What is rebranding?
Rebranding is a marketing strategy that involves changing a company’s corporate image or organization by developing a new name, symbol, logo, and related visual assets like marketing materials. The goal of rebranding is to create a new and differentiated brand identity in the minds of consumers, investors, prospects, competitors, employees, and the general public.
When starting a new business, experienced business owners and entrepreneurs know that brand identity (everything visual about your company) is essential.
They also know that a business can build a strong brand and brand identity only if it makes deliberate choices and doesn’t leave branding to chance.
Business owners with less experience under-invest in branding. Some business owners and entrepreneurs mistakenly believe that their business’s brand identity is nothing more than the business’s name and logo.
The name of the business and the logo are critical ambassadors for any brand, so both must be unique and strong.
But, a successful brand is much more than the name and logo.
Your company’s brand is the total of your customers and prospective customers’ experience with your company.
A good brand communicates what your company does and how it does it. A good brand also establishes trust and credibility with your prospects and customers.
And unless you make good branding choices when you start your business, you’ll often find that your brand identity is undermining your efforts to grow your business.
If this is happening to you and your business, you are not alone.
If a business is looking for investors or a bank loan to fund the company, investors and banks will carefully read the business plan (especially if you’re starting a new business or if your business is only a few years old) and view your visual marketing assets to evaluate whether you appreciate the importance of robust visual design and branding.
Why is rebranding necessary?
Companies evolve, and often, to stay competitive, they must evolve their brand and branding.
This happens for many reasons.
- You might no longer love your logo, or your brand aesthetic no longer speaks to your company’s values and products.
- You might be expanding your business scope and entering a new market, and the name of your business is too limiting.
- Or, you might have realized that your brand simply isn’t doing a good enough job to differentiate you in the marketplace.
The truth is that many companies, including some of the most successful, rebrand.
We’ve seen this regularly with rebrands by Dunkin’ Donuts, Weight Watchers, Uber, Unilever, and many more companies.
Rebranding can work wonders for any business struggling to modernize, differentiate themselves from their competition, or even escape a lackluster reputation, as was the case in Uber’s rebrand.
Let’s look more closely at brand identity, rebranding, why companies rebrand, and what you should know to develop a rebranding strategy and successfully rebrand your business in 2021.
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When people talk about “brand,” they frequently mean “brand identity.”
A company’s brand identity is different from the company’s brand.
What is brand identity?
Brand identity is the brand’s visible elements, including color, design, and a brand’s logo. It’s how a corporation, company, or business presents itself to the public and distinguishes the business in consumers’ minds. It’s what you, customers, and prospective customers can see.
When should a company consider rebranding?
Rebranding can be complicated and does introduce some risks and costs. Although rebranding doesn’t need to involve a complete brand overhaul (you don’t have to change your company name to rebrand, for example), you will need to make meaningful changes to build a new brand identity when you rebrand.
So assess carefully whether a rebrand is right for you and whether this is the right time to rebrand your business. The right rebranding strategy can put new energy into your business, but it needs to complement your overall business strategy and marketing strategy.
Companies should rebrand to differentiate themselves from competitors better
Young businesses often don’t understand branding’s importance and turn to generic templates or non-custom designs to build their initial brand.
A generic logo, like the one you get from an online logo generator or logo store, will hurt your business.
Generic branding is a problem because it leaves businesses competing against many others with similar sounding names and nearly identical logo designs. Brand recognition is difficult when many brands look the same.
It’s impossible to build brand loyalty if your customers and prospective customers can’t differentiate your brand from your competitors, especially if your product offerings are identical or similar.
Rebranding strategies are rarely included in business plans because entrepreneurs don’t anticipate they’ll need to rebrand.
But, too many businesses cut corners in building their initial brand identity and must rebrand to evolve and grow.
Rebranding, following a smart rebranding strategy, can provide your business an opportunity to stand out from your competition by showcasing to your target audience the things that make your company different and better. Rebranding lets you tell a stronger brand story.
For example, did you know that Google started with the name Backrub? Amoco started with the name Standard. Accenture started as Andersen Consulting.
It’s not unusual for a company to quickly outgrow its name, change its strategy, and look for a fresh, unique business name that can help grow its business and gain market share.
Companies should rebrand to give new life to outdated branding
Maybe your business has been around for a long time. If so, your 90s color palette may be dragging your brand down and making your business look outdated. And, maybe your branding isn’t a good fit with your modern company culture.
It can be tough to evolve your branding materials to keep up with rapidly shifting design and technology trends.
