7 Simple Rules of Thumb to Rebrand Your Business

What makes a corporate rebrand successful?

That depends on the goals of the rebrand, to an extent. “Success,” in this sense, is in the eye of the beholder.

And yet there’s one simple and objective way to tell whether a rebrand has done its job. Eventually, the market forgets the old brand.

That’s exactly what happened after each of this century’s most successful rebrands. Target is a mid-highbrow fashion outlet, not a Walmart clone. Pabst Blue Ribbon is (still) the darling beer of hipsters everywhere, not dive bar swill. McDonald’s actually serves healthy options.

This test isn’t the sole determinant of a successful rebrand, of course. These additional rules of thumb are key for any business considering a fresh start.

1. Make Sure Your Company Really Does Need to Rebrand

First, take one last gut-check. Do you really need to rebrand right now?

Maybe the answer is an unequivocal yes. There are many legitimate reasons to invest the considerable resources (time, money, personnel) in executing a full corporate refresh. But the opportunity costs (again: time, money, personnel) are real and not to be taken lightly.

You owe it to yourself to ask the hard questions and draw in other stakeholders before committing, though.

2. Use Your Rebrand As an Opportunity for a Fresh Start

If you do choose to go ahead with your rebrand, use it as an opportunity for a fresh start. That’s the thinking that led one financial services firm to change its name after its acquisition. The gambit appears to have paid off as the company looks ahead to a significant geographical expansion; the same could hold true for your effort.

3. Time Your Rebrand to Coincide With a Market or Product Line Expansion

What better time to reintroduce yourself to the market than when you’re chasing new markets or readying the debut of new products or services that reflect a substantial shift in direction for your brand? Your customers — current and future — could be more accepting of the change if it lines up with other noticeable changes to how you do business, anyhow.

4. Figure Out Which Name You’ll Take (If the Rebrand Coincides With a Major Acquisition)

You’ll have a lot on your plate after a major corporate acquisition, presuming you stay on at all.

One matter you’ll want to get buttoned up sooner than later is the question of your new company name. Will you keep the old one (with or without a partial rebrand), take the acquired company’s name, or invest in a total brand refresh that leaves both former entities in the dustbin of history? The answer holds the key to the next 12 to 18 months of your company’s existence.

5. Don’t Make the Rebrand Itself the Story…

Appearing to rebrand for rebranding’s sake makes it seem as if you’re running away from something.

Don’t seem as if you’re running away from something (even if you sort of are). Instead, weave your rebrand into a larger narrative that tells a compelling story of growth, awareness, change — anything positive, really.

6. …But Back Your New Brand With Serious Buzz-Building Efforts

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t promote your rebrand. You should. Heavily. Everyone who’s paying attention, as well as people you’d like to pay attention, should know about the change. The general public was certainly aware in real time (to greater or lesser degrees) of the successful rebrands discussed earlier.

7. Understand the Difference Between a Partial and Total Rebrand

Don’t begin your rebrand without a clear understanding of what it’s meant to accomplish. Part of this understanding involves the rebrand’s scope. That is, how far it will go to transform your current brand into something new, and how much of the old will be left when that’s done. Think of a partial rebrand as a new coat of paint on an older car; a full rebrand is a total rebuild from the chassis up.

Make It Better Than Before

That’s really the ball game, isn’t it? If your reimagined brand isn’t better than the old one, what’s the point of rebranding at all?

That’s easier said than done, of course. “Better” is a subjective term, albeit one that can be backed up with quantifiable metrics like social engagement, lead generation, sales and revenue, stock price, and so many more. There’s no guarantee of rebranding success, even amid broad internal consensus that the new name and look represent an improvement on the original.

So, take a step back and resolve not to overcomplicate things. These rules of thumb combine to provide a road map for rebranding success. Add to that the market experience you’ve gained in your industry and the results of the pre-rebranding research you’ve done, and you have a fighting chance to make your corporate brand better than before.

Now, it’s time to get started.

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