A strong brand identity is crucial to the success of businesses big and small — and is one of your most valuable assets. In addition to differentiating your business from the competition, a strong brand identity creates a deep connection with existing customers and attracts new ones.
Many businesses mistakenly overlook the value of a strong and consistent brand, assuming that because they aren’t the size of Nike or Apple that they’ll never acquire or retain customers based on their brand alone. Younger startups, small businesses, and companies that have limited resources are the ones that typically fall prey to this mindset. Initially, these companies can grow despite not having a brand strategy; however, there will come a point where leadership has to face the music and recognize that poor branding is holding their business back.
Create a rebranding strategy plan
Leaders who aren’t familiar with marketing and branding strategies may underestimate the amount of preparation that is necessary if you hope to be successful with a rebrand. They may think the situation involves making a few changes to the logo, introducing some new talking points and finding new channels to disseminate your message, and then they’re all set! That’s when the harsh reality starts to set in and they realize, “This process is far more involved than I ever imagined.”
Embarking upon a major rebranding strategy should be approached the same way you would a significant new product development initiative: with a thorough brand analysis and preparatory exercises, such as quality testing, supply/demand analysis, market forces evaluation, and pricing analysis. To attempt a rebrand without putting in the work beforehand, analyzing and detailing various factors such as demographics, marketing channels, advertising content and visual style, will only hold your business back when it comes to developing a strong new brand identity.
Whether you are rebranding due to a marketplace shift or for a new business strategy, following the steps below will help you create a rebranding strategy plan that yields a brand identity that helps you achieve your long-term business goals.
Step 1: Identify a business reason
Making the decision to rebrand should always have a business reason backing it up. Rebranding for the sake of rebranding will always be detrimental to your business. Why? There are always going to be customers who identify with aspects of your current brand — and see no need for things to change. Having a business reason behind your rebrand will help you plan for ways to introduce the new aspects of your brand without destroying what it is that draws your existing loyal customers to you in the first place.
In certain cases, identifying a business reason for undergoing the rebranding process is clear (example: two companies merged). Other instances are not as transparent and require a bit more research and analysis into the rebranding strategy.
Top reasons why businesses rebrand:
- Your business has outgrown your existing brand and is competing with more established companies
- A change to your market environment threatens your existing business strategy
- A bad reputation is seriously impacting your bottom line
- You are changing the products/services your business offers
- Business ownership or leadership has changed hands
- You’re not attracting the quality of talent needed
Once you have identified a business reason for rebranding your business, you can move onto doing investigative research and conducting a thorough brand analysis.
Step 2: Conduct a brand analysis
The business reason for rebranding will influence they type of brand analysis you conduct. For example, if your business is rebranding because you are moving into a new market to compete with more established companies you should have a thorough understanding of both your competitors and how your potential customers connect with brands.
During the brand analysis, you may discover that only parts of your brand identity need refreshing — or you may learn that you need to completely overhaul your business’s brand. However, if you skip a thorough brand analysis, you won’t understand the depth of your business’s rebrand and risk alienating your existing customers and clients. The upfront analysis and research will form the foundation of the entire rebranding strategy, so make sure that this phase receives the attention and resources that it deserves.
Rebranding strategy example: Walmart
Walmart is a perfect rebranding example of a company that retained successful components of their brand to avoid alienating existing customers.
Prior to 2007, Walmart’s brand was built exclusively around low prices. However, the retailer believed that they were alienating higher-income shoppers with this strategy and decided to rebrand in order to connect with shoppers more interested in a positive shopping experience (and less with low prices).
To connect with these potential high-value customers, Walmart shifted gears and rebranding the company with a new logo with a dual-purpose tagline, “Save money. Live better.” This rebranding initiative framed the retailer’s commitment to low prices around a desire to improve the lives of all customers, while keeping the low-cost image that had made them a popular choice their price-conscious loyal customers.
Walmart understood the importance of retaining successful components of their brand to avoid alienating their large current customer base. Unwilling to lose this customer, Walmart evolved their branding to include the feature that resonated with the price-conscious shopper.
Influencing your customers’ specific perceptions of your business involves the careful management of dozens of different factors. However, a through brand analysis that inventories both existing and potential new messaging will help you land on a brand strategy for your business that resonates with your target audience.
Step 3: Commit to a brand archetype and guidelines
Once you have completed your brand analysis, it’s time to draw insights from your research and commit to a brand archetype. At its core, brand marketing uses psychology and the “collective unconscious” that everybody shares in order to connect with customers. Picking — and committing to — a brand archetype will help your business create a strong connection with your target audience through storytelling.
Luckily, you don’t have to create a brand archetype personality from scratch. You can thank psychologist Carl Jung for identifying 12 different archetype characters that constantly reappear in stories because they resonate with us on a primal and instinctive level.