However, to compete in the modern business climate and avoid losing market share, one thing is clear: Businesses must adapt or get left behind.
Modernizing your brand image is an important step to turning your business around and accelerating growth. Every day that you continue to operate with an outdated brand identity sets you further behind your competitors.
This is especially true when you’re competing on social media with professionally designed brands that stand out among a sea of generic brands.
When your branding no longer fits your brand, you need to develop a new strategy to evolve your brand. In fact, if this is the reason you’re rebranding, you’ll want to consider a complete brand overhaul and create a new, modern brand identity.
Even the most successful businesses rebrand, especially when brand recognition starts to decrease and their target audience starts favoring competitors.
Smart companies rebrand because they know that good design can make or break your business.
In fact, failing to evolve your business brand is a critical branding mistake that can hurt your business.
WHICH LOGO IS BEST?
Companies should rebrand when they outgrow their original mission
Maybe your business started off selling personalized t-shirts, but now you want to expand your market share and product offerings to add customized coffee mugs and other product offerings. If your branding and brand strategy revolves around t-shirts, your target audience probably won’t know that they can look to you for mugs, too. That creates an identity crisis that you can easily solve.
So, regularly ask yourself whether your customer profile has changed, and when it has, rebrand to target a new customer profile.
This is a common problem, and we always advise clients to make sure their business name is not too narrow or literal. That way, you avoid limiting yourself to future growth opportunities.
Companies should rebrand to outgrow their poor reputation
We recently wrote about Uber’s successful rebranding efforts. Uber faced widespread backlash from their target audience about their toxic company culture and how they treated their drivers. It started conceding market share to Lyft, its main competitor.
Uber’s complete brand overhaul was necessary to break ties with its bad reputation, overcome an identity crisis, and visibly demonstrate a commitment to a new, improved culture. Uber’s new brand story focused on how its culture changed and its renewed focus on drivers and passengers.
If your business struggles to overcome a negative reputation, a rebrand can help consumers see you in a fresh new light and regrow brand loyalty. In this case, brand recognition might not be decreasing, but the rebrand would turn negative brand recognition into neutral or positive brand recognition.
But don’t assume that you can simply change your company name, and your brand strategy will be complete. Rebranding involves much more than just changing the name of a company. Rebranding requires you to take a fresh look at your overall business strategy.
Companies should rebrand when their business evolves
Sometimes, a business is presented with an opportunity to expand or target a new market or expand its product offerings and increase its market share.
When that happens, it’s important that your new customers and prospects can connect with your brand.
That’s what happened with Pabst Blue Ribbon.
Pabst Blue Ribbon brings to mind a couple of things: frat guys and hipsters in the US.
It’s not exactly a sophisticated association.
Did you know that China’s PBR version – the stately sounding Pabst Blue Ribbon 1844 – sells for $44 a bottle?
Pabst saw a chance to re-market itself to the Chinese craft beer market – a market unaware of its budget reputation in the US.
By doing their homework, Pabst expanded into a new market demographic and significantly grew its market share.
Other reasons companies should consider rebranding
There are a few other major reasons you might consider a rebrand in your marketing strategy. These include:
- Mergers and acquisitions. When two companies merge, they must decide whether to operate the brands separately or join them. If they want to combine the brands, they can decide to operate under an existing brand identity or create a combined new brand identity to build trust, develop new brand recognition, and prevent confusion. Sometimes, a partial rebrand is good enough.
- Market repositioning. If you reposition your business to go after a different market segment because you’ve changed pricing, the quality of your products, your product offerings, or your target audience, you will need to consider a rebrand to gain market share. Market repositioning is a common reason to rebrand because your old marketing materials and visual design will be useless or much less effective if you reposition your brand.
- New markets or locations. If you’re expanding to new geographic markets, and especially international markets, you will need to consider whether your brand is a good fit for those new markets. Sometimes, you’ll need to create a new business name and a new logo to sell products or services in new markets.
- New mission or vision for your business. If your mission, vision, or values have changed, you’ll need to reevaluate your branding and modify it accordingly.
- Overcome a public relations crisis. Although this is rarely a good idea, a rebrand can help you overcome a public relations identity crisis that tarnished your existing brand and diminished your market share. Comcast did this when they created the Xfinity brand to overcome an identity crisis with its original brand. Uber recently did this to overcome a ton of bad publicity relating to its management operated the business. When rebranding to overcome a public relations crisis, a partial rebrand is rarely enough.
