A rebrand is part of the natural cycle of every strong brand. But how do you know when to rebrand your business?
Too often the red flags get lost in the hustle and bustle of workaday madness. And even when you do notice them, the decision to actually embark on a rebranding initiative is rarely an easy one.
So, how do you know when it’s finally time to pick up the phone and call a branding agency?
- What is a Rebrand?
- Why Rebrand?
- 12 Signs It’s Time to Rebrand
- So, You’ve Decided to Rebrand. Now What?
- The Takeaway
In what follows, we’ll look at exactly what we mean by a rebrand, why a rebrand is so important for your business, and some of the top signs it’s time to rebrand.
We’ll also look at what your first steps should be once you decide to take the plunge. Let’s get started.
What is a Rebrand?
A rebrand is the process of reshaping how a company or product is perceived. A rebrand can include the reinvention of everything from a brand’s name and tagline to its logo and visual identity to its website and marketing collateral.
The most effective rebrands start with research into current brand perceptions—those of both internal and external stakeholders.
Data from the research phase informs the strategy or brand positioning phase, where a brand is repositioned according to customer needs and marketplace opportunities.
Only after research and strategy does a rebrand proceed to the identity phase, where the visual and verbal identities of a brand are reimagined.
The identity phase typically culminates with the redesign of a website and/or marketing collateral, which is then introduced to the world in the final phase, brand activation.
So, why rebrand in the first place? The reasons to rebrand are myriad. First of all, a strong brand makes it more likely your customers will choose your product or service over the competition.
Strong brands attract more customers, at a lower cost per acquisition, who are willing to pay more, and will buy more often.
The foundation of true customer loyalty, strong brands deliver more revenue, more efficiently and reliably, generating more shareholder value in the process.
Not only does a strong brand build brand equity, it also helps attract and retain your business’s next most valuable asset: your employees.
But, unfortunately, even the strongest brands have a shelf life. Due to the vagrancies of the market, the shifting priorities of customers, and a million other worldly forces beyond the control of any company, a brand is only fresh and relevant for five to ten years.
That’s why rebranding is so important to the success of any business.
When you understand the many reasons to rebrand, the question becomes not “why rebrand?” but “why haven’t I done this sooner?”
Remember, it isn’t a question of if your company will need to rebrand, it’s a question of when.
12 Signs It’s Time to Rebrand
So, how do you know when it’s time to rebrand? While the timing differs for every business, there are a few telltale signs a rebrand is necessary.
1. Your brand name no longer reflects your brand vision
One of the most obvious signs when to rebrand is a suboptimal brand name. It happens. What seemed like a great name 15 years ago now no longer represents what your brand is about.
Sometimes changes in cultural context can change the meaning of a name. Sometimes the name just doesn’t feel appropriate for the brand’s next iteration. If Larry Page and Sergey Brin hadn’t had the foresight to change Google’s original name, we’d all have BackRub as our browser’s default home page.
Whatever the reason, you shouldn’t let your brand’s name be a drag on the brand itself. A strong name is the foundation of your brand story. It’s your brand’s calling card that appears front-and-center on every touchpoint your customer engages with. Your brand’s name should be unique, differentiating, and, above all, memorable.
If you do decide to rename, you may find it’s harder than it looks. Beyond the daunting task of hitting on a name that is both unique and meaningful, there are the considerable challenges of trademark vetting and URL research. Following a proven naming process can help ensure your new name checks all the boxes.
2. You’re embarrassed to hand out your business card or website address
We see this a lot. If you cringe a little when you reach for your business card, or if you feel like your website should come with a disclaimer about needing to be updated, it’s probably time for a rebrand.
After all, if you’re embarrassed about your brand, it’s likely others in your organization are embarrassed as well, and this can be a major drag on both external promotion and internal morale.
Being embarrassed about your brand doesn’t always indicate the need for a comprehensive rebrand. It could be that your brand’s visual and/or verbal identities simply need a refresh.
Mainly a cosmetic solution, a brand refresh is a retooling of your brand’s look and feel. While it leaves your brand’s DNA or fundamental market position intact, a brand refresh can nonetheless have a powerful impact on a stagnant or outdated brand.
3. You’re failing to differentiate yourself from the competition
Another way to know when to rebrand is when your brand starts looking like every other brand.
At the end of the day, branding is all about competitive differentiation. But you’d be surprised how many companies are unable to communicate—or even identify—their key differentiators.
