Looking for rebranding tips that will guarantee the success of your upcoming rebrand? You’ve come to the right place.
If you’ve decided to rebrand your company, you likely have many questions about the road ahead. It’s a journey that can be fraught with anxiety and trepidation—especially if done incorrectly.
With this in mind, we’ve developed 10 tips for rebranding, born from years of experience successfully rebranding businesses like yours.
In what follows, we’ll take a look at exactly what we mean by rebranding before we dive into the 10 most essential rebranding tips for any successful rebrand.
- What is Rebranding?
- Rebranding Tips
- Successful Rebranding Examples
- Unsuccessful Rebranding Examples
- The Takeaway
What is Rebranding?
Rebranding is the process of reshaping how a company or product is perceived.
Rebranding is a complex endeavor. It takes time to do it right. But these two facts don’t mean that your rebrand has to be ominous and overwhelming.
With a bit of preparation and an understanding of the process, a rebranding initiative can be an exciting, cathartic adventure. Especially if you follow the rebranding best practices outlined below.
The following are 10 key rebranding tips for getting the most out your rebranding adventure—and for building a brand that is compelling, cohesive, and unforgettable.
1. Plan Ahead
As with most things in life, when it comes to branding there’s no substitute for preparation. Considering the investment that a comprehensive rebrand entails, it’s imperative to plan ahead to ensure you maximize your return.
The first of our rebranding tips is simple: the more preparation you do in advance, the more efficient and impactful your rebrand will be.
The following is what a good preparation strategy looks like:
Of primary importance to your rebranding strategy should be buy-in from senior leadership on the value of rebranding. The imminent need for, and practical value of, a rebrand should be made crystal clear to decision-makers before the process begins.
Next up, you’ll want to identify the internal stakeholders that will make up your rebranding team.
This team should include the C-suite and other key decision-makers, including representatives from marketing, sales, HR, customer support—anyone in a leadership position who interacts with either customers or employees on a daily basis.
When senior leadership is an integral part of the rebranding process, they have a stake in brand strategy and brand positioning, and are able to implement brand alignment from the top down.
The final step of your rebranding preparation is to gather existing branding and marketing collateral for the discovery phase of your rebrand. The best rebrands begin with a comprehensive understanding of how the brand is currently positioned.
By collecting a representative sampling of marketing, advertising, and PR materials, you set your branding agency up to perform a thorough brand audit, giving you an invaluable assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of your current brand.
2. Identify the Level of Change Needed
Next up on the list of rebranding tips is to identify exactly what type of change you need.
If you’re ready to rebrand, you’re probably at a point where you know something with your brand needs fixing, but you’re not sure how deep the problem goes. Do you need a complete overhaul of your brand, or just a reimagining of your visual identity?
The latter is what’s known as a brand refresh. A more tactical maneuver, a refresh is often utilized to ensure your brand is staying up-to-date on current marketplace trends.
Refreshing a brand can be a fairly broad initiative. It entails reimplementing a new visual and verbal identity across all of your marketing touchpoints, after all.
By comparison, a rebrand is a thorough repositioning of your business. It’s a fundamental reboot for companies facing deep-seated issues that often accompany rapid growth, a shift in business model, or a dramatically negative public relations incident.
When it comes to a rebrand, you are letting go of what your brand was for the sake of what it can be.
If your current brand is woefully misaligned with your business strategy, or otherwise actively undermining your objectives due to negative brand equity, a rebrand is the only solution.
3. Set a Realistic Budget & Timeline
Next up in our tips for rebranding is ensuring you have enough time and money to do a rebrand—and do it right. A rebrand can be a costly endeavor, but when it’s done right, it’s always worth the investment.
Studies have shown that your brand comprises up to 40 percent of the total value of your business.
Add to this the fact that a rebrand should be good for the next five to ten years, and you begin to understand why rebranding should be seen as a long-term investment, rather than a line item on your marketing budget. The cost of any rebrand should be amortized over the life of your brand.