Reasons companies should avoid rebranding
There are also many good reasons you should not rebrand:
- Unwillingness to rebrand all your visual assets. If you just want a new business name and new logo and are not prepared to update all of your company’s visual assets to the new brand, you will simply confuse your customers and prospective customers.
- You get bored with your existing brand. Boredom is rarely a good reason to rebrand. Like Coca-Cola, some of the world’s most successful brands have maintained a consistent brand for many decades. Consistency is one reason customers fall in love with a brand, so be careful to change things simply because you want to see something new.
- New management wants to leave a mark. A new CEO or chief marketing officer might think that a rebrand is a quick solution to showing that the company is taking a new direction. But this is rarely helpful unless the rebrand is accompanied by big institution changes that actually reflect this new direction.
How to rebrand a company
1. Start by understanding your mission, vision, and values
Before you rebrand, it’s crucial that you clearly understand your company’s mission, vision, and values.
Consider and assess what makes your company special. Why does your company exist, and what values are essential?
What is your company’s brand voice? The words, tone, and voice you use for your brand must match your messaging.
These form the foundation that gives you a solid base to build your new brand.
No rebrand can be successful without this foundation.
2. Have a complete rebranding strategy that works with your existing branding
While things are more straightforward if you’re tossing everything out and starting from scratch, many companies don’t have the luxury of starting from a clean slate.
If you’re doing a partial rebrand, make sure to take the existing brand assets into account as you build your brand strategy. You want a rebrand that lives holistically with what already exists.
Be sure any new updates to your branding are consistent with the brand elements you’re keeping.
For example, if you have an existing product package design or package graphics, be sure you update those to reflect your new brand.
BrandExtract, a branding firm with over a century of experience, explains the importance of maintaining consistent branding:
A consistent brand helps increase the overall value of your company by reinforcing your position in the marketplace, attracting better quality customers with higher retention rates and raising the perceived value of your products or services….In contrast, erratic, inconsistent behavior quickly leads to confusion and mistrust.
3. Consider your brand’s audience, the market, and your competition
Before you rebrand, do your due diligence.
Research what your competition does. Determine how you stand apart from your competitors and what your true value proposition is.
Examine what’s hot (and what’s not) in brand fads. Be aware of what’s trendy, and make sure you adopt a trend that makes sense for your company.
Your new brand image must be fresh and relevant but not so of-the-moment that it ends up looking dated too quickly.
It’s too easy to make a mistake during the rebranding process and lose market share when you make mistakes in your rebranding strategy. Rebranding and brand recognition are part art and part science.
Consider, among other things, testing your rebranding assets with your customer base and your target audience through focus groups.
4. Collaborate with your team
Your brand may be one of your most important company assets, but just as valuable are the people that help grow your business every day.
Your marketing strategy should account for those people.
Include voices from across your company: some of the best ideas and most valuable feedback are found in departments you might not expect.
It’s easier to rally your company behind a rebrand that was a true “team effort.” Give your employees a say. They will be the faces and voices that represent your brand to your customers.
5. Rename your business during a rebrand
Here are some of the most common reasons to consider a name change and a new business name:
- Trademark issues. Occasionally more than one company has the same name. Or, the names are so similar that they may as well be the same. When this occurs, there’s a good chance that one of those companies will get a cease-and-desist letter requesting that they stop using that name. And, it’s no wonder why – your business stands to lose a lot of money if someone else operates under the same name as yours. You are at a big disadvantage if another business with your name is caught up in a scandal. The resulting reputation blow will affect your business as well! In such cases, a name change will solve the problem.
- Your Business name no longer reflects your business. Businesses grow and change over time. Some business names are adaptable enough to survive this growth. Others are not. If your business has outgrown its name, it may be time to think about a name change.
- Your business name is not unique. Your business name needs to stand out. Generic names like “Publishing Services” or “Professional Tax Accountants” don’t help differentiate you from the competition. And they certainly aren’t memorable. So, even if you deliver fantastic service, well-meaning customers may get your name wrong when asked for referrals. Or they may not remember it at all. Your word-of-mouth marketing will suffer. And so will your web marketing.
- Your business name is confusing or hard to spell. If your business name is confusing or hard to spell, customers may not find you. It’s that simple. A business name that doesn’t make sense and confuses consumers won’t be remembered.
How to rename your business
A name change requires a lot of thought and work. Not just on your part, but for your customers, too. They’ve gotten to know your old brand, and now they’re being asked to unlearn all of that and start over.
So, this time around, follow these tips to name or rename your business to help ensure that your new name serves your business well in the long run.
Here are a few other business name ideas.
