Rebranding can be overwhelming. Enter “how to rebrand” in a search engine, and you’ll be faced with more than 11 million results. Still, you don’t want to sidestep a growth opportunity just because it’s complicated. Whether you’re expanding your product offerings or simply looking to spruce up your reputation, rebranding your business is a necessary part of evolving as an organization. If you want consumers—not to mention internal stakeholders—to trust your brand, you need to invest in it by evolving alongside their needs.
The work you do to more clearly articulate your vision will play a big role in building your brand’s integrity and, ultimately, cementing your legacy as an organization.
With so much information, how can you know the best way to begin? Before diving in (or stressing out), take a deep breath, and know that your rebrand doesn’t have to be perfect. Thankfully, even the smallest—and most awkward—steps toward improving your brand can benefit your relationship with your consumers. Taking proactive—albeit wobbly—steps to nurture your brand as it evolves shows your target audience you’re focused on providing value to them, which will enhance your reputation and, hopefully, boost revenue.
Though you don’t have to be perfect, you will have to be intentional, incorporating best practices into your rebranding strategies. To guide you along the way, we did our research and spoke with branding experts whose insights can make your rebranding process both painless and effective.
Don’t pull the trigger too soon on a rebrand just because you’re tired of your old look. After all, it takes time to establish brand awareness and loyalty from customers. Shelly Jackson, brand strategist and founder of The Look and The Feel Branding Studio, says a good rule of thumb is that if you’ve had your brand professionally created, you should wait at least three years before making a change. “If you spend the time to develop a clear, consistent, and cohesive brand in the first place, you won’t have to consider rebranding in the near future,” she says.
There are, however, some good indicators that it may be time to give your brand a refresh. “It’s time to rebrand if your current look and feel no longer align with your values, vision, brand story, and customer needs and wants. If it’s not serving your company or customers, it’s a good time to consider making a change.”
Ideally, your brand should reflect the core of who you are as a business. If you don’t know your core, how can you communicate it in a way that’s both true to your brand and resonant with your consumers? Psychologist and life coach Dr. Ariane Machin says that in every rebrand, authenticity, and strategy should go hand in hand. In other words, before you can connect with your audience, you have to understand who you are as a business.
“Getting attuned to true authenticity—how your brand is a pure reflection of who you are as a business and how you want to be ‘seen’ by those around you—guides the rebranding process,” Machin says. “It’s imperative that businesses truly understand their core identity as a company before they move forward with a rebrand.”
After you connect with your core identity, it’s time to start thinking about how your brand can work for you in a way that connects with your consumers. Jackson says it all starts with asking yourself the right questions. Consider the following questions as you get started, and let your answers guide your process as you go.
Once you identify answers to these questions, you’ll have a more complete toolbox for reshaping your brand. Remember, your organization’s reputation is in large part formed by your identity as a brand. To genuinely connect with your target audience and those within your community, you need to know who you are—and just as importantly, you need to know how to express it through an effective branding strategy.
Just because you recognize you need to make some changes or improvements doesn’t mean you have to overhaul your entire brand, says Greg Corey, founder of Porchlight, an Atlanta-based design studio. Rather than tossing out elements that may actually be working for your brand, leverage them to work even better with the new elements. For example, he says, you can make slight updates to refresh your color pallette to better complement your existing vision statement, or change up your web copy to align with the brand voice you’ve already established.
If you want to go deeper to examine your customers wants and needs, don’t waste time assuming. Just do your research—it can be a huge time saver to build on the foundation of what your audience actually wants rather than guesswork. Corey recommends conducting market research to find out what consumers think of your brand and what they think could be different. With this information, you can be strategic with updates to your branding language and design elements in a way that actually resonates with your target audience.
Kelly Howard, CEO of LA-based communications agency EightSixtySouth, says finding a great team is crucial for a successful rebrand. Particularly advantageous is the unbiased view an outside party can offer.
“Engage yourself with talented people in the branding arena. One of the most difficult parts of the process is just starting. Often you’re so immersed in the business that it’s challenging to step beyond that and look at the rebranding from the outside in,” she says. “Speaking to talented people with a bird’s eye view—from branding and naming experts to graphic designers—and getting the right people around you to create ideas is key.”
There’s a lot more to a rebrand than dreaming. Like any other big change in your company, you’ll actually have to implement the changes you dream up. For this reason, it’s important to think both strategically and practically. “Before rebranding, I wish I knew how much work it was going to take! There’s so much that goes into it that people often don’t realize, from creating a name, to making sure your new domain is available to finding an LLC or filing a DBA,” says Howard.
Though much of the rebranding process requires big-picture thinking, effective rebranding takes a lot of attention to detail—after all, you don’t want to compromise your reputation by letting the little things slip through the cracks. If a rebrand sounds like too much for your team to tackle, keep in mind you can always pursue outside agencies for extra help.
Along the same lines, as you actually implement your rebrand, you don’t want to leave out important details. For example, swapping out your old logo on your website is obvious, but what about everywhere else? Shannon Riordan of Global Brand Works says working from a master checklist is a must. “We developed a 171-item checklist to make sure nothing slips through the cracks, like putting the logo on a healthcare portal or the names of the embedded meta tags on a website, which could mess up SEO,” she says. Remember, your brand represents the heart of your organization and plays a big role in your reputation. Forgetting to update your logo may seem like a small loophole, but it could come across as sloppy or irresponsible.
Want a little extra support as you manage your to-do list? There are lots of effective online tools that can ensure you don’t miss the mark. Consider Basecamp or Trello, both of which can help track project progress and encourage communication among team members.
As you can imagine, the rebrand itself is the beginning of a much longer story. Along with nurturing your reputation outside your organization, you’ll need to garner internal buy-in from your colleagues. “Employees are your most important brand ambassadors. If they don’t understand and internalize what the new brand story is, it will never authentically show up for customers on the outside,” Riordan says. Ensuring your team members are as pumped about your rebrand as you are means they’ll probably be more likely to give the project their all, which is good news for your brand and your audience.
There are many reasons to rebrand your business, from overcoming a poor reputation to the desire to more authentically connect with your target audience. No matter what your motivator, rebranding is a fruitful long-term investment, especially when it comes to protecting your brand’s reputation. The work you do to articulate your vision will play a big role in building your brand’s integrity and, ultimately, cementing your legacy as an organization.
Now that you know how to rebrand, it’s time to start considering the nitty-gritty details. Learn how your design elements might be affecting your ideal customer with “Hidden Messages Your Brand Colors Are Sending Your Audience.”