To rebrand, or not to rebrand?

Rebranding is a big undertaking, and should be carefully considered. So how do you know when the time is right for your company to rebrand? Here are some tips from my experience, and some examples of rebrands carried out for different reasons.

What is branding?

Your company’s brand isn’t just your logo and brand colours, it’s the accumulation of every communication you put out into the world (your social posts, customer interactions, physical location’s appearance) and what your customers think about these things, i.e. the impression you leave on them.

Here’s one of my favourite quotes on branding that summarises branding as a concept:

“Brand is the sum total of how someone perceives a particular organization. Branding is about shaping that perception” Ashley Friedlein

Branding is a constant, ongoing effort rather than just a logo design, so how (why and when) do you rebrand?

What is rebranding?

Rebranding is a quite a vague term, and requirements for a rebrand are always unique to the company.

Sometimes a company just wants a new logo because their current logo is really outdated and the only digital version in existence is 100x100 pixels and distorted. Would a rebrand really be required in this case though, or would it be more appropriate to just redraw the logo in a digital format?

On the other end of the scale, there are multinational corporations who want to change their entire visual identity and reposition themselves in the market.

In any rebranding case, it’s really important to look at the motivation behind the rebrand, to discover whether it is actually the right move for your company. Some rebrand motivations might include things like outdated visuals, pivot of market position, reputation damage control, changes in the industry.

Examples of rebranding with different motivations

Here are a couple of big rebrand case studies, each with different motivations:

1. It’s not Papa John’s

The final update - keeping the apostrophe (and grammar police happy) in the end.

In 2018, Papa John’s underwent a rebrand to minimise reputation damage.

Papa John’s almost rebranded to Papa Johns (no apostrophe), but ultimately went for just a slightly refreshed logo and majorly shifting their communications when founder John Schnatter resigned as chairman after being exposed for using a racist slur. Pre rebrand, Schnatter (aka Papa John) featured heavily in the brand - his face appearing on menus, communications and even in some versions of the logo.

The fleeting new logo.

The dropping of the apostrophe (which denoted ownership – referring to the spurned founder), and associated logo was a discarded idea, but the visuals set out by the slanted boxed wording has remained in Papa John’s current communications.

With an updated new logo and loosing Papa J’s face from communications the popular pizza place successfully maintained sales and avoided crisis.

2. Boots facelift

Boots old vs refreshed logo. That rich new blue is super classy!

Ok so Papa John's was an example of a rebrand with a motivation deeper than visuals. Let’s look at the 2019 Boots rebrand, carried out largely in response to customer feedback that the brand felt old fashioned and outdated.

To the less observant customers, the rebrand might not even have been noticed. The logo was caringly tidied up: losing the lozenge the logo type sat in, with the type being tweaked to be more symmetrical, and shortening the crossbar of the t for legibility, the blue was also very slightly tweaked to bring it more up to date.

All imagery, visuals and communications were refreshed as part of the rebrand, but carried out sympathetically to the existing brand feel. This minimised any customer uneasiness, which is a concern in rebrand projects if the brand look becomes too unfamiliar (people don’t like change, especially when it concerns a household brand we all know and love! Just look at the 2009 Tropicana rebrand).

To rebrand or not?

We’ve looked at some common reasons to rebrand, and some examples too. So how do you know if your company needs a rebrand?

Well the first thing to ask is ‘why?’ - what is the motivation behind the rebrand? If it is just because you don’t personally like your current logo, you might need to evaluate your decision.

Some questions to ask before deciding to rebrand

1. What do the customers think of the brand?

Do they have a great deal of invested trust and familiarity; or maybe they think your product/service is great, but the visuals are outdated or not fit with your product?

A good way to evaluate is to ask customers for feedback and insight on this.

2. Does your brand (look and feel) still reflect your company values?

Companies, like people, change over time. The company’s key vision may remain the same as the day it was founded, but your communications and the way you tell your story are likely to evolve over time. If your brand no longer accurately reflects your voice, it could be time to change.

3. Has your offering changed?

Depending on your industry, your product and services may change over time. If your brand revolves around a certain service or product that is no longer your main focus, you should consider a rebrand.

4. Is your brand just ugly or poorly designed?

Ok, without being too superficial, sometimes a logo is just plain bad. Maybe it was thrown together cheaply and quickly when you were starting out and never done properly, or maybe it really is just that old that it is no longer relevant. If the investment in your brand wasn’t there from the start, you should definitely consider fixing that.

Other things to consider when thinking about a rebrand

Budget: depending on the depth and type of the rebrand, cost can vary so it is important to establish a budget for the work.

Existing materials: signage, business cards, packaging, displays etc. are all things that will need to be updated with the new visuals. Although absolutely worth it for rolling out the fresh new look, this can be costly and time consuming so should be a consideration.

Timeframe: are you rebranding ahead of an event or milestone? Make sure you have plenty of time for the work to be carried out properly and rolled out with consideration. Rebrand projects can take anywhere between 1 month and 1 year (or longer).

I hope this article helped give you some insight into rebranding, what is involved and what to consider.

References and links:

Under Consideration coverage of the Boots rebrand

Ad Age talk about that Papa John's apostrophe