When you don’t have clearly articulated differentiators, sales and business growth can be extremely challenging. It’s important that both your employees and your customers understand why your brand is superior to the competition.
A rebrand can help you identify and redefine your key differentiators, including your competitive advantage: the thing you do better than any of your competitors. Your competitive advantage is the differentiator that defines your brand against all others.
At the end of the day, no competitive advantage is as powerful or sustainable as a strong brand. A strong brand enables you to compete whether you have a tangible advantage over your competitors or not.
4. Your brand has become overly complicated or diffuse
Is your brand experience scattershot or confusing? Does it feel like a hodgepodge of offerings with no unifying brand narrative? If so, it may be time to rebrand your business.
Keeping a brand focused over time is challenging, especially for large organizations that have many stakeholders with competing interests. Whether the result of unchecked growth or simply a mismanaged brand, a lack of brand focus poses serious challenges to your brand’s effectiveness.
Unfocused brands often resort to diversifying their offerings or outright copying the competition. They’re marked by weak or undefined value propositions and a general lack of relevance.
The more complex your brand, the harder it is for customers to understand. If your brand’s complexity is making your audience’s eyes glaze over, it’s probably time to take a step back to simplify and focus. And a rebrand is the only way to get this type of perspective.
5. Your business model or strategy has changed
Another sign of when to rebrand your business is when your business model or strategy changes.
As we’ve seen recently, you can’t always predict the outside forces that will compel changes to your business. But when your business model or strategy changes, so must your brand. The way your company is perceived by those it serves should always align with the way it operates behind the scenes.
When changing your brand to adapt to a fundamental change in your business, you should start at the foundation: your brand compass. Any comprehensive rebrand begins with solidifying your company’s purpose, vision, mission, and values.
Why does your company exist? Where is it headed? How will it get there? Which values define your company culture?
Clearly articulating these guiding tenets is the starting point for any rebrand, especially those inspired by a change in business strategy. Your brand compass provides a foundation for your brand’s many other components and charts a course to your brand’s future success.
6. You’ve outgrown your brand
Knowing when to rebrand your business can be as easy as realizing you’ve outgrown your brand.
Even if you’re meticulous with brand management, there will come a time when you’ve outgrown your brand’s original iteration. It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when.
When rebranding to accommodate for growth, you don’t have to leave all of your old brand behind. While there are likely weaknesses in your brand, there are just as likely strengths you’ll want to continue to leverage moving forward.
One of the best ways to measure those strengths and weaknesses before you rebrand is with our Brand Report Card tool, a simple way for you to score your brand on 10 attributes shared by the world’s strongest brands.
With insights from the Brand Report Card in tow, you can ensure your rebrand is laser-focused on areas where your brand is struggling, while strengthening the areas where it shines.
7. You’re undergoing a merger or acquisition
One surefire sign it’s time to rebrand is if you’re undergoing a merger or acquisition. Mergers and acquisitions almost always involve rebranding at some level.
In any acquisition, it’s important to look at how the acquired brand fits into the brand architecture of the acquiring entity. Too often, businesses fail to think this through, resulting in both brands suffering from the confusion that ensues.
With mergers, brand architecture is equally important. Ensuring optimal relationships among the newly merged brands, products, and services prevents redundancy, inconsistency, confusion, and cannibalization. These types of costly inefficiencies can undermine the ultimate value of a merger or acquisition.
A coherent brand architecture is critical to the performance of any company, but especially those involved in mergers and acquisitions. Rebranding with a meticulous focus on brand architecture is the best way to ensure the lasting success of all the entities involved in the transaction.
8. You’ve moved or expanded beyond your original geography
Another sign of when to rebrand your business is if you’ve moved or expanded beyond the city or state where your business started.
Regional businesses are often faced with the reality of a rebrand when faced with expansion. If your brand’s name is tied to its place of birth, a rename will probably also be in order.
Regardless of your brand name, though, expansion into a new region will always entail new customers with yet unknown needs. And the only way to understand new customer needs is with customer research.
As the foundation of a comprehensive rebrand, in-depth customer research allows you to pinpoint the unique challenges of the audiences in your newly defined territory.
The insights gleaned from customer research ensure that your rebrand isn’t just a creative exercise, but an evidence-based approach aimed at the needs of a precisely-defined target audience.
9. You need to disassociate your brand from negative perceptions
Another sign of when to rebrand is that you need to disassociate your brand from a negative image.