Start with your brand
Your business name should be an extension and representation of your brand essence. It should embody the public identity you want your business to present. So, start by thinking about your brand.
- What does your business do?
- What does your business stand for?
- How is your business different from your competition?
- What is your brand’s personality? (Quirky, Solemn, Formal, Playful, Aggressive, Warm)
- What is your unique value proposition?
Take your time and give some serious thought to what your brand is now. You knew your old brand, so you may be tempted to blow through this process. Don’t.
If you’re changing your business name, enough has changed that you need to take the time to rediscover what your brand is today.
Make sure the new business name is easy to pronounce and spell
In the age of Google and the Internet of Things, your business must be easy to find online.
A business name that is easy to pronounce and spell will serve you well in this regard.
Don’t make it harder to find you with an unpronounceable name or a name even Rhodes Scholars can’t spell. As in all aspects of your business, make your name easy for your customers. Otherwise, brand recognition will suffer.
Avoid business names that are too narrow and too wide
Choose a name that is unique but flexible enough to allow your business room to grow.
Review your prospective names to ensure you avoid the following traps:
- names that are linked to specific technologies likely to become outdated (remember Radio Shack?)
- names with a focus so narrow that they preclude future evolution (i.e., “Just Cabinets”)
- geographical references that may make your business seem irrelevant in a broader market
- broad or generic names without personality that don’t tell consumers anything about your brand
Ideally, your new name should be specific and memorable while also being adaptable to all future business growth.
Don’t forget to differentiate with your business name
Do you know who your competitors are?
You should because they’re the companies selling to your customers.
Your new business name must help your brand stand out from those competitors. So, get to know who they are. And then choose a name that can’t be confused with theirs.
Otherwise, you’ll be back at this renaming rodeo again before you know it.
Get your logistical ducks in a row
Renaming your business isn’t just a creative branding endeavor – it’s also a practical one.
Here’s a quick list of logistical chores you’ll need to complete to ensure that you can legally operate under your new business name and protect that business name from competitors.
- Ensure the name is available to trademark (Check the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) on the USPTO website).
- Check to see if an appropriate domain name is available. We recommend searching here.
- Register the new name with your state and/or the Federal Trademark Commission. You can read up on the basics of trademarking here and research the requirements for your state here.
- Update or amend any legal documents to reflect your new name.
- Register as a Doing Business As (DBA) where required. We recommend checking DBA state requirements here for all 50 U.S. states and territories.
- Notify the IRS of your new name.
Also, consider revising your brand slogan or business tagline when you rename your business.
A tagline is supposed to communicate to your customers and potential customers what sets you apart from your competition and your brand’s focus. A business tagline is an important part of your company’s brand identity and helps you leverage marketing psychology to help people fall in love with your unique brand.
6. Rebuild your brand identity
When you rebrand, you might be tempted to retain some old brand elements like your logo, brand color palette, etc.
Sometimes, this is appropriate. But a good brand strategy needs to fully assess the brand and decide whether those brand elements should be kept, tweaked, or discarded for stronger brand elements.
Let’s take a look at the key brand elements that make up your brand identity.
A well-designed company logo is a critical component of any well-executed brand experience.
What is a logo?
A logo is a small, symbolic piece of artwork that represents a business. The logo acts as both the calling card and ‘avatar’ for your brand and is one of the most important elements of a brand’s identity.
But what makes for a well-designed logo?
As we explained previously:
At its most basic, a logo is a small, symbolic piece of artwork that represents a business. But, we’ve dug a bit deeper than that. When you set aside all the design trends and fancy fonts, at its core, a logo must:
1- Embody your brand.
2- Be instantly recognizable.
3- Be versatile.
4- Be timeless.
Everything else is optional.
In fact, I’ll go one step further. Every design choice in your logo should exist only to serve and strengthen the four items listed above. And, if you meet these four requirements, many other commonly cited logo must-haves, like simplicity and memorability, naturally follow.
Professionally designed logos don’t need to cost tens of thousands of dollars. Read this price guide on how much a logo design should cost to learn about different price points and pick a great logo designer or agency.
Your business website is often the first place prospective customers visit to learn about your company.
And while many different things influence people’s buying decisions, there’s a single common factor that drives nearly every purchasing decision: can the customer trust your business?
75% of consumers judge the credibility and trustworthiness of your business solely from your web design.
Strong, modern website design is vital to your brand’s reputation, your bottom line, and your future.
Business cards are tangible reminders of your business (and the fact that you have to be there to hand them out) and can’t be beaten for memorability.