Best practices for rebranding include securing sufficient funds for each phase of the initiative. A rebrand is a 6- to 12-month project, including research, strategy, and brand design.
Brand activation can take another 6 to 12 months, depending on the size and complexity of your business.
When it comes to time, most of the companies we work with have been thinking about rebranding for at least a couple years. But when they finally decide to move forward, they feel a sudden urgency to get the job done as soon as possible.
If a rebrand is going to last you for at five to ten years, why rush the process? Each of the many phases involved in a rebrand take time to do right. Thorough brand research for even a small rebrand can take a few months to plan, organize, and execute.
Carefully considered positioning, a cohesive brand identity, a comprehensive website—each of these initiatives requires time, and is often dependent on the timelines of other initiatives.
Cutting corners in any one area is likely only to compromise the quality of the rebrand, costing you more time in the long run to redo it correctly.
4. Find the Right Branding Partner
One of the most important rebranding tips is to select the right branding agency. Identifying a partner with proven results who understands your needs and with whom you can forge a trusting relationship is essential.
It’s worth it to spend time vetting multiple rebranding agencies to make sure you’ve got the right fit. A few questions you should ask when searching for the right partner include:
- Do their values and culture align with your own?
- Do they guarantee senior-level talent and expertise?
- Is their process founded on rigorous objective research?
- Do they have a track record of success in your industry, borne out by detailed case studies?
- Do they excel at creative execution in a variety of media?
- Do they seem nimble and adaptable to the inevitable changes that will arise?
As you can see, deciding which rebranding agency will handle your rebrand involves a multitude of factors, including quality of work, industry experience, and culture fit.
The most important question, though, should be expertise. Does the agency you’re considering specialize exclusively in rebranding? Or is it a marketing agency that happens to offer rebranding as one its services?
Marketing and branding interrelated, but fundamentally different. The goal of marketing is short-term activations resulting in immediate, measurable, and ultimately temporary sales uplifts.
The goal of branding, on the other hand, is the long-term accrual of brand equity that builds on itself and leads to gradual, but ultimately more significant, business growth.
Rebranding is about positioning your business for long-term growth, building a strategic framework that leverages competitive strengths for sustained market performance.
Only an agency that specializes in rebranding has the expertise it takes to effectively rebrand your business.
This isn’t the same agency you’d use for a digital marketing or PR campaign. In reality, an agency can only be great at one thing. When it comes to something as valuable as your brand, shouldn’t you work with agency that excels at rebranding?
5. Take a Data-Driven Approach
If there’s one thing we’ve found in our years of experience, it’s that there’s no substitute for data when it comes to making the tough decisions a rebrand entails.
That’s why the next in our rebranding tips is to take a data-driven approach to your rebrand.
The fact is, there’s a lot at stake in any rebrand—whether you’re a mom-and-pop operation or a billion-dollar global enterprise. Your brand is how your business is perceived. Get your rebrand wrong and it is guaranteed to negatively impact your bottom line.
The best way to mitigate the risks associated with rebranding is to draw on data to make each and every decision in your rebrand. The data you’ll need comes from only one place: thorough brand research, both internally and externally.
Internal brand research reveals how your brand is perceived by internal stakeholders; namely, your employees.
Employees are the only people who know your brand from the inside out. Understanding how they experience your brand through interviews and surveys is the only way to know how to optimize your brand to attract and retain the industry’s top talent. This is what’s known as your employer brand.
External brand research reveals how your brand is perceived by external stakeholders; namely, your customers.
Combining qualitative research initiatives like customer interviews and focus groups with quantitative research like polls and surveys is the best way to understand what your customers need and how they feel your brand is meeting those needs.
The data that comes from internal and external research gives you the clarity and confidence you need to make critical decisions about the future of your brand—and your business.
The more intensive your rebrand, the more important it is to do thorough research.
A superficial brand refresh might only require light research to confirm working assumptions, while a complete brand reboot demands a comprehensive research initiative before any strategy or repositioning can be considered.