These days it doesn’t take much for a word or concept to take on devastatingly negative connotations. Thanks to social media, political missteps and business faux pas can spread like wildfire, transforming a once innocuous brand into a veritable hot potato.
Rebranding is often the simplest and most effective remedy in these situations, beginning with an internal brand audit to assess where and how deeply the associations run.
A comprehensive audit of your brand’s many touchpoints will provide important insights into precisely where the negative perceptions lie.
Negative associations aren’t always as dire as those that faced Phillip Morris—who famously rebranded as Altria to counter the profound negative associations with smoking—but they can be difficult for a company to untangle itself from, nonetheless. Rebranding is often the only viable way to move forward.
10. You’re struggling to raise your prices
One telltale sign of when to rebrand is that you’re struggling to raise your prices.
If the market price for your products or services seems hopelessly fixed, despite the rising costs of materials, a rebrand can be an effective way to break free.
Because brands ultimately boil down to customer perception, the value of your offerings is entrenched in the minds of those you serve. Rebranding gives you the power to redefine the value customers place on your offerings—and raise your asking price accordingly.
Time and again, research has proven the ROI of branding. Strong brands are more profitable, build more equity, and sell at higher multiples.
That’s because strong brands are more than just sleek logos and clever taglines. They have significantly more pricing power than weaker competitors.
The pricing power that strong brands command helps them dominate their respective markets, revitalize underperforming assets, and insulate against competitive threats. Pricing power drives growth like few other market factors.
11. You’re trying to connect with a new audience
Today it’s Gen Z; tomorrow it’ll be Gen Alpha. There’s always another generation hot on the heels of those currently spending money in the marketplace.
If you’re trying to wrangle the attention of a newly profitable audience, it’s probably time to rebrand your business.
Fostering brand loyalty among new customer segments starts with ensuring your brand is relevant to their needs. Rebranding allows you to incorporate brand tracking into your revitalized branding efforts.
With brand tracking, you can monitor the motivations, preferences, needs, and buying habits of new and existing customers and adjust your brand experience accordingly.
Staying on top of demographic shifts is good business, after all. The last thing a savvy young demographic wants is to associate itself with the stodgy brands of their parents’ generation. A rebrand lets you redefine yourself with the goal of reaching these new and untapped audiences.
12. You’re not attracting top talent
The final sign of when to rebrand your business is that you’re failing to attract top talent. The best talent wants to work at the best brands, after all.
If you’re having trouble recruiting top-tier candidates to grow your business, it might be because your employer brand isn’t up to snuff. A rebrand lets you redefine your brand not just for your customers, but for your current and future employees as well.
A strong employer brand will attract the most motivated and talented folks from the competitive job pool. It will help to ensure you’re interviewing candidates who are aligned with your values and ready to deliver on your brand promise.
A rebrand focused on your employer brand is one way to start attracting candidates who will turn into spirited employees that positively contribute to company culture and foster trust among coworkers and customers alike.
So, You’ve Decided to Rebrand. Now What?
Once you’ve decided to move forward with a rebrand, there are a few important things to keep in mind. If you’re going to invest the time and money it takes to rebrand, it’s worth it to do it right.
Get Leadership Buy-In
It’s critical that upper management understands the value of rebranding and is willing to play an active role in the process. The most impactful brand strategy is devised and implemented from the top down.
Build the Right Internal Team
The internal team you assemble to work on your rebrand is almost as important as the branding agency you hire. Ideally, you should include representatives from leadership, marketing, sales, and human resources.
Define Your Goals, Budget & Timeline
It’s important to set specific, achievable goals for your rebrand, as well as a realistic timeline and budget. Cost and time are different for every rebrand, depending on the size and complexity of your business.
Find the Right Branding Partner
One of the most important steps in preparing for a rebrand is choosing which agency to partner with. Ideally, you’ll want to find an agency skilled at both strategy and creative execution.
It’s a question every business will face at some point: How do you know when to rebrand? Whether they’re plain as day or hiding in plain sight, the signs that it’s time to rebrand can be just about anywhere.
Often the first sign is simply wondering if a rebrand is necessary. One thing’s for sure, a rebrand is a natural part of the growth of any business. It isn’t a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.
Whatever eventually compels you to reach out to a branding firm, you can rest assured you’re making the right decision. With the amount of measurable benefits that come with rebranding, the investment is likely to pay off many times over, for years to come.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September 2015 and has been updated with additional insights.