feelings do you want them to have?
- What do you want them to expect?
- Can you support all those ideas in fact? If not, what do you have to do to make it true?
- What can you honestly say sets you apart? Look at everything.
“Discover what your company stands for first, before you decide on a brand,” Blue adds. “If you don’t like what you stand for, change that first.”
2. Obtain customer feedback.
“Use whatever means you have—phone calls, online surveys, an email survey, your blog—to ask your customers and prospects what they think, feel and expect when they see your name or products,” Stoutenborough says. “Doing this will help you get a feel for how uphill your job at instilling your brand promises will be.”
3. Find out what's not working.
"Identify the part of your brand that’s failing to connect to your target market," Wechner suggests. “You aren’t going to know what you really need to change until you figure out what is failing to connect the target market you covet so much with the brand you want them to notice emotionally.”
4. Develop your story.
“Your brand’s look, feel and message should tell one story, and that story should be heroic and memorable,” Blue says. “Consider what is at stake for customers in terms of their problems and how you solve those for them. The story should be one that your employees and your customers can get behind, believe in and admire.”
5. Permeate all your company communications with the new brand.
That includes website, social media, sales tools and signage. Make certain that every employee understands them and can communicate them effectively.
6. Never stop supporting and promoting your brand.
Successful brands are a living presence in the marketplace with a tangible, ongoing relationship with customers, Blue says. “It’s easy to support a brand in boom times, but much tougher in down times; however, study after study shows that brands consistently supported during a down cycle gain the greatest sales and market share when the economy turns up.”
7. Be consistent and persistent.
“Don’t decide you’re rebranding yourself today, but next week refer to things that point to your old brand,” Wechner says. “Commit to building your rebrand. If you're rebranding for the right reasons, don’t second-guess yourself. Become that new brand, and eventually people will follow.”
Stoutenborough agrees. "Once you have established who and what you want to be, do not change it except for tweaks and slight adjustments. It takes 10 to 12 'touches' for a customer to even notice you. Keep going long after you think everyone must have seen the new brand. Trust me—they haven’t.”
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