6. Trust the Process
Rebranding is a four-step process, each as important as the next. It can be tempting to skip steps to save time and/or money, but take it from the experts: cutting corners will only cost you in the long run.
Taking the time to move deliberately through a proven rebranding process will ensure that the final product—your new brand—is optimized for performance and ready to stand the test of time.
Among our most important rebranding tips is to understand the five phases of the rebranding process—and what to expect from each of them:
As we mentioned in the previous rebranding tip, all successful branding initiatives start with thorough, in-depth research. Brand research gives you an understanding of how your brand is currently perceived by internal and external stakeholders, and where it fits in the competitive landscape.
Brand strategy is the process of defining a framework that optimally positions your brand for differentiation and growth. Your brand compass, brand personality, key differentiators, brand promise—foundational elements like these are defined during the strategy phase and used to create your brand framework.
Your brand’s identity is more than just a logo. It is the visual and verbal embodiment of the positioning work done in the strategy phase. A powerful visual and verbal identity will capture your brand’s defining attributes and infuse all the key elements of your brand experience (website, brand messaging, marketing collateral, etc.) with purpose and personality.
As we’ll see in rebranding tip #9 below, brand activation is the process of introducing your new brand to the world. It is a wide-reaching initiative that goes beyond just launching your brand. It includes everything from internal brand training to ongoing brand management, ensuring your brand is consistently and cohesively executed, inside and out.
7. Check Your Aspirations
Rebranding requires an aspirational approach. It’s important to think big and look toward the future. One of the most important rebranding tips we can provide, however, is that there’s a critical difference between aspirational and unrealistic.
At the end of the day, your brand is a promise you make to those you serve. Making good on that promise is the foundation of customer trust, which is in turn the foundation of brand loyalty.
If you’re too aspirational with your rebranding goals, you risk winding up with a brand that your company can’t reasonably be expected to deliver on.
Key to this equation is authenticity. As we’ve mentioned many times in the past, authenticity is a word that gets thrown around a lot in the branding world. But that doesn’t mean it’s not important.
The world’s most successful brands are powerfully aligned when it comes to the core values of their employees and customers. They’re further aligned with the real-world strategy and objectives of the business behind the brand.
These alignments are the mark of true brand authenticity. They’re also the mark of businesses who have developed brands that are realistically aspirational. Brands that give the business room to grow without setting it up to disappoint its customer and/or employees.
It’s a challenge we see in many of the businesses we work with. What is the appropriate level of aspiration when it comes to planning their new brand?
The ultimate goal is to build a purpose-driven brand that is aligned with both your business strategy and the values of those you serve.
8. Fully Commit to the Change
Recently, a client we worked with decided to embark on the rebranding journey after realizing they needed an update to accommodate the company’s rapid growth.
The problem was, they made this realization not long after they were acquired by a private equity firm. New ownership was putting immense pressure on the company to meet aggressive growth targets, quarter after quarter.
The company wanted the benefits of a new brand without the risk of wholesale change. Despite the fact that in-depth research demonstrated the need for a comprehensive rebrand, the company was never fully committed to the change.
They wanted to keep one foot in the past in the attempt to hedge against missed short-term financial targets.
This brings us to the eighth of our rebranding tips: when you’re deciding whether to rebrand, it’s critical to either commit to the change or not. If it isn’t the right time rebrand, you should wait until it is.
One of the costliest mistakes when it comes to rebranding is a lack of commitment. The last thing you want is half measures reflected in your new brand.
There are always unforeseen events, of course; they have a way to popping up when you least expect them.
An organizational crisis, a dramatic shift in priorities, loss of funding—if you have to abandon your rebrand because of forces beyond your control, there’s no shame in shelving it until you are prepared to commit to the change.
In every rebranding project, however, there is a “point of no return” where it makes sense to see it through, financially, despite external forces pushing against it.
9. Activate Your New Brand
Imagine trading in a mid-market sedan with 200,000 miles for a brand-new Ferrari, with all the interior and exterior upgrades, parking that new car in your garage, and then leaving it there for perpetuity.
