Seven Signs You Need To Rebrand (and four you don’t)
Updated: Aug 23
To change the way that an organisation, service or product is seen by the public
Rebranding is probably the subject we’re most frequently asked about by CEOs, business owners and marketing directors. Our first response is WHY? That's because it’s as important to know when a rebrand is needed as when it’s not. Rebranding is generally a radical undertaking that's specifically concerned with existing companies, services or products. Let us stress that it is not something to be entered into lightly. If you’re sending a new message to your customers about your brand, you better make sure it’s clear, consistent and ultimately benefits them.
Seven signs you need to rebrand 1/ Your sales are steadily slipping – This can be for one of many reasons, but generally speaking, sustained sales erosion is usually a strong indication that your brand is in trouble. Left unchecked or even employing ad hoc marketing initiatives such as discounts and promotions will do little to reverse this situation. 2/ Your brand is losing sustained market share to competitors – If your competitors are launching successful new products backed by heavy marketing investment, your position share will inevitably be eroded. 3/ You’re outgrowing your current brand - If you’ve decided to diversify into new areas, your old brand may not be appropriate for the new entity. This is particularly relevant during merger and acquisition activity. 4/ You’re expanding into overseas markets – Since the advent of the digital age, the world has become increasingly homogenous. Nonetheless, local markets, languages, cultures, customs, needs, and wants have to be acknowledged and catered for in order to succeed. Messaging and visuals that are appropriate in Ireland may not be in China or India. Name, colours, imagery and messaging are some of the key factors that need careful consideration. 5/ Your brand is successful but sales have plateaued – Your message and experience may be out of synch with current consumer interests and tastes. Your brand identity (logo, tagline and other identifying elements) may have fallen out of step with current design and cultural trends. You risk disconnecting from your audience.
6/ Your customers are struggling to differentiate your brand from its competition - This may be because you or your competitor have introduced a similar offering with similar messaging. Regardless, when two or more competing brands occupy the same positioning, it usually leads to a discount or marketing war where nobody benefits except the customer. If your audience doesn’t have a distinct reason to purchase your product or service over another, your brand is weak. Remember, marketing brings the customer to your door; branding keeps them coming back again and again.
7/ Your brand identity is a mess with inconsistent touchpoints - Are you embarrassed by your business cards and website? A key brand killer is weak, unclear and inconsistent visual communication. If you’re sending mixed messages to your customers, they won’t thank you for it and are likely to demonstrate their displeasure with their feet.
Note: If you promise your audience something, you better keep that promise. Every time your audience interacts with your brand, this for them is an experience touchpoint (e.g. website, customer service call, brochure, packaging etc. They are forming an opinion of your brand, and you’re only as good as their last experience of you.
Four reasons not to rebrand
Whilst the concept of rebranding can be very exciting for everyone concerned, it should only be done for solid reasons like the ones mentioned above. It is often the prudent brand owner that has the intelligence and courage not to rebrand. In considering whether to rebrand or not, the following are four reasons to definitely not...
1/ New Management – Senior marketing people can often be hard-wired to change everything in an effort to announce their arrival and make their mark. “Out with the old - in with the new” is their battle cry. Unfortunately, this happens more often than you might think - this kind of change is ego-driven and not brand-driven. Not good, ever.
2/ Brand is performing well, but you’re sick of your visual identity – Otherwise known as change for change's sake. This, again, is a pretty common and harmful mistake. Brands need time to bed in and get their message across - building a brand usually takes many years. The more consistent a brand is over a sustained period of time, the stronger it gets. Remember, you’re ‘in’ the brand every day; your customers aren’t. Just because you’ve got itchy feet doesn’t mean they do. Believe it or not, loyal customers don’t appreciate change.
3/ To shake things up, make the brand look new – Brands are not disposable 'fashion' items (even in the fashion industry) – enough said.
4/ Because everyone else is doing it - Yes, it's tempting when you see the competition going for a makeover to do the same. But as we've mentioned before, this is about you and your audience. If your competitors are making a move, it's indeed important to know why, and if you haven't commissioned a brand audit recently, this is the perfect time to carry one out. If you do need to rebrand, make sure it's because of evidence-based reasons.
How will you know? It’s worth repeating that rebranding should never be entered into casually. It will be expensive and risky if not based on sound evidence and managed properly. Within an organisation, there are usually plenty of differing subjective opinions on the need to rebrand. Nine times out of ten, these views are based on symptoms rather than the substantive problem itself. For senior management to make an informed decision on whether a rebrand is needed or not, it’s important to have objective data to hand. The most appropriate action is to commission a Brand Audit up front, which incorporates qualitative and quantitative research. Performing a structured, brand audit in-house is possible, but you’ll need the necessary skills and resources. Additionally, you may struggle to come up with independent findings. It’s always advisable, where budget permits, to engage the services of professional brand consultants. A Brand Audit is primarily a health check of your brand as it is today. It provides a clear picture of how your brand relates to its audience and competitors. Not only will a Brand Audit accurately indicate whether a rebrand is required, it also provides the solid foundation upon which the new Brand Strategy can be based. Essentially, a brand audit shows where you are now, relative to where you want to be (positioning). The next logical step is to develop your Brand Strategy, which is the roadmap for getting your brand to its new position.
Recent Successful Rebrand Example In recent years we witnessed one of the major repositioning rebrand exercises in European aviation history. Yes, that airline we all used to love to hate – RYANAIR. Primarily, Ryanair is a very successful company but have recognised they’re not quite perfect when it comes to reputation. The aim was to keep the fundamental touchpoints that work and correct the ones that were holding them back. Since Michael O’Leary took over as CEO in 1994 and built Ryanair into one of the most successful low-cost carriers in the world, it’s been difficult to separate the man from the brand. Similar to how it was hard to distinguish Steve Jobs from Apple. O’Leary is well known for his outspoken no-nonsense, ‘take it or leave it’ attitude, and this has carried through to the brand. For over 25 years, Ryanair had had a unique image all of its own.
In 2014 O’Leary and the board of Ryanair, coming under increasing pressure, finally acknowledged that customer care is important if they want to retain and grow their customer base. The attitude they previously adopted was becoming more and more unacceptable and had resulted in a sizable hard-core of travellers who refused to fly with the airline. Something had to change and a brand development plan was put in place.
Following this volte-face, they announced a new approach to their customers - in other words, a repositioning rebrand.
Old Ryanair Brand
Poor clunky website
“Brusque” & uncaring customer service
Garish aircraft Interiors and cheap-styled uniforms
Unapologetic loose talk from the CEO
Tough cabin baggage policy
Expensive reprinting for lost boarding cards
New Ryanair Brand
More upmarket styling
Redesigned user-friendly website
Reserved, priority and business seating
More caring service
Redesigned “designer” uniforms
New muted colourways
New aircraft and redesigned cabin interiors
Increased cabin baggage allowance
Whilst the airline never quite went as far with the compassionate and caring stuff we might have hoped for, they definitely softened the image compared to what went beforehand. Interestingly Ryanair has chosen not to redesign their aircraft livery yet, but surely it’s just a matter of time. We’ll be watching. If you’re still reading, Stop! Go to work on your brand.