Top 12 branding archetypes:
- The Innocent
- Core desire: to be free and happy
- Biggest fear: to do something wrong and be punished
- Characteristics: pure, simple, and trustworthy
- Examples: Coca-Cola, Ponds
- The Hero
- Core desire: to prove worth
- Biggest fear: weakness and failure
- Characteristics: good quality, superior to competition, triumph
- Examples: Nike, Obama ’08
- The Regular Guy
- Core desire: to belong and feel that they are part of something
- Biggest fear: to be left out or stand out from the crowd
- Characteristics: honest, reliable, dependable
- Examples: Walmart, IKEA
- The Nurturer
- Core desire: need to protect and care for others
- Biggest fear: selfishness and ingratitude for their sacrifices
- Characteristics: offer protection, safety, and support
- Examples: Volvo, Johnson & Johnson
- The Creator
- Core desire: produce exceptional and enduring works
- Biggest fear: mediocrity
- Characteristics: authentic, creative, boundary-pushing
- Examples: Apple, Lego
- The Explorer
- Core desire: craves adventure and discovery
- Biggest fear: conformity
- Characteristics: freedom, self-discovery, experience the new and unknown
- Examples: The North Face, Amazon
- The Rebel
- Core desire: revolution
- Biggest fear: powerlessness
- Characteristics: reject the status quo, free-spirited, brave
- Examples: Virgin, Diesel
- The Lover
- Core desire: seek pleasure in relationships, work, and environment
- Biggest fear: being unwanted and unloved
- Characteristics: glamourous, drawn to premium brands
- Examples: Cadbury, Victoria’s Secret
- The Magician
- Core desire: wants to understand the universe and their place in it
- Biggest fear: unintended negative consequences of their exploration
- Characteristics: driven, charismatic, capacity to heal
- Examples: Disney, Red Bull
- The Ruler
- Core desire: desire for power and control
- Biggest fear: chaos and being overthrown
- Characteristics: confident, responsible, and fair
- Examples: American Express, Mercedes-Benz
- The Jester
- Core desire: live in the moment and enjoy life
- Biggest fear: boredom
- Characteristics: entertaining, tease customers affectionately, playfulness
- Examples: Geico, The Onion
- The Sage
- Core desire: seeks truth and wisdom
- Biggest fear: being misled and ignorance
- Characteristics: promise learning, seek growth from challenges, new sources of information
- Examples: SAP, University of Cambridge
Brand archetype example: Apple
It is astonishing right now to consider that in the mid-1990s Apple had hit rock bottom. The tech giant had not had a hit product since the original Macintosh computer, and the company’s image was in ruins among both regular consumers and the tech consigliere.
Enter the returning founder, Steve Jobs, who was a master at one of the key components of branding: selling products through ideas and aspirations. Coupling this with innovative products such as the original iMac helped, but Apple has maintained this brand image well into the 21st century despite competitive, lower-priced products being widely available. It has also gone to great lengths to reinforce its brand values through the design of its marketing campaigns and its carefully manicured website.
The archetype you choose will help your business develop a branding strategy that you can use for both existing and potential customers. It’s important to note that once you choose a brand archetype, you should stick with it. Brands that deviate away from their archetype struggle to connect to customers and risk brand erosion.
Step 4: Build your website and update digital marketing assets
Whether your business is B2C, B2B, has brick-and-mortar locations, or provides all services virtually, your website is the hub of your presence online. When current and potential customers are looking for your business online, the first place they will go is your website — which is why it needs special considerations when you are rebranding.
As your business’s home base on the internet, your website will receive traffic from any digital marketing campaigns after you launch post-rebrand. If your rebrand involves a new customer journey path to conversion, you will need to reflect this change in how a user experiences your website.
You should also pay close attention to how your page ranks on search engines (i.e.: Google). If you plan to completely redo your business’s website during your rebrand, you should consider the SEO implications of a major website overhaul. With careful planning — and understanding how your website’s content plays into your search engine rankings — you can preserve (and even improve) your SEO, regardless of how drastic the changes are to your website.
Depending on your business reasons for rebranding, you should also consider how visitors will discover your website and corresponding messaging. For example, if you drive traffic to your website primarily through email blasts, you should be prepared to create dedicated landing pages with messaging that corresponds to the content of your blast. If your site receives the bulk of its traffic from referrals, you’ll want to make sure that any URL changes have proper redirects setup so that visitors don’t land on 401 error pages.
In addition to your website, you will also need to update other digital assets that your business owns, including:
- Social media pages
- Online ratings and reviews
- Referrals and backlinks
- Directory listings
- Email blasts
- Pay-per-click ads (banners and search)
The amount of time and resources ou need to dedicate to building your website and updating your digital assets depends entirely on the extent of your rebranding strategy. Businesses that execute successful rebranding strategies always have a rebranding checklist covering all their digital assets, who will be updating each, and the date each will be updated.
Step 5: Build a rebranding marketing plan
When the day finally arrives to launch your new brand, you’ll need to get the word out via proper channels. Depending on your business goals, the size of your rebrand, and the resources you have available, you should create a digital marketing roadmap both for the rollout and the new brand at large.
In 2014, Airbnb was able to perfectly tease the introduction of their new logo and brand identity to everyone who belonged in the Airbnb world. Airbnb hosted a press event prior to the relaunch, they created a website with a countdown clock that was shared widely, and they were ready with an engaging video explaining the changes when the initiative finally went live. If you’re going to be like Airbnb and successfully tease your rebrand, you have to ensure that you are ready to deliver on what you have been hinting at when the time comes.
While Airbnb chose to tease out their new logo, you may choose to keep everything under wraps until the big day. If you choose to go this route, you will still need to build a digital marketing plan that clearly communicates the rebranding changes to internal stakeholders, the public at large, and current/potential customers.
To ensure your next rebrand is successful in attracting new customers without alienating existing ones, you need to be strategic in the components you add, change, and keep. You must also think carefully about how you will get the message out so that audiences abandon their former ideas about your business and adopt the newer messaging you deliver. If you don’t have the capability to handle all your business’s rebrand internally, consider working with an agency that can help you with all elements of your rebrand.