This is what many companies do when they invest the time and money to rebrand only to come up short when it comes to activating their brand.
Our next rebranding tip is critical: the launch of your new brand isn’t the end of the rebranding process. In fact, it’s just the beginning. If you’re not actively getting your new brand in front of the eyes of your target audiences, you’ll never get the most out of your investment.
As with many of the components of a rebrand, brand activation includes both internal and external facets.
Internally, activation includes training employees and other internal stakeholders on how to communicate your new brand to the world. It entails integrating your new brand into all of your employee materials, utilizing your newly defined core values for hiring decisions, taking active measures to foster the company culture implicit in your new brand.
Externally, activation includes rolling out your new brand to all of your various audiences, implementing it across marketing touchpoints, devising a brand communication strategy, and setting up ongoing brand management to ensure your brand is consistently executed in all its many forms.
A successful rebrand results in a new brand experience that’s custom tailored for a specific audience or audiences. But only brand activation can ensure those audiences actually experience your new brand.
10. Keep Your Expectations Realistic
The final tip for rebranding your company is simply to know what to expect—and to keep your expectations realistic. The positive effects of a rebrand are many, but it isn’t a magic bullet for all of your business’s problems.
Among a rebrand’s most valuable benefits are three things: consensus, clarity, and confidence.
Firstly, rebranding allows you to finally do away with the vague and ill-defined tenets upon which your brand is built. Foundational pillars like purpose, mission, vision, and values will be clearly defined and agreed upon by key stakeholders.
It’s hard to overstate the value of this type of consensus among leadership. Its positive impact can be felt throughout an organization.
Another result of the rebranding process is clearly articulated competitive differentiation. By explicity defining the unique benefits you offer to your customers, you’re able to create a much more compelling argument as to why they should choose you over the competition.
Finally, what a rebrand gives you and your company is confidence. From leadership to frontline employees to customers themselves, few things are as important as confidence when it comes to branding.
A cohesive and compelling brand inspires confidence in internal stakeholders to be proud brand ambassadors. And it inspires confidence in customers to align themselves with your brand.
What a rebrand can’t do is fix structural issues within your organization. You shouldn’t expect a new logo to fix years of disappointing customer service.
As we explored in tip #7, the best brands are aligned with the reality of the businesses behind them. A real-world pivot in your business model or strategy is the perfect time to reimagine your brand.
In cases like these, the existing brand no longer reflects the reality of the business. So, customer perceptions must be adjusted to be aligned with the business’s new direction. A shift like this can attract better customers, boost brand loyalty, and positively impact profit margins.
But if customer perceptions are realigned to a business that’s unable to live up to its promises, that’s a recipe for a rebranding disaster, as we’ll see in the final section of this post.
This is why it’s so important to be realistic about what your rebrand can achieve, and to follow through with implementing any significant organizational or cultural changes that your new brand implies.
Successful Rebranding Examples
Companies that remain stagnant while the competition reinvents itself with a fresh look and feel and more relevant ways to communicate with audiences can expect to lose their competitive edge in no time.
That’s why the world’s top businesses are constantly rebranding or refreshing their brands. Here are a few successful rebranding examples that show just how impactful a rebrand can be.
Hewlett Packard Enterprise
In 2014, HP announced that it would be splitting into two entities. HP Inc. would comprise the company’s printing and personal systems, while Hewlett Packard Enterprise would encompass the company’s enterprise technology infrastructure, software, and services businesses.
As a future-focused entity, Hewlett Packard Enterprise had to differentiate from both the existing HP with its 75-year heritage, as well as from what HP Inc. would become. Symbolizing life and growth, the color green was chosen to stand out in a sea of blue tech industry logos. The new logo was designed to evoke transparency and possibility, with the two “t’s” in “Hewlett” connected to symbolize partnership.
At the start of 2016, CVS became CVS Health. The company restructured into four distinct brands: CVS Pharmacy, CVS Specialty, CVS Minute Clinic, and CVS Caremark. Each provided offerings in its own area of health & wellness.
