Ask any business owner and they’ll tell you (hopefully) that there’s a lot that goes into a company’s brand. You’ve got a killer message. You’ve pounded the pavement in your community and your messaging and website is telling the company’s story perfectly. Until it’s not.
The tale is a familiar one. A few years in, many entrepreneurs find that their brand doesn't quite match what they’ve evolved into. A misaligned brand can lead to confusion in the market, resulting in lost sales and opportunities. If this is you, you’re not alone. How you go about executing the rebrand is often the key to the success or failure of your company.
Be clear on the ‘why’.
There are a lot of reasons to rebrand, but trying to save a poorly ran business isn’t one of them. If your audience is maturing or if you are trying to appeal to a new generation, etc. it makes sense to evaluate your brand. However, as the saying goes, “You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.” A new slogan or company position isn’t going to save a poorly run company. The fact of the matter is that rebranding is a hard, often long process. Be sure that you are taking this road for the right reasons.
On that same note, it can be tough for many founders to part with a brand they built. If this is the case for your company, focus on the ‘why’ and the ultimate goal you are trying to achieve.
Be prepared to fight – inside and out.
“Change has its enemies,” said Robert Kennedy. Some of today’s hottest companies have gone through some tough public scrutiny for things as simple as a logo change. Google, Uber and Airbnb have all recently felt the pains of resistance from logo lovers. However, the story that doesn’t always get told is the one about the multiple levels of challenges that happen from employees and stakeholders inside the company. Even if they understand the why, change is always uncomfortable. Employees accept job offers for a specific company and vision. When that company shifts, or becomes something slightly different, it can make waves.
This is why planning is everything. Once the decision is made that there needs to be a change, try to involve your team in the process. If they feel they have some ownership in the direction of the rebrand, they’ll be more excited to accept and share it. Of course, giving everyone on the team an opportunity to contribute to the rebrand is not always feasible. If that’s the case, be sure that they understand the goals for the change. For example, if you find that people are often confused about your service offerings, explain that more clarity in your message will bring them more qualified leads and ultimately more sales.
Test and test again.
The process of getting feedback early isn’t for startups alone – and it’s hands down the most important step of your rebrand. Feedback is hard because everyone has an opinion. So the key is to ask the right questions.
Emails and surveys are quick and easy, but often don’t allow for follow up or a deep level of understanding on the feedback. We recently went through an extensive rebrand at our company, and went as far as to call it “Operation Bold Clarity.” We sent out emails, we had surveys completed, but what was the most beneficial was getting a group of the right people in the room at the same time and really talking through some ideas. It was a mix of both internal and external people. Some were very familiar with our company and others were not. It took us from a bunch of possible ideas, to a select few to work from.
Clue everyone in on your vision.
If you think your employees are resistant to change, wait until you tell your customers. They already trust you, they’ve bought into your current story, they may even come back for more on a recurring basis. Chances are they like you just the way you are. It’s up to you to convince them that they are going to like you even more.
It’s critical to consider the customer-centric approach to branding when going through a rebrand. You have to know what already works and what doesn’t in the eye of the customer. Which means you have to get transparent and personal. Talk directly to some of your top accounts. Better yet, get your customers involved in the rebrand by giving them some voting power on messaging and design.
Additionally, go back and talk with a few past customers to understand why they are no longer with you. Once you’ve collected this intel, you will have a much clearer vision of how to communicate with your customer base about the change. Anticipate their questions ahead of time, make them feel appreciated and make the interactions personal.
I’ll say it again, rebranding is hard, especially when you have an established customer base. However, if it’s done for the right reasons, with a solid plan and communicated properly, you will have a smoother ride to success.