By Tom Dougherty
Taking the step to rebrand your company is a nervous proposition for many. Humans, by their very nature, don't like change, and few things are more stressful in business than changing the face of your business.
Brand is more than just the face, but the reasons to rebrand and knowing how to do it can soften that emotional blow, and have a powerful impact on your market.
Let's start by correcting a perception about brand. Brand is not just a logo and a color palette. Those are just representations of your brand in which target audiences recognize both what the brand means.
Instead, brand is a single-minded reflection of who your target audience aspires to be when they used your brand and it is the ways you fulfill that brand promise internally and externally. Brand is you and it is them.
Therefore, rebranding is a culture change. As a result, there are legitimate fears of rebranding
There are good reasons to rebrand, not the least of which is to stay viable in the market or simply to survive. The history of business is littered with companies that refused to change and are now left as footnotes.
To consider rebranding, and the fears of rebranding, it's important to answer the following questions:
1. Has your market share consistently decreased? If so, consider the reasons for it. The economy, market trends and the lack of best business practices can be reasons for a drop in market share. But if your competitors are taking market share from you, then changes must be made or you risk irrelevancy. Rebranding - becoming more meaningful to your target audience - may be in order.
2. Do you have permission to move into new markets? That is, does what you stand for as a brand makes sense to the customers of that market? Think of it this way. FedEx always stood for “peace of mind.” So did Kinko's. When FedEx bought Kinko's to form FedEx Office, it was a brand marriage made in heaven and a new business model was born. But the aligning brands is what allowed it happen and make sense for target audiences.
3. Is what you say externally about you or about the customer? Far too much marketing is about product benefits, such as price and efficiency. Those do not create preference. Think of Nike's “Just Do It” brand, in which Nike customers see themselves as winners with no tolerance for nonsense. Being about what you do or make is the business of your business. It is not the business of your brand.
4. Are you different than the competition? In most markets, the players in them all say the same things. From the point of view of the target audience, that means they all blend together and inertia sets in. Or worse, the market itself becomes less important to them. Think about the declining sales of beer. Budweiser, Miller and Coors all feel and look the same with similar messaging. Therefore, it's no surprise the sales of beer are sagging because the brands are no longer capturing consumers' interest like they once did.
If answering those questions inspires the need to rebrand, there are several things you need to consider to make the process a success.
1. First, know your customer. If any branding company tells you they have the answer without conducting research, it's a bold-faced lie. The only way to know your customer and, more importantly, the customer of your competition is to conduct market research that goes beyond simply measuring usage and attitudes. That research must be quantitative with projectable data that uncovers emotional triggers, such as precepts, that control behavior. If you don't find the highest emotional intensity in your market, you cannot find the single most persuasive thing to say that would make target audiences covet your brand.
2. Ensure your brand position is different than the competition. If it is not, then you do not represent a true choice to the target audience. You are the same as the rest and audiences will default to the market leader or they will choose the brand that does represent a true choice. When everybody copies Wal-Mart, Wal-Mart wins.
3. Have attitude. Being different than your competition means more than just having a different message, even if it's meaningful. You must look and feel different. One of the simple reasons Stealing Share has branded companies in the medical field with a different color palette than blue is simply because everybody in that market is blue. Attitude counts even more.
4. Change internal processes to fulfill the brand promise. A brand only works if it is most meaningful to the customer, positioned against the competition and you are able to fulfill the brand promise. If it is not true about you, but represents the greatest opportunity, then you must make organizational changes.
The final point might be the most important point and the hardest to implement. Without being able to fulfill the brand promise, without being able to live it each day, the brand will fail.
Too many think of rebranding as simply a marketing tool.
These preconceptions are rebranding mistakes. It's that, but it's so much more. In truth, you are not a company that makes products or provides service. You are a marketing company, which means all aspects of your company must have that single brand focus.
Rebranding can seem daunting but, if done right, it can only be a positive. For the company itself, it provides a focus and a direction for your employees. For the market, it signals a change is taking place that will worry your competition and force them into mistakes.
It also represents a long-term solution to your problems. If you are only about product benefits and innovation, then you constantly have to keep up and make changes every day. Brand, when it is the most meaningful one in the market, keeps you ahead of that curve and weathers any economic storms.
Most of all, smart and strategic rebranding creates preference and is designed to steal market share from the competition that your target audiences have already lumped together in one pile.
In most markets, there are very few meaningful brands. The ones that are most meaningful and powerful win.
If you don't have that, then it's time to rebrand.