Business cards are also a cheap and effective way to ensure people have accurate contact information.
More importantly, they serve as a physical reminder that you met someone. That can become a trigger for reflection and often leads to more business or a renewed connection.
Or they can create a bad impression.
Professionally designed business cards don’t need to cost thousands of dollars. Read this price guide on how much a business card design should cost to learn about different price points and pick a great business card designer or agency.
Product packaging and package graphics
If you make physical products, make sure your product packaging reflects your brand.
With thousands of products on store shelves, good product packaging design (the packaging for your product) and package graphics design (the graphics/content on the product packaging) is critical to your company’s success.
Your product packaging should speak loud and clear for your product when you can’t be there to do it yourself.
Smart businesses leverage custom illustrations as part of their brand identity.
Illustrations are typically playful graphics that can help your business appear friendly and communicate a message more organically.
Illustrations can persuade, inform, and influence your customers and prospects. They can enhance your brand messaging and can help your business express emotion.
Be sure, however, that the illustrations you use complement each other. Don’t use clashing styles, and don’t over-illustrate.
Consider how you’ll use illustration with the other visual elements of your brand identity.
First impressions are important. And, in our digital age, we often make our first impressions via email.
For example, a welcome email is the first exchange between your business and a new customer or prospect.
There’s a reason why most business owners want their email addresses to come from their business domain – it helps to set proper expectations.
But the overall email design and content are even more important.
It sets the tone for future communications, encourages people to take a closer look at your company’s products or services, and provides helpful information.
Welcome emails have the highest open rates of all promotional emails – 57.8% to a paltry 14.4%! They’re also reported to bring in 320% more revenue than standard promotional emails.
Brand identity may change and evolve as time and trends pass, but a brand’s personality mostly stays the same. Brand personalities typically include 3-5 key characteristics (like rebellious, empowering, and adventurous, for example).
There are plenty of different possibilities to consider when deciding on a voice for your brand.
Here are some other questions to get you started down the discovery road:
- What are your business’s main purpose and function?
- How do people benefit from your business?
- What is the current public perception of your business?
- What is the most important part of customers’ experience with your business?
- What kind of qualities do you want people to associate with your business?
Your answers to these questions will build the core of your brand. All of your future branding decisions should expand on these ideas.
And don’t forget to create new brand guidelines (also known as a style guide).
Brand guidelines are a set of rules to follow any time a member of your organization wants to publish, present, or promote content for your brand or use branding on marketing materials, including on social media.
Brand guidelines answer questions like:
- What font does your logo use? (no comic sans, please!)
- What colors are approved?
- When you need an image for a project, what tone and feel should it have?
- Should writers use “email,” or does your organization prefer the hyphenated “e-mail?”
These seem like small details, but if they’re not captured in brand guidelines or a style guide, your brand can quickly drift into an inconsistent experience for your customers and employees.
Consistent, strategic branding allows your business to grow strong brand equity.
Having brand equity means that customers interpret your brand as having a higher value.
How to create a style guide (brand guidelines)
Here are the six basic items that should be on your style guide:
What is your brand? What does it stand for? What are your goals and vision for your company?
These are all important things to define early, as they will serve as the guidepost for the overall flavor you want your brand to incorporate.
Your logo is the essential element in your guide. A logo represents the aesthetic of your company’s brand identity, is the first thing people notice, and the piece that they remember later. A logo should be consistent everywhere it’s used.
General rules for the logo include specifications about the size, placement, how much negative space is around it, and the places your company considers appropriate usage.
Color is a powerful part of your brand.
To make sure your brand’s colors aren’t subjected to an over-zealous designer’s pastel or glow effect, your style guide should have a detailed color palette.
The style guide should clearly show what colors are permitted, where certain colors should (and shouldn’t) be used, and what colors should be avoided. This should include specific color values (RGB, CMYK, and even Pantone) to remove uncertainty when creating collateral for the web, print, and other media.
Your typeface and font are important, as are the rules that you assign to them.
Headers, quotes, copy, and any fine print all need the right color choice, sizing, and style, with font choice of critical importance. Stop that new intern from replacing your carefully chosen typeface with the dreaded Comic Sans MS by detailing all of your brand’s typography in your guide.
Your style guide should include image guidelines: what’s allowed, what’s not, and when a specific image should be used. You can even include instructions on where images should be sourced from, and if you have a particular aesthetic, what form it takes.
Some companies prefer images with people in them; others standardize on sweeping landscapes and vistas. Whatever you’ve decided for your business should be spelled out in your guide. And you should clarify whether the image rules are different for printed marketing materials versus your online marketing website.
