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Rebranding is a common effort firms, organizations, and even professional sports teams take to increase relevance and value. As an example, consider the effort to reposition the Washington pro football team the Washington Redskins to the Washington Commanders, a change made because of concerns over the derogatory nature of the original name. The rebrand took nearly 18 months. Many people may wonder why this process took so long. Couldn’t team management simply conduct a fan poll? Or pick a name that they liked? It seems simple, but in reality, a rebrand takes time because it is more than just changing a name or a logo.

To help understand the process, Autumn Sterrett (COO) and Rachel Hardin (Creative Director) of branding agency VHS Design Co. shared insights about key aspects of a rebrand. As Hardin explains: “I think of brand identity or brand philosophy as a combination of vision, mission and your values all put together into a pretty package that creates this unique identity. Think it’s easy to do that? Think again.”

According to HiveMind Studios: “The average rebranding initiative costs about 10%–20% of the marketing budget. For example, if your annual revenues are $15M and your marketing budget is $750K, you can expect rebranding costs in the range of $75,000 to $150,000 to overhaul your company’s brand.”

Creating a New Mission

The rebranding process begins when a company or organization needs to evolve and shift – often times seeking to drive growth. These efforts could begin because they want to reposition themselves within their current market, they want to broaden their appeal, or they may be looking to expand into a new space. Other times they might consider rebranding after a recent merger or acquisition, following a public relations crisis, or because they have a new company vision.

As these decisions are made, there are four elements that should be considered.

Identifying the New Brand

Identifying a new brand name is complicated because you want to keep current consumers, and acquire new consumers. This requires ideating (i.e., developing new name ideas), testing, and checking for availability. A company may start with a name and then consider how that name will look – colors, logo, and so forth. And all of this has to achieve the repositioning objectives while appealing to current and future consumers. Consider the Washington Commanders rebrand. Fans were polarized. Some wanted to keep the old name and others wanted a new name. The team had to thread this needle by identifying the elements that would continue on and which elements would be dropped.

Build Out the Strategy

Sterrett indicates that “once the mission, vision, and values have been established and agreed upon, the next step is to create a strategy that will allow for a smooth transition from the current brand to the new brand. While it may feel easier to simply throw out the old playbook and start fresh, this isn’t always realistic for major corporations and large organizations, or even for small businesses. Existing brand features will need to be adapted into the new plans while also confirming it fits the elements that come with the change. This includes but is not limited to changing product labels, updating your website, adjusting promotional materials, and making changes to marketing efforts. When done correctly, these updates will avoid consumer confusion and ensure their loyalty is maintained throughout the process.”

Get Feedback from Key Stakeholders

Involving key stakeholders, in particular employees in the rebranding of your company is helpful as they are the ones spending the most time interacting and engaging with the market.

Nicole Kemp, the Senior Manager of Brand & Marketing Operations of BrandActive, and Jo Clarke, a Senior Director, suggested that: “If brand and culture are not currently integrated within your organization, use your rebrand as an opportunity to bring your HR colleagues and marketing teams together. Foster alignment around goals that matter to them and to you. For example, you might ask your HR colleagues to talk through how living out the brand could help employees demonstrate passion and purpose at work. Or, you might explore whether using your brand more intentionally in hiring campaigns could lead to better recruitment results.”

Research Your Industry and Competition

On top of the opinions and ideas shared by your team, another important aspect is to generate market understanding through detailed research. While understanding consumers is important, it’s also critical to understand competitors. Repositioning a brand requires navigating around your competitors.

Sterrett suggests to “beware of fads and trends. Rebranding is costly and so you want to ensure that it is sustainable. Some examples of major products and companies that have struggled to remain relevant in changing industries include Microsoft Zune, Palm Pilot, Napster, Kodak, Blockbuster, and many more.”

A good example of a company that did this the right way was when Uber rebranded and put an emphasis on both its drivers and its riders at the same time. It was about creating real value and not just a shift in a picture, logo, or tagline.

Consider Whether a Name Change is Needed

A new company name may be necessary if it is confusing, difficult to spell (or find digitally), doesn’t reflect what your business stands for, or has trademark problems. As with any business decision, the real costs should be considered along with the potential benefits. Brian Lischer at Ignyte, a branding agency, explains that when you rebrand, “you risk losing whatever brand equity exists in the business’s existing name…as well as any SEO value you have built under the name.”

Large companies can often make these changes more easily as they already have an established following. For example, Dunkin’ Donuts recently changed its name to Dunkin, which is simple and easy to associate with its former name. Kentucky Fried Chicken officially became KFC since everyone was already calling them that anyway. And while Facebook’s current shift to become Meta is more complicated, they’re a massive corporation that can afford to compensate with significant marketing investment.

Finally, it takes time to let the world know about the change. It requires an investment of time to decide when to launch, how to launch, and so forth.

As with the “Washington Football Team”, any company that decides to go through a rebrand will find the process takes time, patience, and money. No matter the reason behind the change, there is a strategy that must be followed to ensure the results are successful. Most organizations do not want to do this if they don’t have to.

Join the Discussion: @KimWhitler



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