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Rebranding Is Much More Than Designing a New Logo

Companies put a lot of stock in logos, and who can blame them? A logo is meant to serve as a visual and memorable representation of a brand, an enduring symbol of what it means to be “me.” But this graphical, emblematic totem rarely says much on its own. And when a logo becomes the focal point of a rebranding effort, which it often does, you’re missing the mark.

A rebrand is closer to a revolution than an evolution. It should represent a fundamental shift in how you position your business. Sure, the logo and design will be a part of this. But the most important aspects will be the rationale behind the initiative and the outcome you’re hoping to achieve. Most of today’s rebranding efforts are in response to changes in the marketplace or consumer behavior. Perhaps a new competitor has disrupted industry norms, and your brand is now seen as stodgy or pedantic.

When Airbnb turned the hospitality industry on its head, Marriott responded with the launch of Moxy Hotels in hopes of appealing to Millennial travelers. Radisson did the same with Radisson Red, introducing a hip, lower-cost option for this same demographic. Both of these rebranding efforts are more than design or messaging—they’re new experience-driven business models.

And it’s this emphasis on experience that’s altered how businesses think about branding. If you want to connect with consumers, branding—or rebranding, at that—has to move beyond look and feel. It must encapsulate and communicate the authentic purpose of your brand.

Ogilvy did just this when it went through a rebranding initiative—or, to use the agency’s terminology, a “re-founding.” The objective wasn’t just to repackage its brand for a younger audience; it was to position itself as a creative network, which entailed two years’ worth of restructuring to its staff, organizational design, and financial reporting standards. For Ogilvy, the rebranding was about authentically asserting its identity.

The Struggle Is Real

Not all companies, of course, are successful with their rebranding efforts. Some brands neglect the needs of their customers as they rethink their position in the marketplace. KMS haircare recently repositioned its brand with a new aesthetic to appeal to “premium” consumers and build a more diverse customer base. Part of the initiative, however, included a change to its product formulas, which could alienate people who loved the originals.

Some brands also forget about staff in the midst of a rebranding. Any change should make your employees feel excited, not like an afterthought. Besides, the people who work for you are just as much a part of your brand as the products or services you offer. It makes strong commercial sense to include them in the equation.

And let’s not forget the PR implications of a rebrand, which many businesses do. IHOP had people scratching their heads when it began to call itself IHOB. Time will tell whether the effort to get consumers to try its burgers pans out, but its parent company did see a 30 percent gain in its stocks.

This, then, leads us to the question: How do you ensure a successful relaunch of a brand?

The following are often good places to start:

1) Craft a Compelling Narrative

All brands have a story to tell, and the successful ones realize the role this story plays in forming a connection—sometimes emotionally—with customers, both external and internal. Develop a clear, relatable narrative that provides a tangible direction for your brand. Use it to inject energy into each strategic initiative. If a rebranding effort focuses on building a community, for example, define how new digital tools can empower staff and enable greater collaboration, all while reducing hierarchy.

2) Set Expectations for Brand Rollout

Companies often concentrate so much on connecting with the masses that they can lose sight of their very first customers: employees. These are the people you want to feel passionate about your brand. After all, passion can be infectious, making each customer interaction a memorable one. And we all know improving the customer experience increases customer loyalty. So align your team behind your brand, and get them excited about the rebranding initiative.

3) Take Care in Timing Your Relaunch

It takes considerable time to coordinate all the pieces for a successful brand launch, and business pressures can drive many boards to prematurely unveil a rebranding initiative before everything is in place. Resist the urge to drip-feed the launch. Make sure every key asset is aligned and ready to launch simultaneously. Your internal communication should be ready to go live at the same time as your website. The last thing you need is for a client to visit your store or office and see old signage. It’s not just confusing; it’s unprofessional.

4) Make It More Than Just a Brand Relaunch

The excitement of relaunching a brand keeps enthusiasm high, but few rebrands are entirely successful from day one. They require ongoing commitment and refinement. Ask yourself, “What will the 12-month rollout look like? What are all the initiatives to follow the initial launch?” Consider keeping a brand steering group engaged beyond the launch date. Keep tabs on the response and progress of each initiative. You might find that certain elements don’t resonate and will need minor adjustments.

As with any marketing effort, not everything will strike the right chord with consumers. But there are multiple metrics you can use to measure where an initiative might be falling flat. Just make sure to tailor these metrics to reflect your rebranding objectives. Personally, I recommend a mix of commercial and marketing efficiency measures. While increasing website traffic, lowering customer acquisition costs, and improving employee engagement numbers are all great indicators, there’s no substitute for increased revenue and improved margin performance.

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