Style guides aren’t just for visual elements. The lexicon your company chooses can help define your brand’s personality and can have a profound effect on how your customers interact with you.
While you don’t need a weighty tome, capturing the general sound of your company’s “voice” can make the difference between an anything-goes approach and something more measured and unique.
Ultimately, style guides are not about crafting hard and fast rules for every little piece of your brand. They’re meant to be guidelines that create consistency and help your company project a unified presence.
7. Manage the rebrand carefully
A rebrand is often a complex and lengthy endeavor. Without a careful plan brand strategy, a well-managed process, and a strong marketing strategy covering all marketing channels, the rebrand can quickly go off the rails and impact your market share and business negatively.
Set deadlines and mitigate going down those pesky rabbit holes with a well thought out project plan.
8. Launch your rebrand and tell the world
Even the most incredible rebrand is wasted if you never actually launch it. Make sure you plan your rebrand launch and be prepared to explain why you rebranded.
Minimize the risk of customer confusion through a carefully planned launch that showcases the story behind the rebrand. Case studies could help here.
Give your customers a narrative they can follow to understand why you rebranded. This brings your customers along for the ride and strengthens brand recall and loyalty.
Successful rebranding examples
Chobani rebrand – Standing out in a sea of competitors
Within the past few years, Greek yogurt has represented about half of the entire yogurt space at grocery stores in the U.S. And, that huge growth has been fueled, in large part, by Chobani, which more than a decade ago, commanded only 1% of the yogurt market.
As the Greek yogurt space became more competitive, Chobani found that it didn’t stand out as much as it used to from its competitors.
Every company offering Greek yogurt for sale used white plastic yogurt cups, foil covers, clean typography, and photos of fruit and other ingredients.
But instead of making its packaging brighter or futuristic, Chobani went in a different direction, picking a friendly serif font, an off-white background, and watercolor paintings of fruits rather than studio photographs favored by their competitors.
This created a softer, kinder, gentler design aesthetic and made both the products and the brand more approachable and warmer.
Strategy: If every brand and all industry products look the same, consider a different direction to make your brand and products stand out.
Mailchimp rebrand – The design is in the details
We tend to notice big redesigns and rebranding disasters, but sometimes small tweaks and restraints are more effective. Taking stock of what’s there, optimizing it, and then distilling it is often a better strategy than a complete overhaul.
Mailchimp is a web-based email marketing service used by millions of people and businesses worldwide. MailChimp subtly evolved its branding, as you can see above.
Designer Jessica Hische covered every little change in her post about the redesign.
They just wanted a facelift—one of those classy facelifts that make your friends ask you if you’ve been sleeping better lately or lost some weight because you look like a more vivacious version of yourself and not like a different person.
Those in the know did not miss the subtle evolution. Leading design website Brand New raved that it was “[A] Fantastic evolution that maintains the character of the original with enhanced performance,” and Design Taxi called it a “subtle but refreshing makeover.”
Strategy: If your current brand works for you, don’t mess with success. Consider improving and tweaking what you already have to make it clearer and more refined.
Kodak rebrand – Going backward can move you forward
Sometimes subtle changes are all you need.
But at other times, a dramatic reboot is in order.
After the lamentable death of film, Kodak had almost completely disappeared from the consumer market, finding most of its success in large-scale printing systems and the enterprise market. Kodak rebranded to herald its return to selling directly to consumers.
Kodak sought to embrace its rich tradition with its logo redesign. It was a savvy strategy for Kodak to evoke its original branding in the redesign. By including their instantly recognizable color scheme into their rebrand, they were able to keep their company’s legacy at the forefront of their customer’s minds.
Strategy: Sometimes, looking to the past can help you update for the present. Using visual and design cues from your company’s history can help make your current brand more relevant.
Google rebrand – Be mobile, consistent, and cross-platform friendly
Updating for the present may be an important part of your goals, but thinking about the future and the longevity of your rebranding efforts is important, too.
Google’s redesign of its ubiquitous multicolored sans-serif logo was highly publicized and roundly criticized when it was first released. The web was flooded with people carping about how terrible the logo redesign was.
The logo redesign capped off a year of transformation at Google, including introducing their Material Design system in their Android mobile operating system and across all of their apps.
Google has been reinventing itself to meet mobile devices’ challenges, and the logo redesign was part of this process. Google reaffirmed this in their original announcement of the redesigned logo, saying “our brand should express the same simplicity and delight they expect from our homepage, while fully embracing the opportunities offered by each new device and surface.”
