Rebranding: Consult the pros and think strategically to avoid pitfalls

by | Sep 17, 2015 | Public Relations, Social Media

Revitalize, revamp, rebrand…whatever you call it, at some point your company’s public face may need an update. If your organization is undergoing or about to undergo change—perhaps a merger, repositioning in the market or just suffering from an outdated image—a few tweaks to your look can go a long way in communicating a shift.

Reflecting major changes in its structure, Google recently unveiled a new logo in its biggest redesign since 1999.

The Mountain View-based firm has managed to successfully rebrand several times since its beginnings, but the public isn’t always so kind. Many companies in similar situations have endured the equivalent of a botched facelift:  in 2010, for example, GAP suddenly abandoned its logo of 20 years for something the design community said looked like it was “created in WordArt.” The internet went nuts—and in one of the fastest branding turnarounds of all time, GAP reverted to its original design just six days later (and with an eye-watering bill of $100 million).

There are many good reasons to change and good reasons to not. Coca-Cola has barely touched its logo for over a century—whereas Google has changed its logo seven times over its 17 year history. Both strategies makes sense: Coca-Cola is a company whose tagline hinges on being “classic,” while Google is the forerunner in innovation and technology—change is its business.

Alterations to your public face should be warranted and reflective of internal changes to goals, message or culture. “Change for its own sake achieves nothing good,” says Mark Di Somma, partner and senior brand strategist at The Blake Project. “Read the assumptions and market analysis around your rebrand carefully. Ask for proof, look carefully at the opportunities, evaluate the need for change (and the nature of the change required) from the point of view of the consumer.” He says you should work with an agency that understands your objectives and the complexities of sector dynamics.

Evolving without altering the essence of your brand is tricky territory, but the key is to update while keeping your hallmarks intact (ask Tropicana, who debuted a generic-looking rebrand that was so confusing to consumers that sales dropped 20 per cent. They too reverted to the old logo after an estimated $137 million loss).

Talk to your customers to determine how you’re perceived. How can you refresh but remain familiar to your audience?  A good design team will create continuity—restyling your visual language while respecting the identity you’ve built. This endeavour goes beyond the logo: your website, social media, sales tools and even email signage should align.

Finally, understand that even though, in general, people are initially resistant to change, rebranding is a bold venture with the potential for a big payoff. When executed correctly it has salvaged businesses, increased their customer base and, ultimately, revenues. To ensure you don’t suffer the experiences of a GAP or Tropicana you should consult the pros, look for inspiration from those who have pulled it off, ask yourself the tough questions and play it strategically.

Hartley Butler George