Branding is a process that sometimes happens all on its own. Part of managing a brand correctly is knowing when to stop and rethink your direction or, in short, to rebrand.
It’s not always clear how a new brand will look when you’re just getting started. In many cases, even without a concentrated branding effort, things just roll forward, one customer at a time. Then comes your first employee, then an office space – you know how it goes. From there, the brand unfolds all on its own, but not necessarily as you imagined at the beginning. In many cases, you might reach a point where you feel stuck – when customer acquisition seems to require an absurd amount of effort and resources. At this point, you either stop and reconsider your direction or you decide to fold. Assuming that you still believe in your product and its worth, we’re in favor of the first option.
What is rebranding?
The main way to turn a new product or service into a strong brand that creates an organic flow of customers is quality branding: a full process, including identity definition on display at every contact point between the customer and the brand. That’s always the recommended path and, of course, the more you invest, the better the results.
But small businesses must start with what they have and focus on gaining momentum, usually for financial reasons. At a certain point, the vision becomes clearer to you and maybe a small handful of people around you, but the connection between that vision and the brand isn’t very strong. You have a pretty logo and you’ve created a great website; everything looks fantastic on the surface, but none of it communicates your true essence, the feeling you want to leave people with or the reasons your company actually exists.
With the help of the experience you’ve accumulated, you can define your brand with greater clarity to communicate exactly the right feelings and values for you, the brand and the target audience you’re trying to reach.
What happens during rebranding? Why do we need it?
The first thing that comes to mind when most people think about branding is appearance, but the added value of a branding process is fuller and deeper than that.
Branding is your opportunity to define your very essence, the questions of who you are, why you’re here, your values and your story. All these are important parts of your brand and what messages are communicated beneath the colors and words you choose to represent it.
But even if you underwent this process at the very beginning, these elements change periodically and it’s important to update them to match what you are now, the developments you’ve been through as a brand, the changes that occurred to your target audience and what’s happening in the world at this moment. This can be the result of a simple business decision from a brand that’s decided it wants to change its target market, as in the case of Harley Davidson.
Getting the basics down and establishing a backbone is the foundation of brand management, and these two elements are critical in everything you do as a business owner, brand manager or marketer. This infrastructure is the result of good branding and allows a business to grow and prosper in the right direction. It’s what separates a good, strong brand from companies that never manage to take off and can’t understand why.
This definition of your brand is expressed in everything related to your business, from the way you interact with your customers to the decision of which candidate to recruit who will afterward be interacting with customers on your behalf and representing your identity. These are all elements that aren’t always visible but can definitely be felt.
When to rebrand
Generally speaking, anytime when you feel a lack of precision or that something isn’t working, it’s time to sit and have a think. If yours is a small business, this will probably be when you understand that you have to invest or give up. One of the things we always explain to our clients is that precision branding will get you more sales for less investment in sales and we, therefore, suggest to invest part of your marketing budget in branding, just like part of your promotional budget is invested in organic promotion.
Beyond that, most businesses we work with feel the need to rebrand several different times and places. Here are a few of them:
- Decision points – The times when you need to make business decisions (about activity in a certain market for example or regarding one or more of your products) raise a lot of questions. Rebranding is a great way to understand what you want to accomplish and how. From there the path becomes much clearer and so does your brand.
- Growing companies – The times when you stand on the brink of significant growth, for example from one branch to a chain, are great starting points for rebranding. In many cases, it’s even necessary because a small business is perceived differently than a chain and you need to find a way to connect the consciousness of the two.
- Business changes – Strong branding increases the value of the brand in financial terms as well as others, a little like a renovated apartment compared to an old one with peeling walls. For brands just before a business move like consolidation, acquisition, bringing in a partner or franchising, rebranding is a great way to look your best and increase your value.
- Human resources change – When you want to establish a sales department or customer support, beyond basic job management, it’s important to communicate the essence of the business as well. After defining your essence and values in writing, it’s easier to communicate them to a new team. Generally speaking, a company that wants employees who believe in it must be properly branded, both internally and externally, in order to get employees connected and committed. Without that, we remain nothing but a group of people who come together to get a paycheck.
Starting fresh, but from the right place
Take note that the rebranding process doesn’t mean throwing everything out the window, but reviving what already exists – at least things that were obvious – and taking stock of what you’ve done so far and how that fits in with your goals for the future. The path you’ve walked and the experience you’ve gained is exactly what impacts the branding decisions you make and that’s why it’s important to start from an existing platform and not from scratch.
Before looking forward, it’s important to look back, reflect on your decisions, smooth over the edges and leave only what’s important in order to navigate growth in the right direction and stop yourself from going all over the place. The effectiveness is both in marketing and in business – in fact, there is no difference between the two if you’ve done the process right.