March 16th 2016

How to start a rebrand

by Martin O'Toole

You know that moment when that suspicion begins to creep into your mind..? Where you can't quite put your finger on it, but you know there's an issue. It's almost as if customers just aren't 'getting' your brand anymore..? Interest in you has wained, conversions are down, sales have either plateaued or declined and none of this seems to be directly down to the sales or marketing teams. There are obviously 101 possible reasons for this, and one is that your business is no longer behaving the way your brand speaks to others.

Your business is zigging whilst your brand is zagging:

You dropped or added some products or services Your business grew or shrunk and the culture changed You customer's needs changed Technology has disrupted the way your customers buy Your marketplace changed Your brand story is misaligned to the actual brand experience

Ringing any bells?


The point I'm rather patronisingly making is: when you realise this is happening to your business, what do you do? Many organisations are unclear on how to start a rebrand. As it goes, they're not even clear on why they should start a rebrand. Some find the prospect of doing so excessively scary, whilst others find it exciting. For me, rebranding - or repositioning - is one of the most exciting and fun things one can do in business. But I'm not just talking about comms here; I'm talking about everything - from the inside out. Ultimately, a rebrand isn't just about changing some words and some colouring in. It's everything.

How to start a rebrand:

ASK Talk to your board, talk to your staff - and highly importantly, talk to your customers. What do they want from you - and/or your competitors? Ask everyone stakeholder's honest view on a range of topics: internal company culture, management, the product/service offering versus reality. Does the marketing reflect reality? Is in simply inaccurate or bordering on dishonest? Are you missing any obvious opportunities to diversify, shift directions, consolidate or stand out? Look at facts, opinions and numbers.

This is worth doing and it's worth doing well. Leave no stone unturned and workshop the shit out of it.

PLAN So now you've had the brutal (and what can sometimes be painful) truth, now you can realign your aspirations for what you think or know you want your brand to be. Do a good old-fashioned SWOT analysis (yes, they still work). What do you value? What do you want your business and brand to be going forward? What do you believe as true for your sector and your business within? What strategy will you put in place to ensure this happens the way you want it to?

Do Get cracking with a unified purpose for your brand. Really drill down to the heart or 'essence' as some brandy types like to say... Then overlay this with the guts - i.e. your values, belief and vision. Apply a personality to your brand. A real one - aligned to that early research you did with your staff and clients. What sort of archetype could fit your brand? What does it look and feel like? How does it behave and how does it talk? The consider the brand position - how it stands - and ask yourself whether you can really prove it. There are loads of ways to do this and I have my own personal favourite planning tools too. For more information on how to look at your brand from the inside out, have a look at this blog on brand planning.


Authenticity Trumps Bullshit

There's little point in going through a rebranding process, whereby you've successfully stripped your brand bare and it's suddenly all making loads of sense if you then throw all that good stuff out of the window and totally bullshit your brand's personality and position. Your staff will feel it and you customers will experience it firsthand. Then before you know it, you'll be back to square one. And of course, nowadays with brand connections being so fluid and visible, this misalignment could very quickly be exposed.

Yes I know there are still plenty of CEOs and MDs who consider the area of branding to be arty-farty/smoke & mirrors, where wanky marketing types can take the piss out of unsuspecting clients. No doubt there'll always be some truth in that, though the same can be said for many intangible services. As per my point above though; they'll be pretty easy to spot for all the same reasons.

Believe it or not, branding is a science. It's based on research,strategy, psychology and creativity. So if you start a rebrand, just be sure and use common-sense, facts and a process - before everyone gets giddy and carried away with the colouring-in bit.

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