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Small business rebranding: is it time for a change?

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When it comes to your company’s branding, you might think “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, and sometimes this is true. There’s no point rebranding for the sake of it, and if you get it wrong it can be a disaster. However, a rebrand can also be an exciting opportunity to reach a new audience, reinvent your company, or launch that new product you’ve always wanted to. Read on and find out more about how to rebrand.

First things first: knowing your brand

Adrian Burton, Executive Creative Director at Lambie-Nairn, has the following advice for those seeking to rebrand.

“Before you do anything, define ‘who you are’ and ‘what you stand for’. Don’t start with ‘what you do’ or ‘how you do it’, but ‘why  you do it’. The best brands have a clear sense of purpose. Your purpose needs to be reflected in everything you do. Not just visually, but verbally and culturally. It’s the glue that brings what you believe in to life. It’s what makes you credible and relevant. It’s what lies at the heart of Apple’s success. They challenge the status quo in everything they do. They clearly believe in thinking differently. That’s their ‘why’. It adds meaning and truth to everything they say and do. They were once a small business too.”

How do I know it’s time for a rebrand?

Why rebrand your business? Perhaps you’ve noticed sales dropping off, an increase in competitors, or you’ve seen a release in new, relevant technology that you haven’t taken up yet. Perhaps it’s simply been a while since you’ve taken a good hard look at your product or services, and the image of the company as a whole. You need to be brutally honest with yourself about what is and isn’t working.

If you’re wondering whether you need to rebrand, ask yourself the following questions – if your answer to any of them is yes, it might be time to get fresh.

–       Does your company, or any part of it – logo, service, pricing – seem dated?

–       Is your company failing to grow the way you’d like?

–       Has your customer base changed in any way?

–        Are you associated with something you don’t want to be?

–       Are you falling behind competitors?

But perhaps the most important question to ask is ’why should anyone care about our brand?’ You need to be able to answer this – it’s your mission statement, what makes your company different from anybody else’s, and the core message that your branding needs to be sending out.

What problem are we attempting to solve?

If you’ve decided that a rebrand is the way to go, it’s important that you know what you’re trying to achieve – but deciding this in itself can be a bit of an overwhelming task. Try and concentrate on the big reason behind why you’re re-branding, and fit everything into this.

This can be easy if there is one specific problem that you’re attempting to fix, such as negative connotations to your product. However, more general rebranding still requires a focus, rather than just whacking a new logo on your company and hoping the freshness of it works.

For example, if you feel that your logo, advertising and website all need to be overhauled, think about why. Have customers stopped responding to you, or would you simply like to appeal to more of them? Is your goal to gain a younger, more tech-savvy, or more affluent customer base? The more focussed you are on the problem you’re hoping rebranding will fix, the more effectively you’ll be able to fix it.

Good reasons to rebrand

1.    You need to reposition

If your product, goals, or promise has changed, then a rebrand is a brilliant opportunity to launch back into the spotlight and send a clear message – you’re back, you’re different, and you’re better than ever. Think of it as a kind of relaunch: you want to reach new and relevant customers, and ensure that everybody knows you provide a different service.

2.    You need to shake off a negative image

Sometimes mud can really stick, and the only way to salvage your reputation is to start over. This isn’t about hiding or making the same mistakes under a different name – this is about being honest about past failures, but emphasising the positive changes that have been made. Those bad connotations belonged to your old company. This rebranded one is a company that has learned from its mistakes, done the legwork, and arisen triumphant from the ashes.

3.    You don’t own your trademark

If you don’t own your company name, sometimes it can be better to rebrand in the earlier stages rather than risk an eye-wateringly expensive lawsuit further down the line.

4.    Your brand is outdated

How long has your company been around? Are you even still relevant? What worked for you in the 80s could still be working for you, but unless you’re a household name it’s very unlikely. Even brands that have been around forever can benefit from modernising their approach and re-evaluating their market position – Coke is a brilliant example of a company that’s been around forever, but that’s also managed to rebrand itself in a way that acknowledges and builds on its heritage.

Bad reasons to rebrand

1.    You’re bored

It’s been a few months and your business isn’t revving the way you’d like it to – so you decide to rebrand, relaunch, and start again. This is a bad idea because companies take a while to build up a follower base – some hit consumer gold right away, but the majority took a whole to accumulate loyal customers, positive endorsements, and a solid image of what their brand means to the audience. Stay patient, and wait.

