Kate Elizabeth — 22 November 2018
Rebranding an organisation, particularly one at enterprise level, is a complicated prospect and needs to be approached with the right framework to support a successful transition.
Are you envisaging your rebrand will be a completely new proposition by shifting your brand promise, position or audience to a new promise, position and audience? Perhaps you have always stood for a breadth of offering, but the market now looks for niche solutions, so your everywoman promise needs to be recrafted to identify a niche position and audience.
Alternatively, is your rebrand simply a refreshing of your visual identity? Has the style of presentation and visual identity of your competitors moved around you, and you feel dated in comparison.
These two solutions are at opposite ends of the spectrum, requiring vastly different levels of research, resources and resolve.
The first strategy is to identify why you are proposing a rebrand. How will your rebrand benefit the organisation? What is motivating you to recommend this solution?
The market has shifted around you to change the value proposition of the entire market, and your position and promise have not moved in this new direction, and your awareness and sales have dropped accordingly.
The much careworn example of this, of course, is the introduction of SVOD to home entertainment following the improvements to the scale and stability of the internet, shifting the market from the rental of physical content to streamed content. The market shifted, and Blockbuster was lost in the stampede.
The audience and the market remain the same, but for some reason, the offering has shifted. What you used to be able to sell at volume for good margin has been devalued or become less profitable.
Your audience or perhaps other external factors like regulation might be driving this movement. An example of this is the introduction of legislation in the UK to levy manufacturers of soft-drinks, the so-called 'sugar tax'. The offering in this category has shifted dramatically from full-leaded drinks to low- and no-sugar drinks and the manufacturers are also buying up bottled water brands to offset the perception of unhealthy solutions (and the downturn in sales). The 'sugar tax' has seen some manufacturers reduce the quantity of sugar in their products to pay a lower levy.
This can be a complicated signal to interpret - are they moving into these spaces (or visual identity styles) because that is what the audience wants or is their move driven by an unproven direction from their board or executive, not necessarily in response to their customers or market.
An example of this competitor movement has played out in the almost simultaneous movement of Coles and Woolworths, those two supermarket behemoths, into house-branded products and away from independent brands. Shelf space in the milk section is divided in roughly 50/50 - 50% for Coles brand and 50% for all the other brands including Pauls, Maleny Dairies, Norco, Dairy Farmers and Pura. One couldn't move into this space without the other following, so tightly wound was their duopoly at this stage.
Perhaps the customer has physically moved, or moved their purchase channels from offline to online or changed their weighting of product attributes. It may not mean your whole customer-based has shifted, but it may mean you could engage with a new audience or present a more profitable offering to your existing audience.
An example of this is the decline in the share of students studying Education at university in the 27 years to 2015. The share plunged from 17.5% in 1989 to 8.3% in 2015. Students are still enrolling to study at university: 2011 census data showing 36.6% of 20-year-olds attending university or other tertiary institutions (up from 32.6% in 2006), but they are selecting different courses, and universities have reflected this customer movement with new courses and increased Commonwealth Supported Places (CSPs) in others.
No brand manager likes to be in this position, but sometimes the only way to resuscitate a brand is to rebrand, although increasingly people's short memories and desire for convenience, and PR firms earning their keep are keeping brands alive for longer than was previously possible.
I am not talking about the sort of reputation damage like the Takata airbag scandal that saw the firm filing for bankruptcy, I am talking about the mess left behind by leaders like Travis Kalanick at Uber who resigned after allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination and the poor leadership demonstrated by Kalanick. The company attempted a rebrand by introducing features like tipping and this year executed another (the second new visual identity in 2 years).
The terms of the M&A will dictate whether you need a rebrand and whether it will be a new name and identity or a blend of the two, or whether it will still operate as a standalone entity in the brand hierarchy.
An example of this is the merger of Disney and Pixar. There were many similarities in their audience, product categories and go-to-market strategies, and both brands were beloved by the audience. Rather than lose one brand, or upset the advocates of one brand by establishing a hierarchy, the solution was to establish a new logo mark with both as equal and to position their communications and marketing to build their combined audiences.
Once you are clear on the reason, the second strategy to identify is the scale of the rebrand - a refresh of the visual identity or a significant shift of the promise of the whole organisation and the work you do.
To some extent, the reason will determine how comprehensive the rebrand is but ensure you are confident in this decision by supporting both your reason and the degree of your rebrand through extensive research.
Once you are confident in your decision, you can move into the research and planning phases.