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To Rebrand or Not to Rebrand?

116 & West

Time to rebrandLet’s say you find yourself in a situation where you’re steadily losing customers to competitors. Your message is losing its relevance. Your brand is feeling stale or outdated. Maybe your company’s reputation has been damaged. What do you do? If you can relate to these examples, you may be in a position to consider a rebrand. Rebranding reimagines your brand’s identity to reenergize your presence in the marketplace and make new connections with your target audience.

Circumstances in which a rebrand may be in the conversation:

  • Your company has been sold to a parent company.
  • You have purchased a company.
  • You are part of a merger.
  • You are exiting one business and re-entering the market under a new name.
  • You are adjusting your target to a new audience.

While rebranding can sound drastic, it isn’t always a total pivot. A partial rebrand may make sense for businesses that feel well-established but need to refresh or contemporize their image or offerings. Some do it well, and others don’t.

Rebranding wins and losses

Old Spice rebrandOver the last several years, widely-praised rebrands have included Burberry, Harley-Davidson, and, of course, Apple. Forbes references Old Spice as a prime example of successful rebranding. Until the company’s rebranding in 2008, Old Spice had targeted an older, aging generation of men with its personal care products. In response to rising competition, Old Spice went through a process of redefining its target audience and shifting its focus to a younger demographic. With a younger end user in mind, Old Spice considered how its messaging could reach that user’s female counterpart, drawing the attention of girlfriends and wives who shop for “their man.”

The rebrand was first unveiled through a comprehensive advertising campaign, known as Old Spice Swagger, that used humor and role-playing. In 2010 Old Spice released the first TV spot of its now-famous series, “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like.” With updated product lines, packaging, and a hugely popular campaign, Old Spice made audiences laugh and sold 11% more men’s body wash in the following 12 months.

Gap rebrandWhile Old Spice’s rebrand was marvelously executed, numerous other large companies have been less successful. In the world of marketing academics, JCPenney often gets the “case study” award for rebranding efforts that missed the mark, upsetting customers and shareholders with too drastic of attempts to change pricing and promotion strategies. Hubspot reminds us of other rebranding “misses,” like Pizza Hut’s “The Hut,” Netflix’s proposed “Quikster,” and Gap’s short-lived logo redesign (lasting only six days).

Checks and balances

What can set your rebranding efforts up for success? Here are some important details to keep in mind during the rebranding decision-making process:

  1. Scalability. Whatever direction you’re going with your brand, plan room for growth to meet future needs.
  2. The “Why.” What makes your brand worth following? Why does your brand matter? Define the “why” through your mission and unique selling proposition.
  3. Respect for history. If you are part of a purchase or merger, consider the strength in each brand’s name. Preserve the best elements to capture as much value as possible.
  4. Art direction. As you rethink your brand marks (name, logo, color palette, etc.), keep the creative in line with the strategy.
  5. Storytelling. You create emotional ties with your audience through both visuals and narratives. Figure out how to craft a compelling brand story to encourage buy-in from your leadership, employees, and customers.

Looking for more branding tips? Check out these tips on balancing creative and strategy.

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