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Nike, McDonald’s, Uber, Netflix: These companies operate in completely different industries, but they’re all similar in that they’ve gone through a significant rebrand at some point. This type of transformation may eventually become necessary in your business, simply because market demands are so volatile. But there are nuances to consider in how and when to rebrand, such as how competitive your market is. Even major brands, such as Capital One, Weight Watchers and Sears, have suffered major rebranding failures.
Part of the reason many companies fail with rebranding is that they approach it in a superficial way (eg new colors, slogans or logos). Successful rebrands, however, represent or result from deeper transformations that have already occurred in your organization. They show that your business has challenged its identity and that you are trying to close the gap between how people perceive you and who you really are or want to be. Increasing curiosity, collaboration and confidence should be at the heart of this process and can reduce the risk of rebranding.
Related: When is it time to rebrand? Lessons from Meta, Block and more
Creating a safe space for the right questions
At my company, we decided it was time to rebrand because we wanted to move into new markets and new revenue channels in a post-pandemic world. At first we thought we had to start over and let everything go, including bringing in new management. We even brought in a recording company to crystallize the direction we wanted to take and establish our value proposition.
But when we looked at the business, we still saw good bones. Many of our workers have been with us for years. They needed reassurance that we would not ignore everything they did and the effort that went into it. So one big gesture we made was to keep the company’s original name, a decision that was applauded by the team. We intentionally explained that rebranding was about focusing on a common mission and purpose so we could grow, not tearing down everything we had.
Once the team had some certainty that we absolutely intended to acknowledge their heritage, we could let curiosity flourish. We asked ourselves good questions, like what the business would look like if we explored different markets. We decided to be more inquisitive towards our clients as well, in order to find out in real time what their needs and wishes are.
Related: When to Consider Rebranding (And How to Do It Right)
Building a transparent, more inclusive two-way street
As our team explored, we naturally began to question and analyze the way we came together. How did the employees cooperate, not only with colleagues, but also with customers? We had to face the fact that our inward-looking approach was one of the biggest factors behind our loss of revenue. In a more traditional way, we took all our ideas and services and basically told customers what was going to happen. Only the biggest clients really had a big influence on the decisions we made. We realized that we want — we need — to be more externally oriented, and to remain competitive depends on a much more balanced relationship with the customers we had.
So we built new ways for the team to share ideas and information. We’ve changed our model so that we now ask people what works best for them and consider everyone, not just our “best” customers. We are also transparent about our prices and the margin we are trying to get. That openness has become our differentiator on the market.
Related: Branding is essential. Are you using it to your advantage?
Pumping people with tools already in the box
Rebranding can be a sign of change that has already happened or is in the works, but change can still be nerve-wracking and stressful. People don’t always feel very confident going through the transition even when they’re sure of what they want the brand identity to be, just because they’re entering territory they’ve never been in before. In the back of their minds, they ask, “Can we really go from here to there?”
My organization has had enough of this doubt. But when we looked back at our efforts and legacy, we saw a lot of success: individual employees excellent, we lift each other up and face challenges. We reminded them of everything they contributed and the results we achieved together, and we connected their skills with the new identity we adopted to show that we have what it takes to move forward. With a new jolt of confidence, the team was able to give the rebrand its full commitment.
For rebranding success, stand on these three cornerstones
The job is not for anyone, not even the richest of the rich. So it’s out of the question if you rebrand, but when. You will change, even if it means just adding new values to the ones you already have, and in the sense that rebrands signify growth, those are good things. The most successful transformations activate curiosity, encourage people to work together in new ways, and convince everyone involved that they are capable of truly living the identity you want. Make these areas cornerstones and you’ll mitigate much of the risk that rebrands do carry.