2.    Your want to be more like your competitor

Your competitor filmed a really cool viral and it was really cool and now you’re throwing your toys out of the pram at all the attention they’re getting. You look at their website, and you’re struck with envy. So what do you do? You try and be more like them, copying their strategy and design in the hope it will help you strike gold with your audience. A little envy and competitiveness is a good thing, but you should be putting your energy into being the best and most original business that you can be – not a second-rate copy of a competitor. You have your own little niche and quirks, and you just need to find it… and them embrace it with arms wide open.

3.    Trying to fit into a trend at all costs

So you see that sleek, techy designs are getting all the love right now, but you sell a traditional product with a more old-fashioned branding. If you try and squidge yourself into a trend you could end up looking ridiculous, or just not doing your product justice. Trends are the sequin miniskirts of branding. If you can work them, they can really work. If you try and force it, you’ll be last season’s fodder. Follow your mum’s advice: it doesn’t matter if you’re cool or not. What matters is doing you. Find what your company does well and do it, regardless of where it fits into the current trend zone.

How to rebrand without confusing – or alienating – your customers

Before you begin to create your new image, it’s absolutely vital to think long and hard about how you want to be perceived by your existing customers and your future ones. As even major brands such as Pepsi have found out, customers can really, really dislike change.

They key to a successful rebrand is keeping your customers on board the whole time. Carry out as much market research as possible: ask them for their input, trial new designs, and keep them updated. With social media it’s easier than ever before to keep your customers in the loop and get their feedback on what they like, and what they don’t. If you want to go a step further, you could involve them even more intimately in the process – perhaps by running a competition where the winner can choose the new logo or website, or even have a hand in the design.

At all costs avoid springing a whole new image, outlook and mission statement on your customers without warning – you really don’t want to “pull a Miley”. Ease them into it gently by making the process as transparent as possible. And turn it into an exciting thing – you’re going in a new and better direction, and you hope they’ll enjoy the ride.

The best times for a rebrand

1.    Before you get too stratospheric

One of the best times to rebrand for a small business is at a point where you’re ready to expand, and where rebranding will help you do this without breaking the bank. If you’re still a small company, redoing things such as company stationary, items with your logo on, and forking out for a new website, will all be much easier on the wallet. It also means you have fewer customers to confuse or get strangely possessive.

2.    After a major change

If you’ve made a major change to your product, or have decided to go in a new direction, you might decide to go the whole hog and refresh the image of the whole company. On one hand, it’s adding to the stress of launching something new; on the other, a large-scale effort like this can reposition you positively in your marketplace.

3.    After a disaster

You’ve become embroiled in a PR disaster, and you’re anxious to distance from it. Here a rebrand may not even be optional – it may be the only way to get your business back on track.

How much you should budget for a rebrand

There are many costs associated with a rebrand, and some of them might surprise you. The more obvious costs include:

–       Redesign of website

–       Redesign of logo

–       New stationary, vehicles – anything that has your logo or adheres to the old design needs to be redone

However, don’t forget about more insidious costs:

–       Strategy developing – you might want to bring in outside bodies for this

–       Market research and surveys to find out what your customers think

–       Marketing of your new brand, and drumming up enough coverage of the change

–       Possible restructuring of your workforce – will there be new roles? Are existing employees suitable for your new company, or is it time to let some people go and get some fresh eyes in?

–       Potentially hosting a launch event

–       Training costs for existing staff

The most important cost of all is that of time – your time, and your employees’ time. Rebranding is very intensive, and you’ll most likely still have existing customers who need your attention.

If working to a tight budget, efficiency is key. Back and forth between designers will rack up costs, and so will a long, dragging process. Some ways to save money are:

–       Rather than designing a whole new website, can you hire a freelancer to just refresh it and change key items?

–       What is most vital to the running of your business? Prioritise the most important parts to you, whether that’s getting quality coverage or the perfect logo design, and see where you can cut costs on less important elements.

–       There are cheap survey tools out there to help you with market research – you don’t always have to commission giant surveys costing thousands of pounds.

Key things to remember throughout the process

- The success of your rebrand is contingent on the commitment of your team – investors, stakeholders, employees. It’s absolutely vital that every single person involved in the company is behind the rebrand, understands the reasons for doing it, and will support and champion it.

– Whether it’s a small tweak or a complete re-launch, you need to look at the bigger picture and how it fits within the company as a whole. Going halfway with rebranding won’t cut it – you need to commit.

– Rebranding isn’t superficial. You’re never just changing a name or logo; you’re changing the message your company sends out into the world.

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