“We think we’ve taken the best of Google (simple, uncluttered, colorful, friendly),” the brand’s leadership team writes, “and recast it not just for the Google of today, but for the Google of the future.”
Google’s redesign honored the character of their original logo and managed to push it into the future; this was a notable success of incorporating existing history into your brand’s strategies for moving forward.
Strategy: Think about where this redesign fits within your entire branding system, and make sure you consider cross-platform and future usage possibilities.
Airbnb rebrand – embrace your critics and roll with the punches
Airbnb’s original goals for the new logo were lofty:
It’s a symbol that, like us, can belong wherever it happens to be… It’s a symbol for people who want to welcome into their home new experiences, new cultures, and new conversations. We’re proud to introduce the Bélo: the universal symbol of belonging.
The reaction was swift, and as is the way with the internet, vicious, with Gizmodo ridiculing: “The “Bélo,” as Airbnb refers to the mark “internally,” is supposed to reflect the “hierarchy of decisions” that users make when booking a place to stay.
But for most of us, it just reflects genitalia.” The new icon trended on Twitter for eight hours and was mocked and parodied mercilessly, including the inevitable (and NSFW) Tumblr site filled with parodies.
Airbnb cleverly anticipated the new brand’s reaction, creating a microsite allowing people to create their own versions of the Bélo, called Create Airbnb.
Airbnb’s bold attempt to welcome mashups and personalization of their brand was not missed by many, including Andrew Leonard from Slate, proclaiming, “Who cares what it looks like? Airbnb’s new logo is pure genius.” He wrote, “If Airbnb’s goal was to get people talking about Airbnb, then this campaign is pure genius and can only be considered a massive success. The sheer velocity of the snarking is a sign that Airbnb, like Apple, plays an important role in our emerging culture.”
Brand Union’s creative director Sam Becker had a similar reaction to how Airbnb handled the launch of their rebrand: “So far, Airbnb has done an excellent job responding to these observations with light-hearted acknowledgment. They’ve also continued to back the brand with confidence. Showing any weakness at this point would be tantamount to giving up.” Knowing how to work criticism into your branding efforts with humor and grace is an excellent strategy for turning a potentially negative situation into a positive and memorable experience.
Strategy: Have a plan for how you’re going to respond to your rebranding efforts, and try to anticipate and integrate criticism and comments into the overall branding story you’ve created.
Mozilla rebrand – Open by default
Newton’s third law states that “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
Newton was probably not talking about logos and design, but he might as well have been.
As every rebrand we’ve looked at here shows, the public response to a redesign can be highly varied. You can easily find opinions both for and against almost any redesign.
Web browser pioneer Mozilla’s recent rebranding didn’t just anticipate the inevitable criticism; their entire process was built on their community’s input and critiques. Kicked off in June of 2016 by Mozilla and London, UK-based brand consultancy Johnson Banks, the entire process of redesigning Mozilla’s brand was done publicly and in the open. The result of this unprecedented public collaboration was Mozilla’s new logo.
Many high profile design thinkers thought it was a success, including ex-NYT’s creative director Khoi Vinh, who remarked,
My first impression was that this is a bit of a groaner—the visual pun struck me as the tech/design equivalent of dad humor (as a dad myself, I should know). But it didn’t take me long to warm up to it. I’m a fan of its utter lack of pretension, and how unabashedly it embraces the organization’s geeky legacy. Overall, thumbs up.
Brand New’s Armin Vit had an equally effusive response:
Overall, it’s amazing that this open process that actively requested and implemented feedback from hundreds of people led to a logo that not only DOESN’T suck but one that has a strong idea, a fresh execution, a promising flexibility, and, that all of it together, sometimes subtly and sometimes overtly, manages to communicate what Mozilla is about. Power to the peop/e!
Strategy: While not every organization can do what Mozilla did, incorporating feedback from your target audience and customers is something every successful rebranding effort should do.
Examples of rebranding failures
We’ve also gathered a list of rebranding failures to help you avoid a similar fate.
Radio Shack rebrand failure
With the halcyon days of gathering around the family radio long past, Radio Shack is no longer a name that conjures images of cutting-edge technology. When Lee Applbaum stepped in as Radio Shack’s chief marketing officer in 2008, he sought to distance the brand from its more antiquated roots by rebranding as “The Shack.”
Tech reviewers panned the new nickname.
