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Five Questions to Ask Yourself During a Rebrand

by Jen Lawson Williams

“To Improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”-Winston Churchill

Rebranding is one of the most difficult undertakings an organization can go through. It is fraught with politics and uncertainty. Yet, it can also set an organization free; free to better express its vision and be more aligned in look and feel with the core of what it truly is.

In shepherding 70+ clients through the rebranding process, I’ve noticed a pattern of common struggles organizations both large and small seem to continually stumble on — and for good reason. Any change can cause friction, and rebranding is a change catalyst with far-reaching effects for employees, stakeholders and customers. The trick is navigating and managing that change effectively. The following five questions are the most common friction points I’ve come across in my practice…and some quick tips for how to navigate each one.

1. Why can’t the brand that got us this far get us to our next goal?

It’s a great question, and one that should be vetted out with research to answer. Start by examining your organization’s business reasons for wanting to rebrand. Once you’ve determined those, they can be a yardstick by which you answer this question.

With those goals in mind, you’ll need to consider all the influences both internal and external that pose a challenge that only a rebrand can answer. Some areas of inquiry to consider:

  • Define the historic changes — and anticipated changes — in your industry and what that means for your company’s place in it.
  • Thoroughly identify the competitive landscape. Understand what makes you the same as and different from the rest and why.
  • Get at empathy with your end customer. Understand their expectations, fears, and desires.
  • Roadmap the company’s vision. Make sure leadership and the marketing team understands where the company may be headed, so those plans can be properly figured into the ultimate brand strategy.
  • Measure existing equity. Work to quantify the value of the existing brand as it lives in the marketplace, and what the cost might be of changing it.

Armed with the above, it should be clear if your current brand is up to the task to help your company achieve its goals, or not.

2. How do we get buy-in from important stakeholders?

This is one of the most important struggles you’ll tackle in a rebranding effort. If you change your brand but don’t bring your people along, you will strand your brand. Rebranding requires significant energy and alignment throughout. A few things to consider:

  • Conduct a workshop with key stakeholders to work through the brand’s reason for being or “Why” statement, brand promise, positioning and brand archetype. This builds consensus and engenders buy-in.
  • Keep stakeholders updated on key decisions and developments after the brand strategy has been solidified.
  • Most importantly, keep churning out a goal-oriented message. Remind stakeholders throughout the process of why this endeavor will ultimately benefit the organization, and how it will help you achieve your goals.
3. How do we balance branding needs for both internal and external audiences?

A good question to ask is, “will this appeal to our customers? Why/why not?” While the brand is for the organization, it is ultimately a system to help you attract the customers, influencers and networks you want. Be sure you’ve objectively weighed the needs of your end-consumers first and then move on to address the needs of your internal stakeholders.

4. Why doesn’t the new logo feel as good as the old one?

A logo or logomark is an important representation of your brand — and it’s important to remember it’s not the only representation of your brand. Your brand is made up of all of the touchpoints your audience experiences throughout their interactions with the organization. This includes everything from telephone greetings and in-person presentations to paid advertising and social media. A logo is only meaningful in context and its function should be to add value to that context. It is unlikely that a logo alone will be able to add sufficient value to a business. Logos are best employed as part of an identity system that creates a unique brand experience. So all this to say, be wary of overemphasizing the importance of the logo, and instead, evaluate the entire branding recommendations as a holistic system.

But to the question at hand — why doesn’t the new one feel as good as the one you were using before?

It’s not just that we humans fear change (which we do), it’s also that we tend to unconsciously believe that when we’ve done something a certain way for some time, it must be a good way of doing things. One recent study reported in an issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology showed a correlation between age and more favorable views. In one test, people who were told that acupuncture had been in existence for 2,000 years expressed more favorable attitudes toward it than those who were told it existed for 250 years. In another, people were given a piece of chocolate and were either told it had first been made 73 years ago or three. Those in the 73-year group rated the same chocolate as better-tasting.

When it comes to your brand, it’s important to get to the root of why you might be favoring your old look and feel. When in doubt, revisit your brand strategy to more objectively evaluate both old and new branding work.

5. Why did I like the strategy but don’t feel the same about the logo or creative expressions?

This is a tricky one. There could be many reasons for a feeling of a disconnect between strategy and execution. Explore the following possibilities. Once you’ve zeroed in on the potential reason, work with your team to address the root cause.

  • Re-evaluate the brand strategy to be sure it resonates. If it does not, it may need to be revisited.
  • Find the through line from the creative back to the strategy. If that connecting thread is not apparent, then another creative direction may need to be generated to properly uphold the strategy.
  • Evaluate the creative brand executions holistically. Remember that a logo is just one part of your brand, and it rarely appears alone with no other context. Examine how all brand elements including the logo come together to create a full story. If you’re unsure, create mockups for real-life executions so you can better determine if the elements are working together well enough to tell the right story.
  • Finally, give it time. Brands need space to breathe and stretch. After implementing a new brand system, you’ll likely discover the need for small tweaks here and there, and that’s a good thing. Allow yourself room to play and try things out as you continue to hone in on just the right way to execute the new brand.

Remember these struggles are common, and while they may seem daunting, they’re feasible to overcome. The key is alignment. If you make time for intentional discussions around these themes with leadership, key stakeholders and your branding agency, then you’re ahead of the curve; you’ll be ready for any challenge that may come up in the rebranding process. And your organization will be better poised to finally and fully live out the brand it was meant to be.

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