a blue orange sliced in half sitting before a blue background
a blue orange sliced in half sitting before a blue background
#rebranding #timetorebrand

When is it Time to Rebrand?

Paul Kiernan

For marketers, the idea of a rebrand has you champing at the bit. There it is, all that possibility in one fell swoop.

For marketers, the idea of a rebrand has you champing at the bit. There it is, all that possibility in one fell swoop. Change the old up and kapow; new business will be crawling out of the woodwork. Let’s do it!

Before you chuck the logo and color scheme, think for a moment. Yes, a rebrand can change things up, attract new eyes, and maybe even reach a wider audience. some brands need a makeover, but a rebrand isn’t easy, and if not done right, it can be disastrous.

The Gap 2010 Logo

Back in October of 2010, The Gap inexplicably changed its well-known logo overnight. Going from the simple dark blue square with the company name written in white serif, which had been their logo from 1990 to that October 6th. The new logo featured a small blue square off to the side and the GAP written in bold black Helvetica.

The rebrand was done by a reputable agency, costing the company roughly 100 million. When asked about the change, V.P. of corporate communications, Bill Chandler, said it was a more modern interpretation. A spokesperson for the company claimed that the change was due to The Gap moving from classic American design to contemporary, sexy, and cool.

One week later, on October 12, the new logo was gone, and the classic original logo was back. This is a shining example of a failed rebrand strategy. The change occurred without build-up or fanfare. It was met with immediate, fierce negative backlash from consumers and professionals. Worst of all, the change seemed to take place independently of any organizational or merchandise changes. It happened quickly and, apparently, without thinking it through.

This is a classic example of poorly planned and executed rebranding and support for the old adage coined by Thomas Bertrum Lance in 1977, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

There are good reasons to rebrand, but it must be well-considered and well-executed, so if you’re wondering if a rebrand is right for your business.

Here are a few good reasons to tackle a rebrand.

You Look Like Every Other Company in Your Industry

Two seemingly identical sheep

A brand is a living thing, and it must evolve, change and develop as time goes by. A good brand stays ahead of trends and embraces change. However, the field is often so packed that a brand starts falling into hive-mind mode. In this situation, unconsciously, subconsciously, or just blindly, they adopt traits from competitors. Soon, there is no differentiation; no one stands out because the whole pack is weirdly similar.

For example, YouTube and Netflix are both streaming video services using red, white, and black palettes. They are very similar to each other, with no great distinction. This left the door open for a company like Twitch to blast onto the scene with a purple palette and stand out.

Another pitfall is rebranding to one-up the competition. A competitor changed their logo, so now you have to change yours. Not smart. This is not a well-considered move; it’s purely reactionary, which usually leads to a lack of authenticity, uniqueness, and originality. A lack of those qualities looks bad for your brand.

You’re Eyeing a New Audience

Growth is good, and so is looking beyond your current horizons to what may be possible. So now you’re looking to attract a new audience; however, your branding isn’t primed to take on this new group. This is a struggle so many businesses are facing while trying to grab the attention and dollars of millennials.

Now you’re facing a delicate balance. You want to reach a new audience but don’t want to alienate your current audience. This was the problem with the Gap logo change. Ideally, your rebrand appeals to the new audience and keeps your current base included and satisfied.

Millennials are a tricky beast; if you focus on them exclusively, you’ll capture a wider audience, but for how long and at what cost to your current audience? Doing a rebrand to capture only one specific group will not help your brand in the long run. Make sure your rebrand remains inclusive to all your loyal fans.

You’re Expanding

Expanding is one great reason to rebrand. When your company grows, its reach is further, requiring a new approach. Like the grocery store Aldi. This massive grocery chain was started in a small town in Germany by two brothers who knew the value of being thrifty. Now the tiny shop is a global entity with over 80 billion in annual revenue and founders who are now multibillionaires. That kind of growth demands a rebrand.

