Executives choose to rebrand a company for a number of different reasons. Whether it proves successful or not will directly depend on the psychology and strategy behind the rebrand.
"Timing is everything and identifying the right time to rebrand your company is the most significant challenge an executive can face," said Patrick O'Neil, Director of Corporate and Brand Communications for Railinc Corporation. "More often than not, the primary reason a company rebrands is that some new or lingering market challenge requires a significant action to address the changing flow of business."
Rebranding requires a catalyst for change and should be the last strategy employed when reacting to a shifting marketplace or target audience. A company's leadership must make powerful decisions that could make-or-break the business. Also, once these decisions are made, they need to be long-term or permanent. Rebranding isn't a process meant for reevaluation every couple of years.
"After a company realizes that it's beneficial to rebrand, then it needs to examine why rebranding is necessary," said Dino Moler, Executive Vice President of Client Solutions for LeSaint Logistics. "When LeSaint Logistics rebranded, we focused on four drivers that made rebranding unavoidable for our company."
"Our new brand would represent growth through strategic direction, provide us with a competitive advantage, ensure long-term market expansion and hone innovation that represents the cornerstone of our company," said Moler.
Rebranding gave LeSaint Logistics an opportunity to differentiate themselves from their competition. They were able to lay a foundation rich in culture and philosophy that both customers and employees supported.
It's essential that companies conduct research to help discover why the rebrand is needed. After all, a rebrand is much more than an altered logo and color scheme. Typically, rebranding is when a company, product or service has been marketed one way and then modified to be marketed differently or under a new name. A true rebrand will identify what needs to change with a company and why. Effective research methods include: analyzing what rebranding tactics worked (or didn't work) for the competition; researching where the market is headed and what your target audience wants; and surveying employees, clients and company leadership to see if a rebrand is needed and welcomed.
"While our reasons to rebrand were integral in our company's future direction, it also focused on the wants and needs of our customers," Moler added. "You have to listen to the voice that's the future of any company, and that voice is the customer."
If successful rebranding is the product of meticulous planning and execution, then unsuccessful rebranding is the result of unforeseen pitfalls or shortcuts that typically hinder progress. Unfortunately, it's all too easy to make mistakes when the stakes are high. It's critical that executives practice patience as well as heed the advice branding experts provide.
"The key to successful rebranding is thorough research and a clear understanding by all stakeholders," O'Neil said. "Replacing a logo and letterhead isn't a rebrand; it's a philosophy that must be supported by the employees and your customers."
When the rebrand is distributed to the media and rolled out to customers, they will expect something new and different. If customers and stakeholders get the same company or product as before the rebranding, the cosmetic facelift will only serve to damage the company's brand equity and marketplace credibility.
Recently debuted rebrands may also require customers and stakeholders some time to adapt to the new look and feel. Naturally, people are hesitant to embrace change without first learning what the company represents through the change.
A company spokesperson is essential during and immediately after a company rebrand. There will be a lot of questions asked from the media and customers regarding what changed and why. A knowledgeable spokesperson enables a company to deliver consistent back and forth communications while acting as a "face" for the company.
Another pitfall executives should avoid is trying to lead the rebranding effort without prior experience. Rebranding consultants can offer expertise that will ensure the rebrand is handled professionally rather than through trial and error, which can be costly in employee productivity and accrued expenses.
"Rebranding doesn't happen overnight; it takes a lot of time to communicate the new philosophy to employees," added O'Neil. "If your employees don't support the philosophy you're communicating, the rebrand won't be successful."
It's important to receive feedback from employees but it's also critical that only a few decision makers and a project manager have complete control of the rebrand. Empowering too many people through committees will cause multiple delays and a loss of focus on the integral points.
"Ultimately, rebranding a company is knowing what it represents and knowing what you want your company to become," concluded O'Neil.