To ReBrand or Not to Rebrand, That is the Question: 6 Steps to Successful Rebranding

2020 was the year of the informal rebrand. The coronavirus pandemic forced many companies to pivot and make significant adjustments to how they do business. As restaurants and retail establishments faced closures and a sudden drop in revenue, owners quickly shifted to new operating models. E-commerce platforms, curbside pickups, home deliveries, live streaming, video classes, and virtual appointments became the new normal. It was a quiet type of rebranding.

What will be the future? No one knows, but if you’ve made significant changes to your business model that you intend to keep, you might need to rebrand. We’ll look at some case studies and then offer six steps to successful rebranding.

From TransferWise to Wise

TransferWise is rebranding ahead of an expected IPO. It will now be known as “Wise.” Launched in 2011 as a B2C international money transfer platform, the fintech giant says it has expanded beyond its founding mission. With 10 million business and private customers and a suite of financial services, the fintech wants the public to know that it has grown to become a “cross-border payments network.” TransferWise says it’s building a community of businesses and consumers with multi-currency lives. Its goal is to make international banking cheaper, user-friendly, and more convenient.

Does the word “Wise” make you think of a global money transfer platform that’s about building a community of businesses and consumers with multi-currency lives? Do you think of borderless bank accounts?

The rebrand may work with current customers because they already use the fintech’s products. But what about outreach to new consumers? Will a brand called “Wise” resonate? Inform about the company’s mission, products, and services?

After reading the comments on the newsfeed,  I would guess that TransferWise’s rebrand could prove to be regrettable, but time will tell.


Responding to Changes in National Consciousness

Some rebrands have been in response to shifts in consciousness. Land’OLakes removed the graphic of a native American woman that had been part of their brand for almost 100 years. Aunt Jemima rebranded similarly.

Understanding that consumers prefer mission-focused brands, companies such as Pottery Barn and Clorox rebranded to focus on environmental initiatives. Imagery that conveys the message of sustainability and environmental protection is now in all their company brand components.

Rebranding Doesn’t Change Your Reputation

The American cable operator Comcast changed its name to Xfinity, hoping that a rebrand would improve its reputation. But changing their brand identity didn’t help. Consumers didn’t forget about their poor experience with the provider.


What is Your Brand?

A brand communicates what you do, why you do it, and how you do it. Building a strong brand identity is key to growing market share, reaching your revenue goals, and creating trust between you and your consumers.

Your brand is your identity.  It’s your entire visual persona, including your logo, colors, and design, marketing materials, website, brochures, and business cards. However, your brand also extends to

  • your personality
  • language
  • digital media communications
  • how employees interact with customers
  • your voice message and any other automated responses.

When Should You Rebrand?

Rebranding is a way to change your corporate image. You’re able to instill a new identity in the minds of the public, investors, customers and prospects, and your competitors. It is a laborious process that takes time and considerable financial resources. If not performed correctly, not only will you lose money, but you could potentially forfeit everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve.

Sometimes market forces dictate a pivot from your founding purpose, as has happened during the COVID-19 pandemic. You want to let the world know you’ve shifted.

If you’re an entrepreneur, you may have launched your business with little thought to your brand. Now that you’re more established, the weak brand you began with no longer serves you. It might be limiting your growth. Perhaps you’re ready to expand into new markets, but the name of your business doesn’t match. Or your brand no longer differentiates you from the competition.

Other reasons to rebrand include:

  • Your company’s vision, mission, values, and market are no longer reflected in your current brand.
  • New locations have been added. You’re shifting out of your local, community-oriented persona to become multi-state or global.
  • You need to update. By modernizing, you’ll send a signal that you’re current, trending, cutting-edge, and in sync with your consumer base.
  • Your business has repositioned itself, changing your consumer profile. You need a brand that resonates with your new target audience.
  • The company has gone through a merger and acquisition.

Even well-established companies have undergone an extensive rebranding. Uber, Weight Watchers, Dunkin’, and Unilever are some recent examples.


6 Steps to Successful Rebranding

#1. Decide if it will be a total rebrand or partial.

You might only need to update your logo and colors to connect with a younger audience. You don’t need a total identity makeover.  If you’ve changed your entire mission, values, and vision, you’ll want to do a total rebrand.

#2. Establish a budget and wait to rebrand until the funds are in place.

Rebranding is expensive. Gather your team, and create a realistic budget that covers the entire project from start to finish, including the roll-out. Track expenditures to avoid budget creep, which can quickly happen with such an enormous undertaking. Centralizing decision-making and operational tasks will make this easier.

#3. Redefine your mission, vision, and values.

Your vision is forward-thinking and limitless. The company vision must be incorporated into every aspect of your brand, from your website to your human resources department.

A mission statement is how you attend to achieve your vision. It’s more specific. If your mission has changed, your brand messaging needs to change too.

Values are the “who” behind the brand.

If you’ve changed your vision, mission, and values, your brand voice needs to change too. Your vocabulary, tone, and the language you employ across all corporate communication channels should match your new vision, mission, and values.

#4. Identify your target audience, market, and your competition.

Consider the needs of your current audience. Your rebranding should not confuse them. Remember you want to expand, not lose those you already have. Your new slogan should continue to resonate with your core consumers.

  • What is drawing potential customers to your competitors? How can you present yourself to capture those consumers?
  • Define what makes you unique
  • Why do you exist?
  • What problem(s) do you come to solve, or what gap do you fill?

#5. Test out your rebranding ideas with a target group of current customers, focus groups, or surveys.

This is a key step. The rebrand may look great so far, but the only way to know if it’s going to be a success or a fail is to test it out. Let your customers know that you’re thinking about rebranding. Explain why. Host a virtual focus group to measure the response to your new image and materials.

#6. Carefully manage, launch, and introduce your new brand to the global community.

You don’t want your rebrand to be a shock. Develop a release strategy and timeline. What media outlets will you use? How will you roll it out across your social media and other digital channels? Set up listening posts so that you can respond immediately to any negativity or confusion. In your press releases, carefully explain the reason why you’ve chosen to rebrand.

Bottom Line

Sometimes the market forces you to rebrand to remain competitive. Your founding mission may change or grow as you scale and develop the capacity to reach a wider audience. There are good reasons to go through the process of rebranding. Done carefully, the ROI will be well worth the effort.

Hey, feel free to comment. I love to hear your thoughts.

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