So, if your business has been around since the invention of the internal combustion engine, or you’ve gone from corner mom & pop to a global giant, you can feel pretty safe about a rebrand.

Your Brand is Trapped in a Past Century

a woman in a green dress standing at the far end of an ancient hall
“Good branding can’t cover up bad behavior.”
Phil Davis

A business reality is that the industry evolves very quickly. Like the newly studied Galapagos “Big Bird,” which completely evolved and changed in only three generations, the business can evolve quickly.

Maybe your business missed the evolutionary changes, and now, you can’t stand to go to your website because it looks like a throwback to a terrible time. You feel outdated.

However, before you jump the gun and toss the old logo, think about this, there is a difference between an old logo and an outdated one. Think about the Gap debacle, and this becomes very clear.

Before you jettison the current logo that’s been with you for some time, do some deep research. Find out what your loyal customers think and have a good reason. Again, not to pile on them, but the Gap just went ahead without warning or build-up, dropped a new logo on the public, and it was a horrible failure.

But, if your brand no longer feels like you or isn’t sending the proper message because it IS outdated, then it is time for a rebrand.

Your Values Have Evolved

People look at a brand as more than just a cool logo or a swinging color palette; they also want to know if the brand aligns with their values. We’ve seen major brands take a hit like Jimmy Johns did when photos of the founder, Jimmy John Liautaud, on a safari in front of a dead elephant he killed were circulated on social media. People came out of the woodwork with anti-hunting protests, and the brand had to back peddle and work hard to regain control of its image.

If you’ve put together a strong brand strategy and you’re well aware of your vision, mission, purpose, and values, and the brand still aligns with all that, then perhaps a rebrand isn’t necessary right now.

However, if your values have changed or were not fully articulated when you did your first branding exercises, a rebrand may be in order. Restating your brand's values could open you up to a broader audience and maybe even catch the eyes o the oh-so-elusive millennials.

Take an honest assessment of your brand’s stated values and really consider whether they are still valid, whether they have evolved and changed, and if that change is something to crow about, rebrand.

Disinformation or Bad Press

There are multiple examples of how lousy behavior required a complete rebrand. Look at Lance Armstrong as a prime example. The Lance Armstrong Foundation took a beating when its namesake was embroiled in a very public doping scheme. All seemed lost until they rebranded as LIVESTRONG. This new name is so popular that most people don’t even remember The Lance Armstrong Foundation. Armstrong himself still faces retribution, but the foundation is flourishing.

Bad press or a disinformation attack can leave you reeling, and your brand dinged up. If you’re facing backlash in the media and need to realign your values with your company’s practices, a rebrand could be in order.

Meet the New Boss

close up of a bearded man with blue eyes covered in blood

With new owners or partners comes a new brand. It makes sense if you’ve been acquired to rebrand and incorporate the new things coming your way. Still, you cannot just leap into a rebrand that can get you in trouble.

When Verizon agreed to buy Yahoo for $4.8 billion, it bought the company’s core internet business. This included its email service, sports verticals, and various apps. What was left of the technology company would essentially be its ownership in the very valuable Chinese Internet giant Alibaba. So, Yahoo combined the words ‘alternative’ and ‘Alibaba,’ and the result was Altaba.

The name change was universally mocked.

So, new management can mean a new vision and core values, which are definitely reasons to rebrand.

Go With Caution

No matter your reason for a rebrand, it is essential not to take it lightly. As we have seen, a rebrand can be a smashing success or an unmitigated disaster.

If you don’t have an internal crew who knows the ropes, understands the minutia, and can rebrand you successfully, then you need to talk to professionals.

Thoughtlab has over two decades of experience with rebranding. They can walk you through the steps and get your goals, values, mission, and vision aligned while guiding you through colors, copy, and even a new logo.

A rebrand is too important and too precarious just to jump in. It takes research, prep work, and intelligent, clear follow-through. Contact ThoughtLab for a free consultation and ensure your rebrand is memorable for all the right reasons.