Rebranding Do’s and Don’ts for marketers

Rebranding is an effort that shouldn’t be taken lightly. That’s why, when the decision to rebrand is made, it should be completed with honesty and no holding back.

Many don’t choose that route, however. Most rebranding is actually just a refreshing of a logo, holding on to sacred cows that may not have any meaning in the marketplace anymore. Brands simply update their logos, refurnish their locations, add a category benefit-defining message and call it rebranding.

RebrandingThat’s not rebranding. That’s spitting into the wind.

The reason you rebrand is because your current brand does not resonate with target audiences. It isn’t helping you steal market share from the competition. Revenues have become static (or are in decline) and you understand that the brand’s meaning has lost relevancy.

Most companies who decide to rebrand understand the reasons why. But few know how to accomplish it successfully, especially when the effort must result in increased market share, an uptick on the bottom line and increased importance to target audiences so they cannot choose anyone else.

Rebranding for the right reasons

Every CMO would agree that rebranding without compromise is the only way to go. But getting there can be difficult. It takes a marketer with a strong spine and backing from the company leaders to get it done. There is simply too much at stake.

If you get the rebrand wrong (or, less than optimum) then you are stuck. Rebranding without truly becoming meaningful drops you into conducting the Burger King approach. You just keep adding meaningless menu items in the hope that something will catch on and give some oomph to the brand.

So what are the pitfalls during the rebranding process? Where are the opportunities to get it right?

Rebranding pitfalls

Let’s start with the pitfalls. To start, throw everything you know about your current brand out the window. While you have knowledge of your industry, that can sometimes be a hindrance to having a truly innovative brand.

Think about it this way. Every industry believes it is unique. There are market forces that exist in your industry that my not live in others. But the end result of any rebranding is still the same: Understanding human behavior. That is even important in B2B businesses where emotional preference often overcomes price.

RebrandingThe auto industry, for example, is one that believes so strongly that its market is unique that it rarely looks outside the industry for help. In fact, an agency must have auto experience in order to work on most auto brands.

Sounds reasonable, right? Well, like many other industries, that means that the players within that industry just trade agencies back and forth, believing that it will someday make a difference. Yet few industries spout such similar messages as automobile manufacturers do and market share stagnates.

Truly rebrand against the competition.

Another pitfall. Listening only to your own customers. The art of rebranding is to steal market share, not just keep the customers you already have. If you have preference with a portion of the audience, that means they have already bought into what your brand. It’s the customers of your competition that you are looking to attract. And, right now, they are ignoring you.

That means you must focus on them. Focusing on your current customers often leads to the stale refresh of a brand rather than something designed to steal market share. That’s how you become stagnant.

Where are the opportunities?

Quantitative research uncovers the main strategies of any rebrand. But there is research and there is research. Most do usage and attitude studies that rarely tell you anything groundbreaking that you already didn’t know. While some of that data is useful, it doesn’t help in the rebuilding of a brand.

There are honest values to test, but they should not be the category benefits of what you offer. “Better technology” or “low prices” are not switching triggers to test because they are simply definitions of what the category offers. The switching triggers to test are often the emotional messages that prompt audiences to prefer you in the face of rational reasons to not.

RebrandingThat’s where precepts come in. Few, if any, advertising agencies or brand companies understand how human behavior works. Our actions as humans are driven by our belief systems. Our wants and needs come from a belief. Most marketing and branding stops at needs and wants, without any understanding of why they are important.

Those belief systems are the emotional triggers to preference. These precepts are first uncovered in behavior modeling, then tested in the research.

Rebranding is difficult because it asks its guardians to take a hard look at what the brand is currently doing in the marketplace – and the news is usually not good. It means letting go of past efforts that are actually holding you back from creating true preference.

The root of emerging with a meaningful brand is understanding the emotional drivers of your target audience’s behavior. The brand is not something you own. It’s something the people you are attracting own. Therefore, a successful rebrand comes from those audiences, not yourself.