“CVS” was prominently featured in each of the new sub-brand names, which clarified brand architecture and allowed CVS Health to articulate a variety of benefits while still leveraging the brand equity of existing master brand. The sub-brands all utilized the recognizable color and typography of the original CVS, proving you don’t always need a complete overhaul your visual identity for a rebrand to be successful.
Founded way back in 1997, when the internet was in its infancy, the web hosting service GoDaddy was badly in need of a brand update in 2020. The result was a new logo and website, as well as impactful marketing campaigns designed around brand activation.
GoDaddy centered its radical reboot on its users, everyday entrepreneurs that ostensibly inspired its new direction. The new positioning stated that “Go” represents “the indomitable spirit of everyday entrepreneurs” with a “continuous, overlapping stroke” symbolizing “the connection all entrepreneurs share.” The brand further leveraged a casual, human, and friendly brand voice along with colorful visuals, hand-drawn illustrations, and a bold, serif font to evoke the inspiring entrepreneurial spirit.
Unsuccessful Rebranding Examples
Not all rebrands can be as successful as the above examples. Some turn out to be downright regrettable.
Usually the result of partnering with the wrong agency, trying to be too clever, or simply being culturally tone deaf, examples of rebranding failures are a stark reminder that it’s worth the investment and careful deliberation to get your rebrand right.
Let’s take a look at a few examples of companies who could have used a few rebranding tips for their rebrands.
When, in 2021, the UK-based fund manager Standard Life Aberdeen decided to rebrand as abrdn for a new generation, it claimed to be unveiling a “modern, dynamic and, most importantly, engaging” brand. The critics, on the other hand, saw it as something else.
“Who Nds th Lttr E?” asked The Wall Street Journal. The Guardian quipped “Too cool for schl?”
abrdn is a classic example of a rebrand focused too much on style and not enough on substance. Supposedly proof that the company was now “digitally enabled,” the rebrand failed to articulate exactly what that meant. Instead, it came off as a stodgy legacy brand trying too hard to relate to a younger generation and desperately stem the tide of billions of dollars in exited funds since its merger four years earlier.
The company behind the widely popular open-source browser Firefox, Mozilla underwent a rebrand of their own in early 2017. The reboot was centered on a new logo that was spelled “moz://a,” using a piece of URL code instead of letters.
While it may have seemed clever to those behind the rebrand, the choice came off as a little “on the nose” for most industry critics. Gizmodo said that “while it may have been a good plan twenty years ago… instead of sounding or looking cool, Mozilla appears painfully out of touch.” In fact, by evoking Mozilla’s earlier, more successful years, the new identity only highlighted how much the brand’s popularity had waned since then.
Few rebrands were received more negatively in the past five years than WeightWatchers repositioning its name to Wellness and Wellbeing, and for the purposes of the logo, simply WW.
Largely a response to the popularity of the body positivity movement in 2017, WeightWatchers apparently decided its name had too many negative associations and was looking to broaden its audience to beyond just weight loss.
While it may have seemed like a good idea on paper, the problem was that WeightWatchers had built immense brand equity since its founding in 1963. Moving away from the name it had always been known as meant completely abandoning that equity, as well as, it turned out, a not-insignificant share of its membership. In the second half of 2018, WW reported a loss of 600,000 members, and recorded dismal new membership numbers well into 2019.
Rebranding is one of the most cathartic endeavors a company can undertake. It gives you the power to shape your brand into an authentic, cohesive entity with agency and purpose.
Letting go of the past can be a difficult proposition. We find safety in the familiar, after all. But charting a confident course for the future of your brand is well worth any discomfort along the way.
The good news is, there’s no shortage of branding advice available to those who are ready to take the leap. The rebranding tips we’ve outlined above are those we’ve found most useful for getting the most out of a rebrand—and building an impactful brand that inspires customers to take action.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in February 2017 and has been updated with additional insights.