Despite a new focus on wireless technologies in their retail locations to accompany the new name (and a small bump in profits immediately following the rebrand), Radio Shack continued to decline, and “The Shack” was abandoned.
Radio Shack had established itself as a resource for DIY electronics enthusiasts, and that consumer niche had kept them aloft for years. When they rebranded as “The Shack,” they turned their back on those DIY hobbyists to pursue modern tech-savvy consumers. However, the broader tech competition proved too stiff, and Radio Shack filed for bankruptcy in 2015.
How to avoid this: Choose a new business name, company logo, and corporate identity that won’t alienate your most profitable audience. And, if you’re going fishing for a new audience, make sure it’s a fish you can catch.
Tropicana rebrand failure
In 2009, Tropicana revealed a new packaging design for their Pure Premium orange juice. Less than 60 days later, Tropicana announced that it would return to its original design.
What went wrong, and how did it happen so quickly?
The original Tropicana logo featured a unique, signature design— an orange punctured by a straw. The logo implied that Tropicana’s juice was fresh, undiluted, and direct from the orange.
The singularity and playfulness of the orange and straw visual made for a powerful brand image. It was instantly recognizable on the shelves and had had years to establish a relationship of trust with Tropicana’s consumers.
The new packaging design discarded the time-tested logo and font… and failed to replace them with much of anything at all.
Tropicana’s packaging’s new image depicted a large glass of orange juice, which unfortunately read as a flat, orange gradient. The traditional Tropicana font was traded for a more streamlined modern font, and every last bit of recognizable character was lost.
It’s possible that some consumers couldn’t even find Tropicana on the shelves because of how stark the differences in packaging were. Those who did find the newly packaged Tropicana strongly disapproved. Information Resource, Inc. reported that Tropicana’s sales dropped by 20% immediately following their brand relaunch.
How to avoid this: Aim for a signature look that says something about who your company is. If you already have one, abandoning your signature look for a nondescript design is a step in the wrong direction. Keep what works for you and discard what doesn’t.
PricewaterhouseCoopers rebrand failure
PricewaterhouseCoopers took the rebranding plunge in 2002 when they decided to sell off their business’s consulting branch. Bizarrely, they chose to name their new consulting offshoot after a day of the week: Monday. The strangely vague and unrelated new name was met with immediate ridicule and was abandoned within a year.
There are two valuable lessons to be learned from this rebranding flop.
The first lesson is purely common sense— a business name that has nothing to do with your business tells your audience nothing about your business; and, consequently, nothing about why they should care.
The second lesson is all about search engine optimization.
Keeping the same business and domain name ensures that consumers can find you after you’ve unveiled your new brand identity. It probably goes without saying then that it’s not a great idea to both change your website’s domain name and select a new name that’s so ubiquitous that your business will never be found in a Google search again.
“Monday” was not specifically related to PwC’s financial consulting business, nor was it unique enough to make a useful search engine term. Potential clients would be forced to comb through pages and pages of “Monday” results before they finally stumbled upon the Monday they were looking for. They would most likely give up long before then.
How to avoid this: Uniqueness and Specificity are key. Select a business name that will allow your audience to find you in the online crowd. And, if changing your name is part of your rebranding plans, choose a name that reflects who your company is and what you do.
Hershey’s rebrand failure
Hershey’s is a company well-known for its sweet chocolate confections. Sadly, their 2009 rebrand drew lots of attention; but the reason wasn’t sweet.
Hershey’s goal for their rebrand was to embrace their past while preparing for their future with a new, more modern logo design.
Hershey’s original logo featured a 3-dimensional design depicting their name and a dainty, silver-wrapped Hershey’s Kiss at the far right side. While utilizing a flat, modern style and font, their new logo remains reminiscent of the previous, well-known logo. However, the reworked Kiss strongly resembles a brown, stylized steaming pile of poo. This did not go unnoticed.
How to avoid this: Apply a critical eye to potential rebranding visuals for an inappropriate faux pas. In a world dominated by social media, consumer opinion travels at the speed of light, making it even more important than ever to ensure that the face your business puts forward will not invite outright mockery or scorn.
Are you ready to rebrand?
A rebrand is a declaration of your company’s commitment to upward growth. It gives you a chance to revamp and refresh the primary touchpoint between you and your customers.
Change is never easy, but sometimes, as the song goes, a change will do you good.
Whether you rename your business, redesign the logo, or do a complete rebrand, you’re ready to consider the best rebranding strategy to move forward after reading this rebranding guide.
We frequently update this definitive guide on how to rebrand successfully. We most recently updated this guide on March 20, 2021.