How to work out when it’s time to rebrand

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Looking to shake up your brand, but not sure if the time is right? Here are some of the reasons you might change your company’s look, feel or even name, and how to decide whether a rebrand is right for you.

Find your rebranding strategy

A rebrand, however successful or rewarding, is a major business decision that comes with lots of hard work and its share of risks, too. That’s why it’s important to have a strategy in place for when, and how, you will change your branding, and what you want to achieve by doing it.

The starting point is to think about why you might want to rebrand. Of course every business is different, but there are some common landmark events that make companies change their logo, name or visual identity, each with its own underlying business challenge that rebranding can help solve. We’ve put together a list of five key factors that go into the rebranding decision.

5 reasons to rebrand

1. You’re out of step with your customers or your market

Things change. People, culture, technology, aesthetics, and consumer trends are always developing and moving forward, and sometimes, so should your brand. After all, your customers are what keeps your business afloat. If they’re changing, it makes sense for you to change too. 

You might recognize that your current branding no longer reflects your company values. Maybe the kind of people interested in your brand have changed – or their goals and priorities have. Sometimes it’s a shift in culture, like the growing market for vegan products or sustainable business practices. 

Insights from data and market research can be the trigger for this kind of change, as they give you a clearer picture of what your customers think and feel. For example, if your customer data shows that your products originally designed for kids are being bought primarily by young – or even not-so-young – adults, you could rebrand them to capitalize on the newly discovered audience.

Rebrand for your audience: McDonalds

McDonalds decided to overhaul its image and brand in 2014, when a shift towards healthy eating and away from high-fat, high-sugar foods started to push its profit margins down. As well as upgrading its restaurant facilities with stylish furniture, free WiFi and a more sophisticated color palette for the decor, the brand began marketing itself on its responsible business practices and sustainable supply chain. The golden arches of its logo are still there, but what they stand for has definitely changed.

2. You need a fresh start after past events

A rebrand can be a way of marking a major change in your business, such as coming under new ownership or expanding into a new territory. New brand positioning can also help shake off negative or simply out-of-date and irrelevant media coverage that crops up in search results, especially if the brand name has changed.

Rebrand to change perceptions: Ryanair

Budget airline Ryanair used a rebrand to help promote a change of policies and a new emphasis on customer service. In 2014, the brand’s profits and share prices were suffering as customers tired of the extra charges and inconvenient experiences that came along with its rock-bottom prices. As well as a marketing campaign that announced ‘We’re Changing’, the airline updated its brand colors from bright blue and yellow to more toned-down hues of navy and lemon.

3. To step up to the competition

A rebrand can be an effective way of reasserting your position in the market and drawing focus to what you have to offer – especially if competitors have been expanding into your target market, or you have an eye on theirs. A brand identity that seems old-fashioned, out of touch or set apart from what others are doing can be a strong sign it’s time to rebrand.

Rebrand to compete: Kapten

Chauffeur-Privé, a French ride-sharing business, rebranded itself as ‘Kapten’ in 2019, a move that helped bring it into line with sector giant Uber and achieve a new appeal for Uber customers. The new name is more international and modern, with a distinctly techy, app-style flavor. The company also brought its minimum ride cost down to make them in line with Uber’s pricing.

4. You want to consolidate your different sub-brands

Having different sub-brands within your business portfolio can be a helpful strategy for zeroing in on specialist markets and highlighting your expertise. But there may come a time when you decide to pull everything together under one umbrella brand that’s consistent across your whole portfolio.

A rebrand can achieve this while delivering the extra benefits of more publicity and a fresh perception of your company. 

Rebrand to consolidate: FedEx

FedEx is an internationally-recognized leader in postage and logistics, and it’s kept the same iconic logo since it rebranded from Federal Express to FedEx in 1994. But in 2016, the company realized that its many sub-brands weren’t adding anything to the business image. In fact, the color-coded logos for its different operations such as freight and business services were just confusing. So to simplify and strengthen the overall brand, the company replaced all of them with its best-known purple and orange logo.


5. You’ve suddenly grown

Start-ups that have rocketed to major success may find themselves with a brand or logo that suited fine when they were starting out, but no longer fits with their current scale and market.
A rebrand can help bring this kind of business into line with their competitors and cement the fact that they’ve ‘arrived’.

Rebrand after business growth: Airbnb

Airbnb is one of these super-speedy success stories. Their original 2008 branding was a very basic wordmark with simple colors, spelling out ‘Air Bed & Breakfast’. Soon, the business soared into new markets and grew at a breakneck pace, and what was a niche alternative to traditional bed-and-breakfasts became a major travel company. They adopted a sleeker lock-up with the newer ‘Airbnb’ name alongside a heart-shaped business logo, much better suited to their major-league success.

What’s your rebrand rationale?

Often, the reason for a rebrand is a mixture of all these factors, and maybe others unique to your business as well. Whatever the situation, it’s worth making a detailed analysis of your current brand and its strengths and weaknesses before you take the plunge and hire that branding agency. After all, a rebrand is an involved process that will take some time and effort, and if you’re not doing it for the right reasons it could have limited benefits to your business.

Here are five crucial questions to help you evaluate whether it’s time for a rebrand.

1. What’s changed since your last branding?

Make a list of key changes to your business, including any leadership restructuring, new products or services or retiring of old ones. Think too about your messaging and marketing strategy. Are you targeting the same customer needs, and promoting the same brand promise? A rebrand may be worth considering if you’ve moved on substantially from where you were.

2. What’s changed with your customers?

Are your customers the same kinds of people with the same needs and desires? Take note of any new demographic groups who are buying more from you, or any decline or shift in your traditional customer base. If the answers aren’t obvious, some customer surveys or other market research tools could help you to take stock.

3. How has technology impacted your business?

Tech is such a driving force in modern business that it’s almost certainly had a transformational effect on you or your customers, whether that’s a growing tendency to shop via mobile, a new social media strategy or a data and privacy overhaul. These changes may not be seismic enough to trigger a rebrand, but they could be a contributing factor worth thinking about when you’re weighing up your decision.

4. What does competitor branding look like?

Even if you haven’t changed your branding in a while, your competitors probably have. Customers will always be comparing you to the competition, so if your brand image looks out-of-date or sticks out like a sore thumb from the rest of your market niche, a rebrand may be a valuable move.

5. What are the risks of not rebranding?

A rebrand should never be done on impulse or without a clear strategy in mind. To help test out your need for rebranding, try flipping the question on its head and thinking about what might happen if you keep everything the same. Will you be overtaken by the competition? Will negative perceptions follow you for longer and have more of an impact? Will you lack credibility in a new market and miss out on sales due to outdated branding? As negative as these questions are, they can help you figure out whether a rebrand is truly business-critical.

Rebranding explained

This article is part of our rebranding guide series. For more tips, check out How to promote your rebrand and The rebranding process

See how one business managed their successful rebrand in our Bluewolf case study

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