While most companies do some minor tweaking to their logo every five to eight years to keep it fresh and current, rebranding is another thing entirely.

Rebranding involves a complete overhaul. This could be to update a lackluster image, to accommodate a name change, to bring your logo in line with current offerings, or to fix more complex problems.

All of the guidance provided in the earlier articles on branding and designing your logo also apply to rebranding. However, there are additional and sometimes critical considerations that we will touch on here.

A Word to the Wise

Regardless of size, if your company is one of the main go-to players in your niche, proceed carefully with plans for rebranding. Your customers may be more connected to your name than you realize. If so, a name change can cause a backlash in customer awareness and likability, undoing the progress you’ve made so far.

On the other hand, if rebranding is determined to be the best strategy for your business, there can be a huge upside.

Either way rebranding will undoubtedly affect every aspect of your business and will come with a big price tag attached. If you’re a business owner that loves the rush of the new and exciting, let that play out by testing new products, new campaigns, or pitching new clients. Never rush into rebranding without seriously weighing all the pros and cons.

Managing Name Changes

There are times when a name change is unavoidable. You may be drastically changing the market you serve or the products you offer. You may be merging with another company. Now what?

If your company is well-established in your niche and a distinct name change is necessary, look at it from the customer’s point of view. If the name will be vastly different, and especially if the size of your customer base makes it impossible to personally explain the change, you may need to accomplish the remake in stages, across several years. This will allow you time to test the new brand in limited markets, or at the very least, to plan marketing tools to guide people through the transition, so that you don’t lose customers in the process.

For instance, a “Javelin’s Camping Store” who wants to expand into other recreational products beyond camping might become “Javelin’s Outdoors” or just “Javelin’s” with a tagline underneath, “The Everything Outdoors Store.”  In this case, the heart of the name, Javelin’s, remains the same, making it easy for the customer base to follow the change. It would be a riskier venture if the new brand were to drop the Javelin name.

Mergers create their own challenges. If you want to build your long-term brand capital, it’s often best for the merging companies to work toward a common name, especially if both companies operate in the same niche, same geographic market, and provide similar products and services. This strategy lessens market confusion, capitalizes on synergies, and ultimately saves in marketing costs.

Merging names is a commonplace issue for legal and accounting practices where adding partners is not unusual. Yet, the recitation of names can get unwieldy for customers and staff alike. Imagine the receptionist who has to answer the phone “Bertucci, Jurgensky, Hanover, Smith, and Jones”? How can a customer possibly recommend you if they can’t repeat your name? How can a designer create a memorable logo with a name a mile long? Firms like these are strong candidates for rebranding discussions.

In merger situations, most companies keep the brand that has the best image with their intended target. If both companies have a strong brand, a name combo can work for a year to acclimate customers to the new name, then streamline in favor of the more prominent brand.

Once the next rendition of your name is determined, do what you can to lessen confusion. One way is to incorporate the new name into the design currently used by the brand with the stronger awareness. You can do this by maintaining certain elements of the primary logo, such as the “look” and color scheme. If a complete overhaul is necessary, you’ll need to pour more money and effort into announcing and establishing both a new brand name and a new look.

Fixing a Broken Brand

Sometimes it’s not just the logo that needs an overhaul. It’s other elements that impact your brand. Such as when the tone of your advertising doesn’t reflect your brand personality. Or, when the customer experience doesn’t match up to the benefits you promote. In the scheme of things, those are relatively easy things to fix.

But, if you have developed a poor corporate image due to repeated problems with product consistency and satisfaction, or worse, you’ve lost the public’s trust over another even bigger issue, those concerns take time, money, and a lot more work to resolve (just ask Wells Fargo).

Remember, every element of your marketing and the day-to-day customer experience must be in sync from top to bottom to build and reap the benefits of owning a power brand. Draft a plan to tackle the biggest concerns first, handle your most important clients with kid gloves, and take care of the rest of the problems as soon as time and budget allow.

Complete turn-arounds are not easy, but they can and do happen. Let’s look at an example from the Fortune 500. Time Warner Cable (TWC) had a serious image problem—product stability issues, poor customer service, erratic pricing. Customers were not happy. The next thing you know, a seemingly new player arrived in town…Spectrum. Except Spectrum was none other than Time Warner with a new brand name, or so it appeared.

To their customers who realized these companies were one and the same (only about 54% by some studies), it felt like the corporate giant was trying to pull a fast one. In reality the situation was more complex.

TWC was bought out by another company who already owned the very successful Spectrum brand in other markets. It made sense to drop the problem-prone TWC brand in favor of Spectrum and launch what had already proven to be a stronger product into TWC markets. Despite the suspicion around the changeover, the rebranding ultimately improved customer relationships and was a huge win.

Why are we providing an example from big business? Because there are lessons to be learned from watching things play out in a bigger arena, such as:

  • Rebranding can be confusing to customers and staff alike. Confusion creates openings for your competitors to exploit.
  • Rebranding is costly. Think broadcast, print, and digital advertising, signage, service vehicles, uniforms, employee retraining, systems adaptations, and more.
  • Rebranding must be guided by a thorough SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) and other research.
  • Rebranding is a time-intensive, long-term commitment in both planning and implementation, often over the course of several years.
  • Yet, in the right situations, rebranding is still the best long-term strategy to pursue.