Most people think of rebranding as a set of small but noticeable changes to the look and feel of a brand. Meanwhile, marketers rightfully see a rebrand more as a blank canvas to create an entirely new identity.
This difference in perspective turns many rebranding projects sour, as the agency delivers what they believe to be a brilliant new direction when the client really only wanted a few new wrinkles. It’s beneficial for agencies and clients alike to recognize the difference between a rebrand and what we call a “brand extension.”
Rebranding is a very subjective term, especially for small to mid-size businesses, which aren’t able to commit millions of advertising dollars to a rebrand as larger companies do. But in order to embark on a rebrand, you need to have a clearly defined brand in the first place. If you have not made a true investment in branding, spare yourself the semantics and start at square one — there’s much more to branding than a mere logo and tagline.
Consider A Brand Extension
The fact of the matter is that many businesses aren’t necessarily in need of a rebrand, but rather an extension of their current brand. This might mean a slight tweak to their logo and usually a move into a new market or service line.
In a brand extension, you’re looking to appeal to new audiences with the brand you already have. There’s no uprooting of what you’ve built and a lot less soul searching to be done. You are nudging your brand forward with a specific goal in mind and building on the brand equity you already have.
For instance, we work with a client who historically specialized in logistics for produce and perishables. In 2016, the company decided it wanted to expand into other markets, so we repackaged the brand into a new website that positions the brand as a complete transportation management company for any and every product imaginable. Part of the challenge was keeping its “bread and butter” in perishables while building a bigger message for other audiences that might not necessarily care about its success in that market.
A brand extension can be touchy if your new target market is in conflict or competing with your current vertical — like when Budweiser or MillerCoors purchase a craft brewing company or when a consumer brand launches a line of products for professionals. In these cases, you need to find the balance between maintaining the connection with your current customers and fostering the new direction. You’re essentially having two or more different conversations that may or may not overlap.
Brands like Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Starbucks are masters of the brand extension because they are always moving into new areas of business without changing their brand identity. They focus on their overall brand value rather than the value of the products they make. Look to these and other consumer brands for endless examples of successful brand extensions.
The key to any branding project — whether a rebrand or brand extension — is to understand the objective up front. You never want to be in a position where you’re branding solely for looks and lacking a purpose.
Rebranding Means A Reset
Rebranding is a major facelift to a brand’s identity, messaging and perhaps even its mission. There are several instances in which a company would want to consider a full-on rebrand:
- Sales are declining over an extended period of time.
- Competitors are overtaking market share.
- The company has been the subject of a scandal or public outcry.
- The company culture is outwardly negative and needs a fresh start.
- The company is seeking to evolve its offerings, image or both.
The most important thing to take away from this is that when you go through a rebrand, you’re not just choosing a new logo and updating your marketing materials. You’re revisiting every aspect of your brand, all the way down to your core purpose. The creative process basically starts from scratch.
One of our long-time clients, a community bank, wanted a new brand that would carry its nearly 150-year history into the future and convey the capabilities of a full-service financial institution. As part of the rebrand, we actually dropped the word “savings” from the company’s name entirely – similar to how Domino’s recently dropped “Pizza” and Dunkin’ moved toward doing away with “Donuts” from their respective names to bring attention to their other menu items. With the new brand came a whole new messaging strategy around local values and personalized service that touched every element of the bank’s marketing and advertising.